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creative capital professional development workshop

Post #714 • January 23, 2006, 7:33 AM • 27 Comments

As mentioned previously, I spent the weekend at a Professional Development Workshop put on by the Creative Capital Foundation. People had described this event to me as life-changing, which I downplayed - you know how artists can be. Now I agree. It was life-changing.

The workshop was led by artists, successful ones, and I feel as though they took my knowledge of professional practice formed over ten years of working and doubled it. I have a couple hundred pages of information, a whole new slew of strategies for advancing the business end of my work, and newfound confidence in the possibilities of my art as a viable livelihood, without compromising it at all.

They were style-neutral, too. They had me there, some installation people, some collaborators - the whole gamut of visual artists as well as literary and dance folks. The workshop leaders didn't try to make anyone conform to some corporate model, which is usually the angle of these sessions when, say, marketing people come in to talk about marketing art. They played to peoples' strengths, encouraging them to approach their promotional materials with the same playfulness and invention that they bring to their art, and to become aware of what they're doing with their time, money, and communication and shift it rather than implement massive change all at once. As they put it, dream big and take small steps towards the dream, but do so consistently and often.

I'm being a little vague, I know, but I'm trying to sum up about eighteen hours of coverage of marketing, fundraising, business planning, budgeting, time management, strategic development, verbal and written communication, and networking. And if your eyes glaze over when you read a list like that, I don't blame you, but it was gripping - they made it relevant, interesting, and do-able on artists' terms.

This workshop is coming to Miami next year again, thanks to the efforts of Rem Cabrera, who is a national living treasure among arts administrators. Readers not in Miami should go check the calendar on the website as it is possibly coming to a city near you. And not only do I recommend it, I think you'd be silly not to sign up for it if you can.

Comment

1.

jake

January 23, 2006, 8:47 AM

thanx for spreading the word

2.

catfish

January 23, 2006, 9:19 AM

Yes Franklin, my eyes glazed over when I read the list above. Their web site glazed them more. Some of it is common sense but "integrate approach", "strategic planning", "career-building catalyst", "networking", "communicate about one's work", "interactive group activities", "speaker/facilitator", "supportive atmosphere", "breakout session", "think flexibly", "think expansively", and so on remind me that every one of these type things I've attended generate a "high" that lasts a week or two, but not much else. Who could be against any of this stuff?

On the other hand, who could be in favor of "random planning", "isolation", "career-destroying catalyst", "miscommunication", "group activites that don't relate to the group", "speakers who frustrate advancement", "overly hard atmospheres", "inflexible thinking", "narrow thinking", and so on? Hmmm. Now that I look, some on this last list don't look that bad ...

Nicholas Wilder wrote an essay many decades ago in which he advised artists who wanted a dealer to simply work harder in their studios. That advice was as passive as Creative Capital's is agressive, but just as good, if not better. Neither approach is a good bet, probablity-wise. But of the two, Wilder's resonates the loudest.

3.

Denise

January 23, 2006, 10:53 AM

Franklin: I told you!

4.

Franklin

January 23, 2006, 11:34 AM

Denise - you did, you did.

Catfish - sure, it resonates, but is it true? If you're spending eight hours a day in the studio and not many people know about your work, is the solution to send out a package or work nine hours a day in the studio? Obviously the work has to be there in both quantity and quality, but I don't think Wilder's choices are totally mutually exclusive.

5.

Franklin

January 23, 2006, 11:38 AM

I mean, Wilder's choice and the ones presented by Creative Capital.

6.

Rocket Man

January 23, 2006, 12:23 PM

Sorry to interfere with this discussion. Not sure what topic this concern. There is new review of Rocket Projects & Ali Prosch exhibit on ignoremagazine.com. I saw, thought it was both empty and pretentious. Thought you might life link. Excuse english. Thank you, Alejandro.

7.

oldpro

January 23, 2006, 12:51 PM

Garrison Keillor had an interview with a professor (staged, of course) on Prairie Home Companion the other day where much of the some kind of terminology as Catfish dredged out was presented for our delectation. It was very funny. I wish I had a transcript. As Catfish says, "who could be against these things".

The problem is that if the art is any good it will go over sooner or later, along with the bad and mediocre art that gets promoted by artists who have gone to workshops.

Nine hours in the studio is better than eight hours in the studio. Any time in the studio is better than no time in the studio. You make art bercause you love it. If you sell it, fine.

