Professional Practices: The Big Picture

How does a curated show differ from an invitational? What is the mission of an academic gallery? When are you ready to show? How do you price your work? Has anyone seen ArtZilla? The Saturday Morning Panel at this year’s International Encaustic Conference answered those questions and more.


For Professional Practices: The Big Picture! I invited a stellar group of six artist-hyphenates
(-curator, -dealer, -professor, -ethicist) to talk with me about career issues. Miles Conrad, Fanne Fernow, Wendy Haas, Timothy McDowell, Jane Allen Nodine, and Carol Pelletier came with impressive resumes and a wealth of practical information. What follows is a synopsis of our nearly three-hour discussion.

Your Exhibition Options: Juried, Curated, Organized, Invitational

We started with the building blocks of a resume: exhibitions. For artists who are not gallery represented—and even for some who are—it’s important to understand how various kinds of shows help artists achieve visibility.PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Nodine

. As all the panelists noted, the juried show is the best and easiest way for an artist to build a resume. Work is selected by a juror—usually a dealer, curator, or critic—who is named in a prospectus. A well-selected show reflects favorably on all involved. Juried shows are typically held by non-profit entities, and there’s typically a fee to enter. For artists working in encaustic, juried shows offer a way of creating visibility within the community as well as a springboard to show beyond it.

Thinking about entering a juried show? “Pick and choose wisely because they can be costly to your wallet and your work,” said Jane Allen Nodine, director of the Curtis R. Harley Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She offered these considerations:
.Calculate first what will it cost you in work prep, entry fees and shipping, then clarify, what do you expect to get out of this exhibit?
.Do your homework: What is the venue, who is the sponsor, and especially, who is the judge?
.Will the possibility of this exhibit give you exposure to galleries, curators and collectors?
.Are there significant cash awards, a printed or online catalog, or the possibility of a future solo exhibition?
.Will your work be professionally presented and carefully managed in the process?

. The curated show is an exhibition in which artists are selected by a curator, whether she works for a museum or gallery, or independently, or is an artist or art historian expanding her practice by conceptualizing and realizing a thematic vision. There is no entry fee; indeed, you may not even know you’re being considered until the invitation arrives. A curated show is validation that your work has been sought out to become part of a larger discourse.

For the curator, it’s an opportunity to give physical form to a vision with and from artists’ work, noted Carol Pelletier, who curated the recent exhibition, Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she is also chair of the Fine Arts department.

. The organized show gave pause to Wendy Haas, founder of the Cervini Haas Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, now an independent dealer and curator based in Chicago. “How should I describe this?” she mused. Ultimately both she and Miles Conrad, owner/director of Conrad Wilde Gallery in Tucson, acknowledged that like a curated show, selections are made by a curatorial entity working with a thematic idea, but that the exact selection of works may be left up to the invited artists, or juried from artist submissions, or both. Organized shows take place at galleries of all kinds.

. For an invitational show, a dealer or exhibition organizer asks particular artists to participate, usually around a theme. Said Haas, “I’ll often include some artists outside those already represented [by my gallery], as it gives both of us an introduction to working with each other. “

What’s the difference between a curated show and an invitational? Typically it’s the element of trying out a new artist or broadening an exhibition roster, as Haas suggested by her comment.

Your Gallery Options: Non-profit, Academic, Commercial, Co-op, and More

All galleries are not alike, and understanding their differences can help you decide how to approach them—or be approached by them.

. The mission of a non-profit gallery is to serve its community. It may sell work but it typically derives income from other sources, such as grants, fundraising, and donations. It is a good place for emerging artists to start their careers, or for seasoned artists to show experimental work, said Nodine, because the focus is on showing rather than selling.

Unlike PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Hasscommercial galleries, non-profits don’t work with a roster of gallery artists so the potential for showing is higher, particularly if the mission is to engage the community by soliciting proposals or reviewing artists’ portfolios. Not every professional artist makes a living selling art (some survive on grants and residencies), so this type of gallery provides good visibility.

. The academic gallery serves artists similarly, since showing rather than selling is the priority. But, noted Pelletier, the academic gallery has a specific audience: its own academic community.

