The Life of a Starving Artist
I am a struggling artist and curator trying to make a living in the arts. It is difficult finding a full time job. I went to college, have great references and recommendations, yet rarely get an interview for full time positions. The odds continue against me when I am up against people with a Master’s degree applying for a job only requiring a Bachelor’s degree. Yet somehow I have been able to pull together work for the last couple of years. I guess I am really lucky because it is normally offered to me or I am referred by somebody. The catch is they are all temporary or short term jobs, lasting anywhere from one night to a few months. And this is how I accidentally became self employed.
But I think the life of an artist is always self employment. In school, the best advice I was given was that I will always have several jobs. The reality is even crazier than it sounds.
So what do I do? I work at a few different places, with different people for short term different projects. When I don’t work for somebody else I create my own projects or work on my own art. Is that clear enough?
I have worked in several galleries including art360, Found, Ruiz-Healy, and Debra Benditz Studios. I have been a studio assistant for a Sculptor and also sometimes do independent work as an exhibition assistant or curator.
My main employer is the Southwest School of Art, which I love yet is a complicated relationship. I interned in the Exhibitions Department while in school and stayed on as Volunteer Registrar for their permanent art collection until December 2011. I have also always worked on different projects, such as occasional installations, opening receptions, the annual benefit Gala, and any events they may need additional help with. I also sometimes cover as gallery receptionist or as the main administrative assistant. I also work in the SSA Gallery Shop for large events or during the summers. I love working with the people here, it’s such a creative environement!
When I am not working for someone else, I am working for myself. A friend once asked how I do what I do. When I thought about it the answer was as simple as I think of it and do it myself. There are so many projects that I am working on or want to work on. Constantly on my mind as well are group shows that I want to put together. I have built relationships with some galleries where I know I can present my ideas and set up a show but also believe a show needs an appropriate setting. Sometimes that is outside a traditional gallery space.
My main personal project is Invisible Gallery. Started June 2010, this is my art representation name. With no location, I represent a couple of artists and work on curating shows. I am currently working on my largest project to date, Seven Minutes in Heaven, an erotic group show of thirteen artists, including myself. Linda Arredondo is my co-conspirator in the project, as well as exhibiting artist. Conceived March 2011, the show is now coming up, March 3, 2012. A full year in the making, I am so excited about the artist list and the buzz already going around about the show!
My phone is my best friend since I have to constantly keep a calendar and check my email. Some jobs need an immediate response or may be last minute. I haven’t forgotten a day of work yet, which sometimes is a miracle because I have been known to work at three or four different places in a week. The most difficult thing sometimes is remembering where I am when answering the phones. I always have to pause and think for a second.
Benefits of being self employed include constantly meeting people in the art field. This has lead to other jobs and helps me when I am curating. I also get to set my own schedule, I often travel for art and this is very important. But the biggest benefit for me is that I love art. I am doing something I love, whether I am making art, at an exhibit, at work, or volunteering. It rarely feels like work.
Now the cons. While it rarely feels like work, I also don’t get paid as much or as regularly as I’d like.
This is my first time blogging. I have been saying I was going to do this for several months, so I figured a new year was the perfect time for a new beginning. I decided to write this for several reasons. The most important reason for me is to document and organize my self employment. Another reason is it’s difficult trying to explain what I do. I have had a very difficult time writing a usable resume that really displays my skills. I have also been questioned if I am considered freelance vs. self employed. Is there a difference?