And there are too many damn "artists" already. How about some "change of career" workshops?

8.

catfish

January 23, 2006, 1:31 PM

Franklin and oldpro,

Nothing in the art business completly excludes anything else. But the Capital folks present simple platitudes that are not that effective. The brother of a successful artist reports that the key to his brother's success was sleeping with all the right movie stars. That's a platitude too, but one more likely to work than a providing a "supportive atmosphere".

A friend of mine in New Mexico makes it a point to visit any artist who has become discouraged. He tells the discouraged artist that his or her work is no good and the artist is right to be thinking about quitting. My friend says he does this to reduce competition. Becaue this guy sells to local collectors, it seems like a reasonable pursuit.

I believe the good stuff goes over - somewhere. But "where" is up for grabs. And how widely is up for even more random grabs. As Whitehead noted at a philosophical meeting, "Even God forgets". When LInda Nochlin asked "why have there been no great women artists?" I disagreed her that it was because women had not been well enough educated. Instead, I'd say it was because no one important enough noticed.

9.

catfish

January 23, 2006, 1:36 PM

To complete the above: Important people are more likely to notice a good lay than they are a good packet.

10.

George

January 23, 2006, 2:43 PM

How many artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Two... One to screw it in and...
one to kick the ladder out from under him.

11.

oildpro

January 23, 2006, 3:38 PM

How many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Three.

One to screw in the bulb

One to say that is the wrong way to screw in a bulb.

And a third to complain that there is a disagreement.

12.

Franklin

January 23, 2006, 4:45 PM

The problem is that if the art is any good it will go over sooner or later, along with the bad and mediocre art that gets promoted by artists who have gone to workshops.

So if your actions can make a difference between sooner and later, should you refrain from doing them and go in your studio instead? Why? What does "go over" mean, then? To become known? Does or should art become known in a different manner than any other product?

The above would be platitudes if they were vague ideas that didn't work. They sound vague when reduced to the copy on the website (and, sure, it's management-speak), but they're fairly specific in the workshop. As for whether they work or not, I plan to try them and see. How one might evaluate them otherwise, I have no idea. Professional artists with better careers than mine say they have used them effectively, which I think is reason enough to give them a shot.

Nine hours in the studio may or may not be better than eight hours in the studio - it depends on the endurance and productivity of the artist. To say that more is better is a platitude. You should just do what works. I feel the same way about having an art career. What works? Well, what works elsewhere? You find principles, which sound vague and bring up thousands of exceptions, and you apply them to the extent that they function. Making the work and expecting that it will be seen one day if it's good is too passive for my personality and sounds like magical thinking.

13.

oldpro

January 23, 2006, 5:13 PM

There is nothing wrong with wanting to sell work, or to have a stellar career, or anything like that. It is also not necessarily passive to stay in the studio and to be temperamentally turned off by this kind of hypercareer stuff, as i am, though it may be a little spoiled to do so. It's a personal decision.

Jules Olitski wrote a story called "How I got my First One Man Show" which is published somewhere, but I can't find it on the web. If i do i will post it. It's very funny.

14.

Franklin

January 23, 2006, 5:27 PM

There's an implicit judgment in "hypercareer," which you're entitled to. I think tending to one's career at the expense of one's art would be a disaster, but they were clear about finding markets for your art and not making art for markets. They also presented these management issues as a way to mobilize time and money so you can make your art. That was probably a bigger issue for the dance and theater people, who can't show or even create without a small army and a budget far above anything I need. But I have huge time management and organizational issues (I get a lot done in spite of myself), and now that I have some tools to solve them, I'll have more time for my work and more time to advance my career. Works for me.

15.

oldpro

January 23, 2006, 5:39 PM

You write "I get a lot done in spite of myself". Yes. Me too. I have never mastered sailing so smoothly through the day that I can bask in the warm glow of accomplishment in the evening. But somehow if you keep at it something gets done. If you don't give up it will add up...

Of course there is an implicit judgement in the word "hypercareer". Careerism, putting careert first (which may very well not be what this is or what they are promoting) is an art-killer

16.

oldpro

January 23, 2006, 5:39 PM

You write "I get a lot done in spite of myself". Yes. Me too. I have never mastered sailing so smoothly through the day that I can bask in the warm glow of accomplishment in the evening. But somehow if you keep at it something gets done. If you don't give up it will add up...