“If you are proposing a show, know that many of the academic galleries have planned exhibits one to two years out. Contact the chair of the department to see how your proposal fits into the curriculum,” said Pelletier. She added that artists whose proposals are accepted, or who are invited to show, may also be asked to give a talk or demonstration to the institution’s students, and typically an honorarium will be offered. (If it’s not, request one.)

. A commercial gallery is in the business of selling art. Artist and dealer are in a business relationship. A gallery-represented artist can reasonably expect to have a solo show every two or three years. Timothy McDowell, who has been gallery represented for the length of his long career, noted the needs of artists and dealers may change over time, so it’s not enough to secure gallery representation but to understand the dynamics of the relationship.

“As artists gain recognition and experience, their gallery representation may change from the local or regional gallery to one with a national or even international reputation,” McDowell said. Dealers, too, are looking to trade up, and some may drop artists with lesser profiles for those with greater art world visibility. In short, it’s hard work to get into a gallery and even harder work to remain there.

. Everyone on the panel spoke negatively about the so-called vanity galleries, those scurrilous businesses that troll for artists, offering group and solo shows for a steep price. Nodine said it most clearly: “Do not pay to play.”

. The one exception to paying would be co-op galleries, in which artists are juried into an existing artist-run gallery structure. Yes, artists pay a monthly fee to cover rent and other costs, but they are largely free to show what they wish and they receive a larger percent of sales, often as high at 80 percent. Our panelists noted that the co-op concept has an almost 100 year history and has given many artists their first opportunities to exhibit. This option got a thumbs-up all around.

Changing the Game: Do-it-Yourself

As our gallerists noted in conversation, there are never enough gallery slots for the number of practicPWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Conrading artists. But while gallery representation may not be possible for everyone, Miles Conrad was clear in saying that every artist working now has options that would not have been possible even 15 years ago. “With the advent of the Internet, we’ve seen a huge upsurge in the DIY ethos,” he sai. “We can now publish our own websites along with our own writing, videos and tutorials. Printing has now been democratized with postcards, brochures and print-on-demand catalogs. We now send bulk electronic newsletters, sidestepping costly printed mailings. All of these activities are game changers for artists.”

. Open studios are ever more sophisticated, and both sales and connections are made. Fanne Fernow, who has often participated in juried Open Studios, attested to their value. “They are great for artists at all levels,” she said. Her reasons:
. You see people experiencing your work
. You get to practice talking out loud about it
. You’re basically curating your own solo show. You get to select work and hang the show. How does it read? Is it cohesive?
. You also make signs, labels and graphics. You learn to promote. It’s a really great way to gain experience.

. Pop-Up Galleries are artist-generated events that take place in apartments, vacant store fronts, and, well, let me share Conrad’s story: “There was a local undergraduate art student in Tucson who had one of those moving pods delivered right across the street from Gallery Row during one of the Art Walk events. She painted the inside white and hung a small but well curated group show. She ran clamp lights powered by a rented generator and hired a DJ. It was such a fun and refreshing event that she drew huge crowds from the mainstream galleries. It was the only time in my gallery’s history that I left one of our own receptions to wander out looking at something else!”

Know When You’re Ready to Show

“Showing your work is a natural step after having made something that you’re pleased with or proud of. Showing ranges from having an open studio to being exhibited by a gallery or museum,” said McDowell.

A metaphor from that oracle, the Internet

A metaphor from that oracle, the Internet

From a practical standpoint, Hass said that being ready means having “a consistent body of work, a sense of where you are in your career, and an opinion on your pricing.” From an emotional standpoint, McDowell felt that being ready to show means developing the ability to face rejection. “Being held responsible for your work and managing the huge range of viewer reactions requires a level of maturity. This comes with the territory,” he said.

Haas suggested this way to proceed: “Before you approach a dealer or curator, I’d recommend building your resume with juried shows and some of the more ‘grass roots’ options to gain both exhibition experience and a sales history.”

PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.McDowellThen there are the other hats you wear. “After mastering your studio practice, be ready to master the requirements of a small business,” said McDowell. Contracts, artist statements, consignment forms, work ethics and consistency, presentation, craftsmanship are just some of what you need to be capable of handling— and handling well— prior to and after showing the work. What good is it to arrive at an artistic level of accomplishment only to fail at the practical components of going public? “

Pricing Your Work
When you’re gallery represented, the selling price is something you and your dealer set together since you will each take fifty percent. It’s not the dealer taking half of your hard-earned money, as so many artists mistakenly see it, but rather you and your dealer each getting what you feel you need to get for the work—mediated, of course, by what the market will bear. Emerging and/or unrepresented artists have a harder time with pricing, which these comments may help to clarify:
. McDowell has a per-square-inch system that allows for consistency when paintings are of many various sizes.
. Others artists (I am one) work with a fairly limited number of sizes and have developed a pricing system, nudged upward over the years, based on those specific sizes.
. I stepped out of my role as moderator to add to the conversation. When I taught Professional Practices at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, I had students go around to the galleries to research the price of a particular size painting, one relating to the general size range in which they worked. Of course the prices from artist to artist and gallery to gallery varied wildly, but what the students came to understand from studying the available resumes was that exhibition history (museum, solo, and curated shows), plus reviews, grants and other distinctions, were essential elements in determining an artist’s prices. Selling history is another factor. And like it or not, a well-known artist can command a higher price, just as a high-profile gallery can command higher prices for its artists.
PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Pelletier. McDowell, Conrad and Haas all voiced some version of this idea: Be consistent in your pricing, so that the work of a particular size, whether sold out of your studio, or at a gallery anywhere, costs the same amount. The internet allows collectors to comparison shop—and dealers to check—so across-the-board uniformity is in your best interest.
. Haas clarified consistency with this: “Maybe you’ll have a few different series that lend themselves to pricing variations due to the technique or materials used. That’s fine, but make sure the dealer can easily convey to a prospective client the reasons for differences in price.”
. McDowell added, “Your prices can go up, but they can’t come down.” He noted that as you move up in the gallery hierarchy and your prices get set accordingly higher, if you wish to remain loyal to the smaller galleries you started with, you may need to show scaled-down work at a price those galleries can sell, or create a series specifically for them.
. “Don’t sell the work at a price so low that you regret having sold it,” said Pelletier, who has seen this happen with students. Neither should you price your work so high that is has no chance of selling.
. I’d add one more thought here: If you are consistently the lowest-priced artist in a show, raise your prices. And if you are consistently the highest priced, then start showing in venues that better reflect what you feel is the value of your work.

The Artist/Dealer Partnership
When I was in art school, the prevailing idea was, “The dealer is your enemy.” What awful and misleading information to give to students! The artists and dealers on our panel had a much more holistic idea about what it means to work together.

. “The artist/dealer relationship is both a personal and business partnership,” said Haas. “Trust is crucial. Neither the artist nor the dealer wants to work with someone who will operate behind the other’s back.”

. And what about the gallery you start out with? Here’s McDowell: “The smaller gallery relationship may deserve some loyalty for having sold your work for years, providing the venue from which your reputation grew. There is room for both. Work [scale, type of project] can be adjusted to maintain the early relationship. Branching out to bigger and hopefully better opportunities does not necessarily mean that bridges be burned.”

. Here’s something that many artist don’t realize: Most dealers do not come from wealth, and many struggle financially just as artists do. They are in the business of selling art for the same reason we are in the business of making it: Neither can imagine a life without it.

Being a Good Art World Citizen
PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.FernowIf we’d had another hour, we would have talked more about some of the bêtes noirs in our community: appropriating images and ideas, stepping on toes, inventing “referrals” to get an in with a dealer, and the way situations often blow up out of proportion, especially on social media. I asked Fernow, the only artist on our panel—perhaps in the entire encaustic community—who has a divinity school background, to address some of these issues in general terms. Here is her response:

“If you reside in some sort of artist community, either housing or studio space, it is good to find ways to work together. There is a woman with a studio in the complex where I have mine. She is a Buddhist nun. But when it comes time for an open studio event, she turns into ArtZilla. She wants the most wall space in the hallways. She wants to place things in the hallways that will enhance the journey into her space, not yours. She must have bigger signs than yours. It is not fun to work with her.

