Many artists work within the confines of their studios or
homes, making it difficult to connect with colleagues. Below are different ways
beginning artists can enter the social dimension of the art world.
by Naomi Ekperigin
Art Classes and Workshops
Attending art classes and workshops is a great way to access
one’s local art scene and make valuable contacts and friends. Artist David Jon
Kassan, who received the People’s Choice Award at the Portrait Society of
America’s convention last spring, moved to New York City after attending college in Syracuse. He was lucky to have a
few friends from college who lived in the city, and was able to maintain these
relationships after graduation. He also joined local art groups, which he found
very beneficial. “I was lucky to have found the Salmagundi Club here in Manhattan,” he says.
“Their members are of all ages and skill levels and many are very helpful to
younger artists. They also have scholarships available for younger artists that
cover the membership dues.” Kassan’s relationship with the Salmagundi Club has
lasted a long time, and he has even returned to teach workshops.
Although Kassan recommends workshops to all artists and says
they’re “no sweat,” for others, joining a group setting can be daunting. Artist
Karen Kaapcke recalls her initial fear when she began taking classes at the Art
Students League. “I felt very vulnerable,” she says. “I really had to work on
making a space safe for myself in the classroom.” Kaapcke also teaches art
classes to children and teenagers, and offers this advice for beginning artists
in a classroom setting: “Mental discipline is key. Do not focus on the work of
your peers, or whether or not they will like or dislike your work. A workshop
is about making mistakes, not self-judgment.”
Starting a group with friends is also a great way to split
the costs of sessions as well as work in a more relaxed and familiar
environment. Look for advertisements for “uninstructed figure drawing” at local
colleges, galleries, artists clubs, and museums. Many artists make lifelong
friendships in this kind of setting, and go on to visit each others’ studios
and offer advice on their work.
Gallery openings offer a great opportunity for artists to
not only see the work of those they admire, but also meet others with an
appreciation for and interest in a specific style or artist. There are also
many curators, collectors, and exhibitors who attend openings, allowing an
artist to make business contacts that are immensely useful as one develops a
portfolio or seeks venues to show their work. Many websites, such as www.artinfo.com,
offer listings of galleries throughout the country along with their upcoming
special events, yearly calendars, and even job openings.
There are millions of websites on the internet, and hundreds
of thousands of them are geared towards artists. While this is exciting and
offers a wide range of possibilities, it can also be difficult to know which
sites are best given one’s particular needs or interests. Online forums are a
great way for an artist of any level to engage in a dialogue with colleagues
all over the country, learning about and sharing ideas on specific topics of
interest. “Online forums are remarkable,” says artist Alyona Nickelsen. “You
can speak directly with a wide community of different people with diverse
experiences and approaches that are different from your own.” Many useful
online communities include www.artscuttlebutt.com,
and American Artist’s own Artists’
Forum, which allows artists to discuss magazine articles, get advice on
techniques, and even speak with professionals.
Every artist knows the inspiration that comes from walking
the halls of a museum, be it small or large. However, fewer artists participate
in guided tours of exhibitions or attend lectures. Doing so is another way one can
come in contact with likeminded individuals in a setting that provokes dialogue
and camaraderie. Being part of a group and having the opportunity to ask direct
questions to a trained guide allows a beginning artist to enhance their
knowledge of subject matter, styles, and art history, while interacting with
people who share their interest. Some artists even choose to volunteer as tour
guides, which enables them to stay firmly entrenched in their local art
community, as well as keep their knowledge of art fresh. Museum websites often
have a list of upcoming tours and many are
free with museum admission.
In addition to the suggestions above there are many other
opportunities available on local and state levels. Scouring newspapers and websites, and visiting art clubs and associations are good ways to find
information. The most important thing a beginning artist can do is share
themselves and their work with those who will support their burgeoning skill.
Those people can only be found by becoming involved in the art community, which
always seeks new members.
Naomi Ekperigin is the
editorial assistant of American Artist.