Of course there is an implicit judgement in the word "hypercareer". Careerism, putting careert first (which may very well not be what this is or what they are promoting) is an art-killer

17.

oldpro

January 23, 2006, 5:40 PM

Sorry, I got one of those "it didn't work" messages and forgot to doublecheck.

18.

that guy

January 24, 2006, 12:28 AM

well my imagination begins to fly whenever someone mentions they went on this type of retreat. I'm skeptical as always. I hope it will continue to be of some help to you in the future, but pardon me for thinking you all sat around round a camp fire singing kumbaya, whilst daydreaming of living off your own art. It happens, but come on, sending packets? Is that really what they told you? Maybe buried in all the literature that they slung your way, is an explainer as to when one should rock ones c#&* all the way to the top.

19.

that guy

January 24, 2006, 12:52 AM

old pro: I think you were talking earlier about this portion of a Prairie Home Companion. Taken out of context from a longer radio skit that revolved around how Gerrison first fell in love with radio. follow this link for the entire audio portion, which is pretty funny. SS is Sue Scott, and TR is Tim Russel, playing Larry Johnson. :



SS: Today we're discussing foreign policy in a World of Change and my guest is assistant professor of political science, Larry Johnson.

TR: Thank you. As you pointed out, Sharon, we do live in a changing world, when the old certainties are changing, and we see the emergence of new forces, new influences, and we enter into a time of tremendous uncertainty, but also of great opportunity.

SS: Okay.

TR: This is not to say that we should give in to fear and retreat from the world.

SS: Okay.

TR: It means that we need to seek greater understanding of the factors that complicate change, and the underlying forces that may cause crises, and to redefine the objectives of foreign policy.

SS: I see.

TR: We face broad challenges, challenges that transcend political borders and affect whole regions or even the entire globe. And so international cooperation is paramount as we deal with change and the impact of change.

SS: Okay.

TR: Our policy needs to be flexible but principled, more focused and yet innovative, as we pursue our own goals but with consideration for the greater good. Choices will need to be made, many of them difficult and even painful. But to not choose is itself a choice.

SS: I see.

TR: Above all we need to have clear objectives if we're to play an effective role. The situation is evolving and relationships are changing, but good relations remain paramount as we pursue long-term goals. New approaches are needed if we're to continue to occupy a position of leadership.

SS: Okay. Well, that's all the time we have today on Public Affairs Forum. Thank you, Professor Johnson.

TR: It was my pleasure. (THEME)

20.

Franklin

January 24, 2006, 4:31 AM

Guy, you don't think my BS detector went into sleep mode all weekend, do you? This is Franklin you're talking to, here. The bit about the packet wasn't the entire packet. Jeez. From where does this bottomless well of cynicism spring, anyway?

One of the things that drives my aesthetic ideas is that I don't believe in what I call exceptionalism - that visual arts operates on wildly different aesthetic principles that don't apply to any other creative discipline. When I hear from people who value art that they find challenging, shocking, provocative, question-raising, uncomfortable - you know the drill - I want to know if the use those criteria when they buy CD's or select a resturaunt to take a date to. That's why those criteria sound ridiculous to me. Likewise, when I hear that "good art will go over eventually," somehow, I think, when Coca-Cola wants to sell more of its wares, do they bear down in the equivalent of their studios, spending more time trying to figure out how to make a more delicious soda, sure in the knowledge that that, in itself, is enough, and that good soda will "go over" eventually? Does Warren Buffett go out and make thinly-veiled sexual advances to soda dealers? No, the company spends a gajillion dollars on advertising. I realize that you can only take the analogy so far, but I'd like to hear what other creative field operates on the principles being set out here for the visual arts, and why doing something more in line with the rest of the world reflexively conjures up images of unseriousness and prostitution. Sure, the business-speak can degenerate into parody in short order, hilariously, but in case you haven't noticed, the art world has a little problem with that, too.

Really, we spent the weekend listening to how artists had solved a wide range of problems in their professional lives and talking about how the solutions might apply to us. At one point I was asking what program a painter used to maintain her mailing list and what another guy, a playwright, did with his receipts. It was very real-world, no kumbaya.The BS level was extremely low, and I'd be the first to start bitching if it wasn't.

Don't ask me what I'm doing awake at this hour.