“I have known more than one ArtZilla over the years,” Fernow continued. “They are the artists who don’t want to do their fair share of the work, the artists who think they are the only one with something to offer, the artists who are fine with not paying their own way. When given the great opportunity to work with and learn from others, please be a good citizen of your community and leave ArtZilla at the door.”

Fernow concluded our discussion with these thoughts:

“A lot of people will do anything to have their art be seen. Understand the origin of your ideas and why you are making that particular work. Ask yourself if the work is original and what it means. Do you have a chance to help someone with less experience than you? Do you have a chance to invite others to follow you on your path? Do you work and/or play well with others? Can you carry your own weight? Sometimes the desire to have your work seen and recognized blinds you to anything or anyone else. Please think seriously about your behavior. If you have never considered your ethics, please do it now.”

. . . . . . . . . .

–Joanne Mattera is the founder/director of the International Encaustic Conference. She could not have completed this piece without the help of the panelists, who verified and clarified their comments. Read more about the panelists here.

Welcome to the Saturday Morning Panel, Professional Practices: The Big Picture! Photo: Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

Photo: Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

Want to know more about the Saturday Morning Panels? In previous years we’ve discussed A History of Contemporary Encaustic (2014); Raising the Bar: Encaustic in our Practice (2013); Igniting the Spark, Fanning the Flames: Creativity in Our Practice (2012); Mastering Media (2011); Making a Career in Encaustic (2010); Conservators on Conservation (2009); How the Press Views Encaustic (2008); and the very first year: Encaustic: State of the Art (2007). (More year-by-year info can be found in A Brief History of the Encaustic Conference.)

Off The Grid . . .

by Deborah Winiarski

Pattern in Art may be defined as a reiteration or rational distribution of closely related elements across a given plane or field. That distribution may vary with different degrees of predictability within a composition. A pattern in a work of Art need not necessarily repeat itself but often provides order, offering a strand of unified elements within a larger structural whole.

Though each of the works below visually make reference to some form of pattern, they are far from predictable. These artists have used their affinity toward a reiteration of elements – whether geometrical, kaleidoscopic, musical, or textile in nature – as a starting point from which to sing their singular songs.

The word ‘pattern’ is derived from the Medieval Latin word ‘patronus’ meaning ‘a model of behavior, exemplar.’ Each of the artists included here are exemplars in their distinctive and unique uses of pattern in their work.


Dawna Bemis, Kaleidoscope, 2015; encaustic, encaustic monotypes, newsprint, transistors and pigment stick on steel; 24” x 24”. Photography:  Jay York

Dawna Bemis, Kaleidoscope, 2015; encaustic, encaustic monotypes, newsprint, transistors and pigment stick on steel; 24 x 24 inches. Photography: Jay York


Dawna Bemis, Antique Tile, 2014; encaustic, encaustic monotypes, book pages, hand stitching, embroidery and pigment stick on copper on panel; 16” x 16”, Photography:  Jay York

Dawna Bemis, Antique Tile, 2014; encaustic, encaustic monotypes, book pages, hand stitching, embroidery and pigment stick on copper on panel; 16 x 16 inches. Photography: Jay York

“In my most recent series I draw upon quilts as a metaphor for the loss of generational knowledge transfer.   With this work I explore issues of identity, gender, and family history. As I develop these pieces, I connect with the many hands that have worked these geometric patterns over time.”
–Dawna Bemis

Cat Crotchett, Surfacing, 2015, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 8” x 8”

Cat Crotchett, Surfacing, 2015, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 8 x 8 inches


Cat Crotchett, Together, 2013, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 8” x 8”

Cat Crotchett, Together, 2013, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 8 x 8 inches

“In these pieces I explored what happened to each pattern’s individual and collective identities when they were layered or juxtaposed in wax. It plays with ideas of cultural dominance relative to what parts of each pattern are concealed or revealed.”
— Cat Crotchett

