Essential Questions

Do you feel it is important to be part of a community of artists?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

I’ve been thinking about the importance of community among artists. Our group, ProWax, and the International Encaustic Conference are communities I’m involved in. They provide information, lift me up when I’m down, and share in my success. Through networking and curating they are responsible for many of the good things happening in my career. I am not alone. We are not alone. Our members tell their stories here, but I hope anyone reading will use the Comments section to share their own experiences about community.

Dorothy Cochran I have always felt like an outsider with my intense focus on art. I have been involved with the arts as an educator and curator my whole life, but while this was wonderful in many ways, it did not lend itself to sharing on a deep level my own work. I loved graduate school intimacy and community, but that did not last. The community where I lived for 40 years was enriching in many ways but not in the visual arts. While raising two daughters, I painted, printed and roamed New York City’s art scene, but in isolation. Since becoming involved with the artists of the International Encaustic Conference, I have developed strong friendships and feel I have found the tribe I belong to. I have found colleagues who share my enthusiasms, challenges and work ethic. It has changed my life and brought me into a circle of trust that makes a difference every day.

pwj-issue15-pullquote-miller_rightAnna Wagner-Ott I live in a place where the population is 1000 and I am the only one making non-representational art. I feel like an outsider. At this point, I have not found [an artistic] community where I live. On the other hand, I have attended the Conference and met like-minded individuals and continued conversations in the virtual world. I joined the Raising the Bar Facebook group, and feel connected with the world. I don’t feel isolated anymore. Each year in June, I connect [in person] with my Facebook friends and have lots of talks about art. It is amazing, really, that one can get a sense of community through emails and on Facebook. It is very important that I have a community of artists where I can express my ideas and share my work, even if those discussions are through the internet.

Rae Miller The communities of artists available to me via the internet, and in person at the Conference, have made my life as an expat artist in Mexico not only doable, but more successful. Without the support of these people and groups, I would not have been able to move my career forward as successfully. I have learned untold volumes of information through various online forums and the International Encaustic Conference particularly. I learned how to function better in the business side of art, as well as [upgrade] technical aspects of art making. I also became a better teacher. Looking back, I feel that my recent solo exhibition at El Nigromante Bellas Artes, a prominent cultural center in San Miguel de Allende, would not have happened without the input and guidance I’ve received through community.

Kathy Cantwell I’ve been an isolated painter without a community for a great deal of my life. I had maybe one artist friend, not very supportive. In the last six years that has turned around. Connectivity via iPhone with Facebook and the Conference has given me a community where I’ve met and become friends with hundreds of artists. It’s been life changing. We encourage, motivate, and offer opportunities when they come up. What I’ve accomplished since that first iPhone is unbelievable to me.

David A. Clark I work in relative isolation and I had hoped moving to a more public studio would change that somewhat. It has changed the sense of loneliness, but social media cures something different. It cures my cultural loneliness. I love where I live, and it has great cultural events, but there aren’t many professionals here to dialogue with. Social media is a necessary touchstone for me. I enjoy reading all of the posts. I enjoy everyone’s triumphs and I feel all of the collective pain and frustration. It helps me keep everything a bit more in perspective.

Joanne Mattera One of the wonderful things about our encaustic community is the way it branches out. While many relationships have come about as a result the International Encaustic Conference, they continue regionally in person. When artists from the community travel for openings, for instance, they reach out to artists from that city or region. Also, we have recommended others from our cohort for exhibitions or gallery representation.

But I think it’s important to be part of other communities in the art world. I suspect many of you feel this, too. For instance, there are a number of artists I find myself showing with fairly regularly in New York City. We’ve gotten to know each other from these group shows, but I attend their other openings and they, mine. For me, it’s a chance to step away from encaustic. That wax mantle can be heavy, don’t you think?

pwj-issue15-pullquote-cochran_leftDebra Claffey I serve on the board of an art group working for gender equity and connect with others over landcare and eco-sustainability.

Leslie Sobel I have started an activist artist group rooted in the real world, not just social media. We’re primarily local but not just. The community is like-minded politics based rather than aesthetics or commonality of art-making approaches.

Jane Guthridge I enjoy the global expanse of this group, but I have also made a concerted effort to meet and be part of an artistic community in Denver. At one point I knew more artists around the world than in my own town. I have reached out to get to know more than just artists but gallerists, arts writers, curators, museum professionals and others involved in the arts. I curated several shows. Through this experience I was able to get to know the other artists. I remember being afraid to ask them to be in my exhibition, thinking why would they do this, they don’t know me. It turned out to be a wonderful thing and a great way to connect with other artists.

This summer I was invited to be in the exhibition, Colorado Women in Abstraction. One of the unexpected results of being in this show was how many of the other artists I was able to meet and start to get to know. We have talked about continuing the conversation and showing together in other venues and places. Creating friendships through community has enriched my life.

Nancy Natale Making initial connections around the medium of encaustic does not mean that is our only involvement, but just the bridge to more community. Having the opportunity to meet people at the Conference year after year and then share thoughts and ideas on FB leads to a much different kind of relationship. I think in many ways that it’s sometimes deeper than what is possible in face-to-face art friendships, because over time we have the kinds of conversations that are not usually possible when artists get to know each other through physical proximity.

pwj-issue15-pullquote-natale_rightI’ve lived in places where I’ve been very involved in organizing shows and open studios, showing together with people, and working on arts councils. Those relationships were centered around projects or activities, rather than establishing bonds and sharing thoughts and views over long periods of time. While we are mainly focused on work in encaustic here in ProWax, we are not chained to that medium. We are also aware of and appreciative of artists and shows that have nothing to do with medium.

I really appreciate the opportunity to share information and ideas about art and feel that our community extends across the country and even around the world. For all the faults of Facebook and the pokes we take at it, the community that it has let us establish is a rare phenomenon made possible by the internet. This is one of the joys of our time (as well as one of the banes.)

Krista Svalbonas I love Facebook and Instagram but social media only gets me so far. I find it a great way to keep up with people I know personally (some I don’t) who live away from me, but real human connection always feels necessary. I’ve always felt the need to be connected to my local community wherever I am. Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes not so much. I still find the best conversations are the ones had in person over a glass of wine or coffee and with real artwork in front of you!


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