When looking to take the next step forward with your career, how do you make your choices? How do you decide what shows or galleries you want to be in? What are the criteria you use to make those decisions? Our ProWax members often talk about career issues. These are some of their comments.
Edited by Jane Guthridge
Dorothy Cochran I always have a number of projects going, so when one finishes the others are already in motion. My choices of exhibition venues and shows are often dictated by who the juror or curator is and whether I want that person to see what I am working on and whether the efforts are worth my time, energy and finances. Some of my best artistic moments in the past year have been total surprises, proving to me that if I just keep working diligently there will be returns when I least expect them. I seek a balanced life between art and living.
Whether we think in terms of stepping up or stepping forward, a career stagnates if it doesn't move
Paula Roland I take an overview, make some choices, set a few in motion, and let it ride. Mostly things happen in their own time. I know that sounds vague, but trying too hard does not help. Like making art, the best things happen unexpectedly, or at least organically, after you set intentions.
Heidi F. Beal Put your career in context with your life. I went a bit sideways recently in this department. I messaged a colleague for advice and she answered back, "What do you want to do in this precious life?"
Laura Moriarty I agree with Heidi in thinking of it as a way of life rather than a career, but I give my resume a good evaluation about once a year. I look for gaps, weaknesses, things I might want to change, or items that might be missing altogether, and I make filling them in a goal. I try to focus on just one aspect. Last year, for instance, I determined that it would be good to get my work in more institutional collections. I didn't really do anything special to make it happen other than make myself mindful of it, but it worked.
Lorrie Fredette I've always kept the growth of my work, which is also personal growth, at the forefront of everything. Then, I think about the spaces best suited for it and pursue introductions as well was conversations with these curators and directors. In hindsight, the path has been more organic and aligned with my interests (i.e. my admiration of universities, schools and small museums). Over the years, I have made decisions to carry debt in order to realize a new work. I enter into debt consciously and with a "get out of debt plan" once the work has been made.
Joanne Mattera For 15 years I didn't have a plan. I just followed the carrot of an idea that I wanted to "make it" as an artist. I lived on a commune with artists, then moved to a city and took all kinds of odd jobs that sapped my time and energy. I entered a lot of juried shows and said yes to almost everything. Although art was the entire focus of my life, I got nowhere careerwise (though I learned how to be a better artist).
When I moved to New York City in 1983 I was without a studio for a couple of years. I spent a lot of time visiting galleries and that's when I understood how to move my career forward.
. I learned that galleries have programs, and I tried to find the one(s) that would be receptive to my work
. I approached gallerists as a colleague, unlike in earlier days when I'd approach them like a beggar
. I got picky about where I showed and with whom
. I adopted a mentor
. I realized with a shock that getting into a gallery was not the end of my effort but the beginning of a larger one
. When invitations started coming my way, I stopped entering juried shows
. I networked and continue to do so. I curate, which creates tremendous goodwill and reciprocity among other artists; and because this is where my life is now, I'm focusing attention on women artists over 50.
While it helped that I wrote a book on encaustic and created an incredible conference, in terms of expanding my career beyond medium I'd say that the networking and blogging have been what have propelled me.
Debra Claffey For many years, the goal was to carve out time and materials to work, while working free-lance or part-time, and later starting a small company. Then with time available, I entered juried shows, worked with groups that empower women artists, and learned professional skills. There wasn't much time left over for networking, going to receptions, or marketing. Now, I am learning from the professional artists in groups online, building relationships and getting to receptions. I'm working on making my own opportunities, and being ready for invitations. I am selective about which shows to enter, thinking about who the curator or juror is, who will see the work, and whether the show helps round out my resume.
Dan Addington This isn’t a "big picture" answer, but I have this convo with many artists and I often float the idea of hiring an assistant. There are a lot of ways to do this. Maybe it just means hiring grunt work out to craftsmen or part timers. Maybe it means hiring a part timer to do digital organizing and records. I do know that when it's time, for the people who do it, it results in positive change.
Laura Moriarty So true. I hired an assistant for one day a week for one year and it led to my being able to go full-time. My assistant handled my correspondence with curators and galleries, and managed all my files - images and documents, including any new work that needed to be photographed. She prepared my newsletters. She proofread my proposals and offered great suggestions. She also kept the studio clean and organized. Nothing makes you get your shit together like having to pay someone by the hour! I spent every Sunday preparing for her (because she worked independently on Mondays while I was at R&F). Having an assistant is not a walk in the park, but it allowed me to concentrate on making new work at a time when I was really overwhelmed.
Krista Svalbonas I made a list of goals ages ago when I read through both Jackie Battenfield's The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love as well as Art/Work written by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. Some were long term goals and others were short term. I regularly check and see where I am. I tick off boxes and add new short-term goals. I do a lot a lot of research--looking up grants, residencies and galleries that would be a fit for my work. I try and stay on top of it all but it can get quite tricky especially when I might be working on several projects at once in the studio.
I joined a gallery collective in Philly recently because I wanted to be more proactive with my career. I'm interested in curating and also interested in making opportunities for myself instead of waiting for someone else to. One of those is taking my work and many other artists associated with the gallery to the Satellite Art Fair at Miami Basel this winter. I'm excited to learn new skills and also excited to see where this leads next!
Milisa Galazzi I have created a calendar form which helps me plot my short and long term goals in one document. I have printed out a form for each year until 2020 and they hang horizontal along the wall of my studio. I can plot goals month by month and year to year. This has been an incredibly helpful planning tool from applying to residencies and exhibitions to art travel to monthly studio production goals. Setting reasonable goals is one type of challenge; tracking the progress towards these goals is another!
Elizabeth Harris I only seem to achieve the goals I have written down, and given myself a time limit on.
Jeff Juhlin I like Heidi’s comment. What do you really want to do with this precious human life you have and how does that fit into your art practice and your dealings with the art world?