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Getting Involved in Your Arts Community

March 17, 2010

Nothing artsy, but here's my view as I write this!

There are many myths about artists, one of them being that the artist is an isolated shut-in, madly working on his masterpiece without a care for the outside world.

For some of us, this myth might sound tempting, and for some of us some of the time, it might even be a reality. But the truth is that there is much to be gained by getting involved in your arts community.

By getting involved, you get your name out there. The more people recognize you, the more authority you will have in the art world. When you apply for that exhibition, the curator will look at your proposal and think, “Isn’t she the one who was involved in (fill in the blank) last year?” This gives you a bit of an edge because now you have created a small connection between the curator and you. It’s like the difference between e-mailing your resume to apply for a job and walking in to submit it in person.

Getting involved in the arts community also gives you better access to the opportunities available to you. Just by mingling and talking to other artists, you will hear about what’s going on. You will also find that people go out of their way to fill you in about things you might be interested in.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of snobby artists who hold to their elitist persona and won’t help other artists out. For every one of those, though, there are probably ten other artists who will go out of their way to share their knowledge, to offer support, and to pass on information about various opportunities.

My Experience

One of my goals in the last year or two has been to get more involved in my arts community. I started volunteering at the local art gallery and looking for teaching opportunities, as well as reaching out online.

Volunteering at the gallery has been a great experience. I’ve gained a lot of insight into how a gallery works, what it takes to put on an opening, and ways to integrate exhibitions with art activities for children. I’ve become familiar with many of the people working at the gallery, and they have become familiar with at least my name.

As a bit of an introvert myself, I find that making the commitment to volunteer at openings is a great way to make sure I actually go. Openings are the perfect opportunity to network and get to know other artists in the community.

Last year, while working an opening, I was able to re-connect with one of my professors from University. That contact has led to an ongoing professional relationship, including several critiques of my work and an invitation to possibly exhibit at the University next year. All opportunities that I would not have had if I hadn’t been pouring wine at that event!

In the online world, I began by getting in touch with other artists I had met briefly at openings. It was through one of these connections that I learned of a teaching opportunity at another art gallery. I now have a semi-regular gig there, doing art workshops for kids. It’s a small thing, but that too has led to other opportunities. I have developed a professional relationship with the director there, and she has recently invited me to submit a few small pieces to their gift gallery.

Twitter is another amazing resource for artists. I have been able to connect with local artists who move in completely different art circles than I do. I first became acquainted with the talented Julia Trops, who was kind enough to refer me to a friend of hers who was looking for a portrait artist. That portrait turned into two when the client’s co-worker also commissioned a drawing. All thanks to Julia! I’ve also gotten to know Kendra Smith, an amazing landscape painter, and through her I’ve become familiar with the work of Carrie Harper and Nikki Balfour. While this is a professional network it is also, I hope, the beginnings of friendships with other like-minded people!

As I read through this, it sounds like a self-serving list of my accomplishments. I apologize if this sounds like I’m bragging: that’s not my intention! The point is that I wouldn’t have even been aware of these opportunities if I hadn’t gotten involved. 

Now that I’ve convinced you that it pays to get involved, what are some ways  you can do it?

  • Volunteer: most galleries have a variety of volunteer opportunities, find one that suits you!
  • Attend openings: mingle and talk to people.
  • Go to workshops: you get to know the instructors and students, as well as learn a new skill!
  • Look for teaching opportunities.
  • Keep in touch: don’t let those connections fade away, maintain your network.
  • Join an arts group.
  • and don’t forget…

Pay it Forward

If you want people to be helpful  and forthcoming with you, do the same in return! When you hear of an amazing opportunity, pass it on to others who you know might be interested. This is where it all comes full circle and you get to help out those who help you.

What kind of experiences have you had with getting involved in your arts community?

PS: The photo today has nothing to do with art, but I wanted to share with you guys the amazing view I had as I wrote this post. What a beautiful day!


From → Art General

  1. So true! Networking is important in most fields, but since art is so visual you really have to get out to observe others and show yours.

    Great article.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mary. You’re right, art is so much about seeing, seeing other people’s work and having people see ours. It can be easy to forget that in the pressures of working in the studio.

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