Joanne Mattera, Chromatic Geometry 40, 2015, encaustic on panel, 18” x 18”

Joanne Mattera, Chromatic Geometry 40, 2015, encaustic on panel, 18 x 18 inches


Joanne Mattera, Chromatic Geometry 27, 2014, encaustic on panel, 18” x 18”

Joanne Mattera, Chromatic Geometry 27, 2014, encaustic on panel, 18 x 18 inches

“In my Chromatic Geometry series I’ve skewed the grid’s conventional structure into a field of attenuated diamonds. Formally I’m thinking about their division into lesser or greater amounts, allowing me to resolve relationships of color and structure. Each little triangular shape is a fulcrum affecting the equipoise of the field.”
— Joanne Mattera

Karen Freedman, Ruche Off 0565.2, 2015, encaustic on wood panel, 30" x 40" (diptych)

Karen Freedman, Ruche Off 0565.2, 2015, encaustic on wood panel, 30 x 40 inches (diptych)


Karen Freedman, Ruche Off 0507.6, 2014, encaustic on wood panel, 16” x 32”

Karen Freedman, Ruche Off 0507.6, 2014, encaustic on wood panel, 16 x 32 inches

“I have always been drawn to patterns. With my series, Kaleidoscoptical, I explore ways to alter visual perception and cognition through the interaction of color within the confines of symmetrical patterning.”
–Karen Freedman

Paul Rinaldi, The Kiss, 2015; encaustic on 2 panels, steel support; 28.5" x 14.5

Paul Rinaldi, The Kiss, 2015; encaustic on 2 panels, steel support; 28.5 x 14.5 inches


Paul Rinaldi, Etude No. 18 Voices, 2012, encaustic on four panels, 10.2” x 32.2”

Paul Rinaldi, Etude No. 18 Voices, 2012, encaustic on four panels, 10.2 x 32.2 inches

“I create objects that invite a viewer to a moment of inner contemplation and reflection, objects that in some way offer a gateway to both collective and individuated memory.  I want to produce work that somehow collapses time, where one experiences both the fullness and the silence of an expansive moment.”
— Paul Rinaldi

Tremain Smith, Forest of Delight, 2014; oil, wax and collage on panel; 24” x 30”.  Photography: Karen Mauch

Tremain Smith, Forest of Delight, 2014; oil, wax and collage on panel; 24 x 30 inches.
Photography:  Karen Mauch


Tremain Smith, Identity, 2014, oil and wax on panel, 24” x 36”.  Photography:  Karen Mauch

Tremain Smith, Identity, 2014, oil and wax on panel, 24 x 36 inches.
Photography:  Karen Mauch

“I use the grid as a structure that I build upon in layers. My technique is composed of oil glazes, collage and transparent beeswax. I incise, iron, rub, draw, and paint into the layers, and burn imprints into the wax with a desire to express the spiritual through painting.”
— Tremain Smith

Essential Questions: What Did You Learn in Art School?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

In this group we often talk about the value of an art education. I’m interested to know: What did you learn in art school?

Leslie Sobel: I was exposed to a lot of artists, art history, and technical skills including composition, color, and most of all critical thinking about what I was saying and how best to express it given constraints of media and time.

Patricia Dusman: I learned process but most importantly how to study the work and think critically about it. How to conceptualize as well as talk about it.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.46.02Cat L Crotchett: I learned how to conceptualize. [I learned] critical thinking skills, professional practices, process and technique, research skills, art history, how to talk about my work and other’s work, self motivation and the discipline of creative research. I was also influenced by the critical mass of other artists studying the programs, both undergraduate and graduate.

Joanne Mattera: I learned to see as an artist, and to think of myself as an artist. I learned to talk about art in a language that respected both the art and its maker. The design and color stuff–first and second year foundation–was useful, too, as was drawing.

Important to me as a painter is that I took a painting materials class in which I learned how to make and use four paints: encaustic, egg tempera, oil, and acrylic–and with each, I learned the appropriate substrate and ground. I’m not sure I would have gotten involved in encaustic had I not had that initial base to return to. Equally important is that I met people who provided opportunities that have helped me become the artist I would become.

