On November 17, 2016 I attended a workshop by the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the DaVinci Art Alliance. Linda Dubin Garfield, President of the Board of Directors, introduced the topic called Navigating the Art World for the Artist and Elizabeth F. Spugen, Executive Director of The Print Center, presented a lecture for emerging artists who want to establish oneself with a buyer, work with an agent and/or become visible in the art world on multiple platforms. There were many ‘Dos and Don’ts’ within the lecture that steered the audience (including me) in the right direction when thinking about professional careers. The following three of the five topics discussed were helpful reminders for all of us.
Tip One: Establish Your Position
Elizabeth Spugen started the presentation by giving a list of areas that artists can function within. These included craft shows, a gallery presence, and/or working toward being part of a museum’s collection. Spugen used the word ‘success’ and asked participants to question how it related to their desired professional outcomes. While we reviewed her list, it became evident that the idea of self-exposure and a defined work ethic were the underlying factors that an artist needs to keep in mind as he/she plans a career in the arts.
I instantly thought of street artist, Bansky, who kept his identity away from the public eye at the beginning of his career. This tactic allowed him to tag in different areas of the world from the streets of England to New York City. He never showed his image until he was forced to unmask himself. Banksy’s material and process had certain costs causing him to lose out on many monetary opportunities early on but Bansky knew his mission early on and, therefore, became successful. The lesson, choose an avenue and work towards it. I suggest making a list in your journal or sketchbook. The Bullet Journal, is a strategy for journaling that I have found to be most successful.
Tip Two: The 20/20
Personal Interactions, such as meetings, conferences, festivals, fairs or portfolio showings allow the artist to introduce themselves to a variety of people, art sources and opportunities. Spugen’s description of this was a lot like what I tell my high school students when they apply to college. Everything you present should be as streamlined as possible and all other distractions eliminated. Pick a portfolio or method that supports your medium and material’s outcome appropriately for presentation purposes . Cardboard and other non-archival containers that will damage artwork should be avoided. Spungen also suggest that artists stay away from using photographs of work unless it’s impossible. If you must use photos, please use a professional photographer to shoot your work for high quality prints.
When it’s time for your official meeting, understand that you should take no more than 20 minutes to explain the most important information. The Corzo Center’s Incubator series makes participants practice the ‘elevator pitch’, which is very brief but a useful description of how a person can effectively introduce a product. Also, bring no more than 20 pieces of work and put them in an order that makes the most sense. Last but not least, research the person, gallery, center, etc., before you arrive so that they know you are a serious candidate.
Number 3- Correspondence
Writing is the thing I loathe the most and it always seems to come more easily to other artists. Spugen lists several pieces of writing every artist needs to keep their professional career afloat, including an artist statement, bio, announcements and newsletters. We often talk about the first two and those often get recycled with each new show. The latter two, however, were the most interesting to me. Spugen stressed the importance of consistently formatting all emails to create a unified message over time. She mentioned using a system like Chimpmail, that allow the artist to display images in context to their writing. Lastly, the nostalgia of using the postal service to send information along with a handwritten note is still in style. My suggestion is to look at a branding templates. These can help you to understand who you really are before you design a website, business cards, emails and social media accounts. Keep a cohesive look. Finally, try signing up for the MooBlog another great resource to help keep you afloat in all your undertakings.