Finding Your Community
In my last blog post (“Moments of Insight”) I introduced three artists whose unusual careers reveal what successful artists have in common. Here they are again:
Alisa Burke (alisaburke.com)
Alisa Burke is a painter, printmaker, teacher and writer. She supports her family by running a multi-faceted art business. She offers online classes, sells books and DVDS, hosts workshops and retreats, sells her paintings and collages and adult coloring books, and even started a fashion accessory line. Alisa writes a daily blog and has 50,000 followers.
Chris Motley (chrismotleyart.com)
Chris Motley spent 30 years in a “left-brain” job, as a lawyer in the public sector. She has no formal art credentials. After retiring from her legal career, she began to knit 3-dimensional sculptures whose originality gradually brought her national recognition. She has shown her work in galleries and art centers across the United States, and recently had a solo museum show.
Lia Cook (liacook.com)
You can find Lia Cook’s ground-breaking work in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian, among many others. She works in a variety of media, combining weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. She is currently collaborating with neuroscientists to investigate our emotional response to images by mapping these responses in the brain.
Each of these artists followed her own unique path to success. Yet when asked, “how did your art career happen?” all three artists mentioned the importance of finding a creative community. Their success didn’t happen alone. They found people who offered support, encouragement, information, validation, and a connection to a wider world.
Lia Cook found her first community of artists when she exhibited her work at the International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1973. The opportunity was unusual because established artists were exhibiting their work alongside unknowns. She applied, got in, and as a result got connected to an international group of textile artists, some of them already well known. Fifty years later this network is still part of her creative community.
Chris Motley wouldn’t have become an artist without the support of her community. She met her first critique group at a workshop. When they invited her to join she realized that her fiber sculptures could be taken seriously as art. Another critique group continues to give her feedback on developing work, often encouraging her to explore new directions. Chris also finds community by showing her work at galleries, museums, and art centers across the United States. Whenever possible she shows up at receptions to connect with the other artists.
Alisa Burke created the community that now supports her business. She was one of the earliest art bloggers (2005), sharing her do-it-yourself creative projects before she even had a website. The enthusiastic response to her early efforts established a loyal customer base for all of the products and services she offers today. While Alisa offers many online classes, artists still sign up for the retreats she holds in her home studio several times a year. The human connection is part of a creative community for both Alisa and her students.
These three artists show us the importance of reaching out to other artists and art organizations. When you get a response from the larger world of art you know that your art matters and understand how it fits into a larger context. Being connected to other artists gives you objective feedback and support. A creativity community helps you grow.
Think about it. What can you do to find or develop your own community?
All the best,
Mary Edwards, Ph.D.
Career & Life Coach for Artists
I’m a Career and Life Coach for Artists, based in the San Francisco Bay Area and working with artists across the United States. If you’d like to ask a question or set up a time to talk, please write to me at:
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As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.