On the negative side, I was given very bad career advice (“Selling well means selling out,” “It will ‘happen’ for you if you just work in the studio,” and “The dealer is your enemy”). I even had a professor who said to me, “You have an excellent color sense. But you have to decide whether you want to be a woman or an artist.” The second wave of feminism was just building, but I found it in me to respond, “I don’t see that you’ve limited yourself to being a man or an artist.”

Cat L Crotchett: Joanne, your post has reminded me that one “great” complement when I was in art school was to be told, “you paint like a man.” By the time I was applying to graduate school, I did so using my first initials and, when I got acceptance calls, discovered that the schools had assumed I was a man.

Joanne Mattera: Women really got the shit end of the stick in art school back then, didn’t we? That negative stuff was very negative. It is better now.

Nancy Azara: I learned to look and see, a revelation because that’s not an often mentioned skill and then to translate into a visual form.

Kate Miller: My program was edgy, not based on technique and materials. Rather, I was inundated with conceptual critical thinking with no limits on how to go about expressing what I wanted to say. I think that is the type of artist I am anyway so I naturally drifted more towards professors who were more interested in content and context than technique and design.

Deborah Kapoor: My undergraduate experience was a mix of technique and conceptual emphasis. At the time I was very interested in the physical making of mixed media works and that really hasn’t changed. Art history was important. In graduate school I felt like I was in a dream. I had a full scholarship and had a huge studio and time and money. I took a materials and techniques course, and color theory, both of which have proven invaluable to my process of experimentation.

There was some attention given to the business of art too but I think that within both experiences I found good and bad teachers. Some were busy becoming famous and others were devoted to teaching, and as a result, I learned from both (especially what not to do in later years as a teacher myself). I have a relationship still with my graduate advisor and he has been for me a great example of being a working artist, teacher, and human.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.44.54Fanne Fernow: I learned the value of intentionality. I learned how to consider a painting and develop my critical thinking. I also learned some skills that I later adapted to my own methods. But, the skill part is secondary.

While I was teaching at Mount Holyoke, I took a class called Methods and Materials. Ultimately, that’s the learning I find I draw from so many years later.

Kathy Cantwell: It helped tremendously to have the hands on learning of the basic foundation courses with an added focus on my major, painting. Sculpture, printmaking, drawing, color theory and art history were awesome. The only regret is that no one guided me towards getting a master’s nor did anyone ever really discuss what one had to do to make it as an artist. The school gallery director’s advice to me on graduating was to walk the streets of SoHo. At that time I didn’t know where SoHo was. It was 1978.

Jane Allen Nodine: My undergrad experience was mostly about technique with a strong dose of art history, but my grad experience was almost all about theory. Lots of reading, artspeak discussion about what IS art, and maybe what is not art. No real-world advice–that was learned after I was out on my own.

Graceann Warn: I did not go to art school and for years wrestled with that. The two times I did return to school as an older student (making art) I chose fields that gave me stories and inspiration for my work (Classical Studies and Theater Design). I find it interesting that I could never just dive in and go for an MFA. My degrees are in design, and from that study I got color theory, composition, thinking in three dimensions, defending work and maybe most importantly, problem solving. In grad school I learned a great deal of professional practice, which set me up beautifully. Cat, I laughed when I read your post. One of my most memorable crits from school included a professor “flattering” me by saying I was a male designer. I’ll never forget that.

Krista Svalbonas: I learned many formal and theoretical ideas, historical context, but most of all how to challenge myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. To have a strong dedication to the work I make and to never give up and see it through. Loved school, both undergrad and grad and I hope I take that love and passion and give it to my students now.

Jane Guthridge: I came across “What I learned in Grad School” by Quinton Bemiller. The things that really resonated with me were:

•Your work is the most important thing. The quality has to be exceedingly high. Do this and the shows, reviews and sales will follow
•Know art history and contemporary art as it applies to your own art
•Guard your reputation as an artist. Don’t show your work just anywhere. Don’t sell your work to just anyone
•Teachers/artist never share all their secrets. Some things you have to learn on your own
•Know what the driving force is in your work, the main concept or premise on which all other things are built
• Your peers will do more to help advance your career than anyone else

How many of you learned anything about professional practices at art school?

