“I am an artist. My life has always been about art and drawings,” says Irine Isakadze, a young woman from Kutaisi, Georgia. After receiving her degree in fine arts, Irine started oil painting, and soon became interested in iconography. With support from her local priest, she began painting Orthodox icons.
Two years ago, Irine met an old friend who told her about a micro-grant program run by Elkana, a local non-governmental organization. Although hesitant at first to apply, she eventually did, and was pleasantly surprised when she received a grant from Elkana. In addition to funding, she received financial training and help on branding and marketing her art to tourists.
Until that point, Irine had earned most of her income from selling landscapes and portraits commissioned by individual clients. But now, she produces a wide variety of souvenirs and paintings on plaster and wood, with multiple shops around Kutaisi selling her art.
The small-grant from Elkana was just a starting point for Irina. She subsequently registered as an entrepreneur and recently received a larger financial grant through Enterprise Georgia, a government-run program.
“I have to become more motivated and goal-oriented,” Irine says, reflecting on her long-term business goals.
For now, Irine is assisted by her daughter, but she hopes to enlist another employee to help with her workload. Ultimately, she aims to expand her customer reach beyond Kutaisi, where tourism is seasonal, and sell her work in other locations all year-round.
Beyond making a living from art and souvenirs, Irene is proud to showcase Georgia’s culture both at home and abroad.