The loss of immersive experiences in our daily lives is the greatest challenge to artists living today and in near future.
Artist in the Classroom
TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS
My approach in a classroom is similar to my professional approach with artist-clients:
Every good creative path | project starts with one artist (or artists), me, and a blank page – no preconceptions. Early on, I am interested in the grounds an artist stands on and how it impacts the work, the making of the work, and the artist’s perceived intentions regarding both. The approach permits me to pull an artist out from beneath the footprint of historical or canonical definitions and focus on what is exclusively new about the artist-creator and the particular ways they imagine, renew, risk, and construct their creative assets.
Furthermore, this overall approach allows me to think about an artist’s art as work, problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, and innovation. Matching an artist’s goals with their current actions and long-term objectives is one of the foundations of my approach and like every good entrepreneurial strategy it both widens the understanding of an artist and their work and helps ascertain market opportunities.
In other words, I help the artist flesh-out and manage these concepts as they apply to the subject of running a successful small business and as the picture of their business starts to emerge, the nuts and bolts of a plan are established, including budgets, deadlines, and a task-oriented breakdown of responsibilities and commitments.
Understanding art as application gives an artist the mental and practical tools to drive their careers forward. It teaches them the importance of realistically assessing their professional objectives and identifying new opportunities instead of fixing problems. It prioritizes what the artist knows about their own applied, creative actions and how to secure and use them best. Cross-functionally, these strategies become the blueprint for the artist-as-sole-proprietor, who like the artist-in-the-studio, must experiment, innovate, and show up each day to work.
EIGHT LESSON PLANS
1. Creativity is only a day dream without action.
Lots of talented, sensitive people have great imaginations and are regularly unlocking hidden, undiscovered thoughts and ideas that lie within, and without. What separates the artist, and the entrepreneur, from the rest is the ability to innovate, to take the idea and make it work in practice. This, of course, is why it is such a great struggle to be a successful artist or entrepreneur: Life isn’t fair.
It’s hard to break down barriers. Innovative concepts and radical ideas are never easy to sell. Indeed, the more innovative, daring and new, the more obstacles the status quo will erect in your way. Artists, just like entrepreneurs, have to show up every day and persevere in markets where acceptance comes slowly. Seeing something through to the end and not being satisfied until all of it is accomplished takes discipline, expertise, and great will.
Every day, an artist needs to search for change, respond to it, and see it as healthy. Doing new things, or doing old things in new ways, are how artists exploit change as an opening for new beginnings and a different creative outcome.
2. Learn to wear many hats
Being a professional artist most likely means you are the sole proprietor of a business selling you, and in addition as the sole proprietor you wear all the other hats that need wearing: Chief Strategist and CEO, and Directors of Marketing, Promotions, Press, Media, Operations, Quality Control, Customer Service, and Sales.
There are legitimate ways to develop a strategic mindset capable of combining all those disparate responsibilities into strong resources you can rely on to invest your time and money wisely. Having a solid and realistic view of what you can accomplish in the service of your own professional advancement lets you know where you are in the scheme of your own desires and what is truly required to be in charge.
3. Win the races you choose to run.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is normal to worry that any time or money spent looking for something outside one’s existing frame of reference will be at the expense of something else not getting done. The simple fact is that the mind can accept only those ideas that relate to existing knowledge. It tends to reject everything else.
Artists face a different set of challenges because it is so easy for them to find themselves helplessly reliant on conventional strategies that have them running races they don’t really want to run, let alone win and by nature, a creative maker will still be looking for another “mountain to climb” when it’s over.
4. Create Opportunities
Successful artists create opportunities instead of just trying to solve problems. They develop strategies and implement plans which ultimately determine whether or not the work of being creative, and remaining continuously creative, succeeds. Opportunities for the 21st century artist are everywhere and there are a diverse number of markets an artist can engage today, and far-reaching, low cost methods of staying present in those markets. Nowadays artists can publish, generate, and document their own place in the world with a multitude of creative mediums and partners.