21.

catfish

January 24, 2006, 6:17 AM

Franklin, making it as an artist is different than making it as a business person - no matter whether the business is large or small. Few really love art and most of those who do, do not love artists, except for a very few who are selected by an esoteric process that defies explanation.

Sex and art and art loving are very close companions, even more so than sex and business. It isn't "prostitution" to indulge. Nor is the sex specifically intercourse. An artist's "professional life" is very difficult to separate from an artist's life in general. What overrides everything is the work, but the work is not a pure entity exisiting in an insular professional world. The causes that put some work across and others into the dust heap vary wildly if not randomly, which is why the Warren Buffet analogy doesn't hold. Business is logical, art does not bother with reason. It is a matter of rendering unto God what is God's, and the art god is a son of a bitch if there ever was one.

22.

oldpro

January 24, 2006, 7:16 AM

Franklin, what are you doing awake at that hour?

I will be the first to admit that saying good art will go over eventually is no formula for worldly success, and, furthermore, that realistic business practices are a good thing (I wish to hell they practiced them where I teach). I have nothing against such workshops in principle, just a temperamental aversion. They probably help straighten out practical matters for many artists. I am a little skeptical that any reasonable and rational approach to success in the looney art world will actually work. Keep us posted.

Guy - thanks for the transcript - it is great fodder for my writing class. I didn't realize those things were that easily available.

23.

alesh

January 24, 2006, 7:43 AM

Seminars can be great, but for me, sometimes they have a way of sweeping me off my feet and making me think i've learned more then i actually have. This is the sort of thing that is best evaluated 6 to 12 months down the road. Speaking of which, I'd be curious to hear how your experiment with time-magagement went?

Then again, three or four good ideas padded with a weekend's worth of motivational speak can be great, too (not saying that's what this was). You learn three or four valuable things, and you have fun. Same situation when a few good ideas (a magazine article's worth) get padded out into a nonfiction book so the idea-haver can make more money out of them.

24.

Franklin

January 24, 2006, 9:30 AM

From this morning's Inky:

Is it all-brains-all-the-time that separates these achievers from the pack? Or is something else at work?The difference likely is something Angela Lee Duckworth calls "grit," which she defines as "tenaciously pursuing something over the long term." ...

Duckworth interviewed high achievers in different fields and identified characteristics that distinguished them. She found that grit was a key, if not the key, to understanding successes among Penn undergraduates, select Internet users, West Point plebes, national spelling bee contestants, and eighth graders at Masterman School, one of Philadelphia's elite magnets.

Duckworth's work doesn't break entirely new ground, according to Dean K. Simonton, psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, an expert on creativity and genius. He cites a 1926 study of "historical geniuses" such as Beethoven, Michelangelo and Isaac Newton that suggested persistence played a bigger role in their success than intelligence. "It's not like you could be stupid, but if you didn't have the necessary drive and determination to overcome obstacles and set high standards for yourself, then you weren't going to make it," he says.

* * *

Catfish, the Buffett analogy doesn't hold because it's silly. Let me address "an esoteric process that defies explanation" - I think it's extremely important to distinguish artistic success, business success, and fame as separate parameters. Artistic success has no formula: cultivate your talent, work your butt off, and hope for the best. Fame I think has no formula: you could cultivate outlandish, attention-getting behaviors, be blessed with movie-star looks, or make a particularly striking innovation, but whether any of that translates into becoming "hot" or extremely widely lauded is a crapshoot. Business success, however, is pretty logical by comparison: find people who want your work and get it in front of them. That's how any business works. Many artists enjoy financial success and comfort without being famous or hot. Getting a solo show at the Whitney is not within my control, but that doesn't mean that I should ignore everything I can do in favor of more studio time - I should supplement good, productive regular studio time with some non-heroic, incremental, horse-sense career stuff. As well as rest, playing, flossing, and all that other crap that you have to take care of in life so that it doesn't suck.

Oldpro, regarding "I am a little skeptical that any reasonable and rational approach to success in the looney art world will actually work," similarly, I don't plan to go after the looney parts. I plan to go after the parts that like painting and drawing without a heavy theoretical program. I just came back from Taiwan with fifty drawings. Am I showing them to MAM, who collectively has known about my work for ten years and hasn't found anything to do with it yet? No, I'm trying to get them in front of the Lowe, where the director has an extensive background in Chinese art and the curator has included me into an outside museum show in the past. When I put the drawings up on their own site, I was able to show them to my San Diego gallerist when I met him up at Palm Beach 3, and now he wants to exhibit them along with whatever new paintings I make from them. None of this is insane or aesthetically compromising. It's just marketing and promotion and elbow grease. And, well, the fact that I made fifty drawings.

