“Surviving as an Artist…”…Great Essay From Amy Wilson

While I try very hard not the be the “copy and paste” blogger… this essay is too good and too important not to share. Click here for full essay or see my favorite excepts below.

from Advice on Surviving as an Artist in this Economy by Amy Wilson for ArtBistro.

“I had grad school laid out in front of me, but I saw it as not much more than the two-year diversion it really was, so I eagerly asked all the teachers that I liked and respected what they thought I should do as I tried to make my way as an artist.

Among the things I was told (and remember, this is 1995):

1. Get a studio in Manhattan – you have to get a studio in Manhattan. No one will ever visit you outside of Manhattan. If you move to Brooklyn or Queens or, god help you, Jersey, you may as well toss all your work in the Hudson.

2. Apply for a grant – there’s plenty of federal/city money out there, just waiting to be taken by ambitious young artists.

3. Get a cute, fluffy dog and walk it around the Wall Street area so that you meet rich men who you can date and who will help support your career. (I absolutely swear to you that I am not making this up or exaggerating. This “advice” was told to me by several different faculty members and went through different variations, including walking the dog through the campus at Yale, in Soho, and on the Upper East Side.)

Right. My point in listing these (and there was plenty more that I got) is that absolutely none of this advice is good; in fact, while it’s all patently absurd now, it wasn’t really any less absurd back in 1995.

Artists don’t have to have studios in Manhattan, there are no grants to be had especially for younger artists, and I have never had a rich boyfriend (or for that matter, a stupid fluffy dog). And yet somehow I’m still here.”

“But for the last few months as I’ve woken up every morning to find that this economy crisis we’re in just keeps getting worse and worse, I’ve been able to feel that generation gap growing between me and my students. It’s becoming clear that the experiences that I’ve had and things that I’ve learned may not be as relevant to them as I had hoped. I can’t tell you how much this disappoints me.

At first, when I felt the terrain shifting underneath my feet, I just sort of ignored it or was sort of numb to it all. But then, as I read things like Holland Cotter’s NY Times article a few weeks ago or Jerry Saltz’s various Facebook updates, it dawned on me that wow, there are actually people out there more clueless than I am.”

“1. Admit that things are bad – really, really bad. The only way we’re going to ever overcome what the hell is going on is if we take a moment and really acknowledge what’s happening. You can’t really understand the problem if you keep telling yourself that it’s over or it’s not as bad as absolutely everyone around you is assuring you it is.

2. Stop saying that the recession is going to “clear away” the less serious artists/galleries/etc. This concept of “clearing away” makes me sick – it’s a euphemism, and it’s like expecting people you don’t like to just exit stage left and disappear forever. Human beings don’t do that. They declare bankruptcy, they lose their jobs, their lives get messed up – it’s not pretty. So don’t pretend that it is.

3. Know that you are not in control. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next few years. Really. I feel pretty confident in saying that the art world is going to look quite different in about five years than it does right now; beyond that, I can’t tell you much. And I also can’t speed it up or see it more clearly if I squint any further.”

You can learn from the past (and the present), but not like it’s a blueprint or a map – it’s more like a big puzzle that needs to be sorted out and embedded in it is a clue that sort of points you to where you’re going… maybe.”

— | —

What do you think? Does this give you hope? Does it provide some sort of motivation for you?

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