Jennie Frederick My experience at the Kansas City Art Institute was fabulous, however I have to say that my knowledge of and experience with professional practices came during my MFA and apprenticeship with Twinrocker Handmade Paper. That is where I learned the business of art/paper-making.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.46.19Debra Claffey I went back to school in 1977, when the Museum School in Boston offered its first-ever professional practices class. Aside from that I experimented with all the mediums I wouldn’t be able to afford after school. I learned how to listen to critique (painful!), how to think about intention, and to think of making art as my vocation, regardless of sales or attention.

Deborah Martin I earned my MFA in the early 1990’s. At that time I was the only older student in the graduate program. It was a fabulous experience for me. I learned about hard work, never giving up, trusting myself, critical thinking, how to talk about art and who to trust, things that proved invaluable on the road to becoming an artist. I also discovered that I could teach and was awarded a scholarship and a teaching position. Graduate school gave me the focus and the determination I needed.

Joan Stuart Ross In undergraduate school, I had a wonderful art professor, Richard Lukosius, who tried to teach me self-reliance and self-confidence. He Socratically watched me as I followed my path in my own time. I learned color theory. I developed an increased love of drawing and of oil paint in graduate school. How to manage day jobs, studio time and art biz stuff were ongoing and never-ending lessons in later schools of some very hard knocks. I often muse on these varied lessons.

Kate Miller I’m not sure that higher education is the right place to learn the business of art . It should perhaps be preserved for the pure academics of research and experimentation, real world slams you into marketplace competitive mentality soon enough, that is one reason that conferences like Joanne’s are perfect places to learn from panels and presentations.

Joanne Mattera Thanks for the kind words about the Conference, Kate, but I respectfully disagree about the business of art. Art is a two-sided coin. On one side is the theory and practice of artmaking. On the other side is the business of art. You can’t have one without the other, especially now that the bill for undergraduate and grad school can hit a quarter of a million dollars. Having a plan for showing and selling, for thinking entrepreneurially, allows us a way out of the poverty ghetto.

Fanne Fernow The Conference does provide a great place for those of us who did not get the business of art anywhere else.

Joanne Mattera Yes, of course! That’s why I schedule so many professional practice events. I know that any artist over 35 or 40 did not get this information in school–and they need it, because students now (undergrad and grad) are getting Professional Practice courses and seminars. The Conference is helping to even the playing field.

Kate Miller A course covering the business of art near one’s educational end might be a pragmatic and useful addition but I still think that the emphasis in universities especially at the MFA level should remain on theory, research and expansion. When else but grad school do most of us really get the opportunity to go way out on a creative limb, as far as we can get with support, materials, space and critical analysis available at all times. I know a few people who continue to push boundaries in their work and keep growth as the central component, but most of us find that we must “bring it down to earth” to one degree or another in order to 1) sell, and 2) have the time and concentration to teach or find other art related business that will make a living.

Jane Guthridge To me taking risks and pushing yourself in school and also learning the basics of business and professional practices are not at odds with each other. I think you can and should take risks with your work in school and as a professional artist it’s the only way to move your work forward. There are not many jobs other than in academia that are going to hire you to be an artist. As a professional artist you will be self employed. I think knowing some basic business skills as well as professional practices will help you to be able to make your way in the world as an artist.

Carol Pelletier Professional practices is a must these days. It needs to be incorporated into the curriculum. There are too many students in excellent programs who leave without the confidence or knowledge of how to create websites, manage their portfolio, create catalogs, artist statements and resumes. The artwork might be there but they don’t always know what to do with it, or how to approach a gallery or even prepare a packet for grad school. Some students do have the mentorship and guidance from either a faculty member or visiting artist (or an artist they may have interned with) if the professional practices component is not built into the degree. These relationships are very valuable. The students recognize it and maintain these relationships for years.