Alesh, the experiment helped some. Like I said, I'm now getting things done at the last hour instead of the last minute. That takes a remarkable amount of the pressure off, surprisingly. My place is just mildly cluttered instead of some hell-realm of disorganization. The Creative Capital people had some more suggestions that were equally simple and incremental. They said something interesting: that if you take a talented, hard-working person, and change about 10% of what they're doing for the better, it has a disproportionately large impact on their working life. So they don't tell artists to stop goofing off (they actually say that artists don't allow themselves to goof off enough, introducing the concept, to me anyway, of the necessity of Total Loser Time), they say to move some of the goof-off time out of the way of some of the productive time, as the artist sees fit. Or even just track how you're using your time so that if you're goofing off, you know that you're goofing off, and you can make a choice to keep goofing off or save it for later. Like I said, it was appealing stuff.

25.

Denise

January 24, 2006, 11:24 AM

Alesh - re: your comment about looking at things from a 6-12 month perspective--I did the CC workshop 6 months ago, and I'm still extremely glad I did it. And it is still helping me.

To the skeptics, the CC workshops are not about careerism, and a lot about very practical and realistic work and life advice geared specifically to artists. They aren't about making tons of money or becoming an art star. Here are some things that were discussed when I went:

- Financial planning, retirement, and health insurance for artists
- Finding or creating a viable part-time job that lets you spend more time in the studio
- Managing your time, finances, work (even full-time work), and family situations so you can have more time and resources for your art
- How to create realistic budgets for grant applications--guidance and examples were provided for painters, filmmakers, and theater and dance artists
- Practice and feedback on talking about your own work--to funders, presenters, dealers, etc.
- Creative ways to draw on resources you didn't realize you had to find the stuff you need to make and promote your art--i.e., studio space, supplies, people, lights, technical help, funding
-- A painter from NYC who facilitated some of the workshops shared her experience of leaving a full-time, low-paying job as an arts administrator in order to devote more time to her studio work and raise her young children. She wanted to keep making art but still needed to support her family, so she set a goal of making $50K a year solely off her art. She shared with us how she reached this goal over about four years. Part of this was acknowledging that her work didn't fit in with what was (is) popular in the contemporary art world. Rather than changing her work to to achieve more financial/career success in her home city, she developed a network of galleries outside of New York that would represent the kind of work she was already doing.

Unless you are independently wealthy, do artwork as a hobby, or have never struggled with any of these situations and have never desired help with anything relating to your finances or art practice, I can't see how any of these skills or information would not be useful for a working artist.

26.

oldpro

January 24, 2006, 11:50 AM

OK, Denise, I cede the point. It sounds like a worthwhile exercise, given the basic practicality of the instruction. I still think that, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, an artists is about as successful as s/he wants to be.

Goof-off time is very important, Franklin, but only to artists who work too hard. However, I find that most artists who work too hard are not working efficiently. You have to know when your inspriation deserts you and just quit. Clem Greenberg once told me I was not "bearing down" enough. I replied that I was painting 7 or 8 hours a day. He said "that's what I mean".

27.

George

January 24, 2006, 11:58 AM

Re#24 Well put. I suspect an extra hour a day working is a silly calculation, one doesn't work in the studio that way, punching a clock. Yet time does matter.

Several years ago, I had the misfortune of working a 'normal' full time tech job, 50 or so hours a week and my time for painting really nose dived. Finally, taking matters into hand, I changed my flight plan. Instead of stopping for dinner on the way home, I went directly to work in the studio for a couple of hours before going out for dinner. I figured with 3 hours an evening, 3 or four days a week and a couple of eight hour days on the weekend, I would manage to gain 24 to 30 hours a week in the studio, nothing to be scoffed at. Not only did my output improve but I managed to regain "momentum" in the studio which is a subtle but important gain.

No doubt, having 'good' work is key but I also suspect the time spent in other areas, helping to get the work out there, a rough approximation of 'success', will result in more studio time and in bigger chunks which is good. Regardless, just being around other people who have found solutions is empowering, possible and probably best judged by what sticks with you over a couple of years.

I think it was a good thing to do.

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