5. Inspiration Matters
Successful artists grasp the reciprocal benefit of developing a strategy around their own creative visions. Securing a consistent and serious creative environment depends on setting and achieving the goals that are unique and meaningful to the artist. A good plan satisfies an artist’s need for higher levels of motivation and excitement, while the effective implementation of the plan is the true determining factor as to whether or not the work of being creative succeeds. Put another way: Artists know that inspired results require inspiration, as much as it requires an ordered awareness and understanding.
6. Development Strategies
Professional artists need strategies to advance and develop their careers, partnerships, relationships and commercial directions. An artist who thinks ahead, leans into the future, or just looks out for what is ahead wants to understand and apply the rewards that come from:
1. Financial, resource and business organization and planning;
2. Media, communication and marketing tactics;
3. Exhibition, program, and cultural enterprises and outreach;
4. Sales, marketing and promotional initiatives;
5. Community, educational, and business to business partnerships;
6. Patron and audience relationship maintenance, fulfillment and expansion;
7. Archive and experimental documentation, publication design and video production.
7. Natural Advantages
Artists bring a number of natural strengths and intuitive assets with them to every job and they are very fast to learn how to rely on, utilize and apply these advantages across many platforms and agendas:
1. Artist know how to work things through from the ground up, deconstruct, reconstruct and analyze the results of different applications. When given a creative environment to succeed, they can be remarkable at adapting quickly and productively to what may interfere with their creativeness.
2. Artists know how to treat inherent conflict, problems, and obstacles like an organism, interweaving and absorbing the boundaries between "left-brain, right-brain" polarities; unleashing something of ease and beauty.
3. Because artists create unique, new facts and experiences art is always news. If there is artistic discovery taking place, news is being made. If there are credible, new truths being proposed, it is news. This is a commanding advantage artists have in the marketplace of ideas and services: the value of what they do, and did, can remain viable for generations. It does not need repairs; or replacement parts or upgrades to remain applicable. Even older inventory can be refreshed and compelling when it’s taken out, dusted off, and given the opportunity to generate new, original perspectives and values.
8. The biggest lesson of all: Life is not fair.
There are artists who just wish to be appreciated, artists who want to make a lot of money, artists who want a legacy of their own, and artists happy to have a career where they can live, raise a family, breathe fresh air, or watch the ocean come in every morning from the solitude of their studios. No “big picture” view of an artist's life is easier or better than the next. Remember, the ultimate and only meaningful goal is to have a continuously creative career; where retirement isn’t a real thing. Artists want, imagine, wish, desire, and envision the future; and it is all good.
Teaching early career and student artists the variety of career and life choices available to them and giving them maps and resources to navigate the critical and often dangerous territory a professional artist faces is critical to an artist's survival. Time and financial resources plague every creative professional innovator almost every day and they should know how to navigate such waters and be prepared for the fact that life is not fair.
But we can make it a more honest playing field by providing artists with methods to focus and ways to build the financial needs that help raise a family, find and keep insurance, and establish future investment partnerships in and out of the arts. We want our next generation of artist leaders knowing how to explore the opportunities and lifestyle choices that exist today and how to replicate them for different conditions and inevitably evaluate and choose the right creative economy and location to match and enhance the life that suits them best. To be uplifted by a community of artists, neighbors, and families you have to first find a home.
In reality this makes up 90% of the struggle that tests an artist’s sanity, faith and soul and it is such unrelenting, hard, risky work that it should be part of a creative soul’s education. There is no condition in an artist’s life where no one has as much to gain, or as much to lose as the artist themselves. Intelligence has an important place in an artist’s life and they deserve to enter the professional life with one that encompasses the dynamic force that is their life's profession.
Art asks us to move into courage and you have to know how to excavate the faulty and specious premises which you've bet your identity and business success on. The secret is not to get stuck there dithering or wringing your hands before you can move forward or resolve to heal yourself.