professional development
Art Business

Want to Hone Your Professional Development Skills? Get Creative

Here you are, a serious working artist moving toward the next level in your career. Seasoned professional and novice alike, you can benefit from professional development opportunities, greater exposure and opportunities to search for funders and patrons. But how can the busy artist running a studio and maintaining budgets for materials and shipping, among other concerns, find time and money to advance their career? What resources are available that can help the independent working artist or arts professional expand their reach and impact without stretching their budget? No matter what education or experience level artists have achieved, we have assembled resources available at little to no cost to help the working artist press ahead with their career trajectory and professional development goals.

While we’re focusing here on online access, it is also important for artists to consider professional development strategies at the local level within their immediate networks and communities. While accessing remote opportunities via the internet opens up new doors for artists, it is key to recognize that gaining acclaim and familiarity within your immediate community will lead to greater opportunities and renown in a closer geographic network. This is key to making professional development advancements: By expanding your reputation locally, more opportunities will present themselves and open doors on the wider scale as well.

That disclaimer aside, here we take a look at accessible resources for building a positive career trajectory and locking in an effective professional development strategy that will allow your practice to flourish.

art workshop
Finding a crit group or workshop is a great way to deepen your expertise and professional practice.

Find an Art Workshop or Critique Group

The remarkably adroit website Getting Your Sh*t Together, founded by CalArts professor and independent curator Karen Atkinson, is the art world’s worst-kept secret – luckily! This site contains a wide range of advice topics for artists, including career advancement, and an entire page dedicated to the art workshop and artwork critique group, known as “crit groups.” Atkinson notes that “maintaining an efficient crit group may help your work to stay fresh, relevant and active in the art community.”

In New York City, Brooklyn-based crit group Trans-Cen-Der Art Group, or TAG, grew out of the now-obsolete Bushwick Crit Group and meets for free the last Tuesday of the month. The crit group’s stated goals are to “provide artists [with] a supportive place to share work, receive feedback and form creative opinions.”  Whether seeking to return to the community feedback received from grad-level critiques or hoping to gain exposure to other artists’ work and opinions on your own practice, joining a crit group is a valuable, affordable resource for the artist seeking a better understanding of their artwork from a new and informed perspective.

What about an art workshop on topics that improve awareness around art topics for working artist professionals? Or an art workshop that can help artists deepen awareness of topics that will expand and inform their practice? Along with the obvious resources such as coursera or coursehorse, which hold remote and in-person courses at affordable price points, there are art-specific sites helping artists navigate the field as their practice develops. NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) is another terribly-kept secret in the arts community, but did you know in addition to art positions listings that there is an entire page devoted to various professional development opportunities, including the invitation to purchase their comprehensive tome “The Profitable Artist” for a paltry $20? It’s not uncommon for NYFA to additionally plan an art workshop here and there, so it’s certainly a resource worth bookmarking if you’re looking to gain valuable advice from art world experts.

Additionally, sometimes a workshop to improve how artists manage grant applications is offered remotely by the institutions granting these opportunities. Examples include the Foundation Center, headquartered in New York City, which offers this free YouTube art workshop on how to hone in on a grant proposal. Similarly, for those intrigued by the chance to apply for National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) individual visual art grants, the NEA also features a quick tutorial outlining how grant opportunities unfold. Clocking in at under two minutes, the video can help guide artists in their pursuit of fundraising opportunities.  

Aside from joining a crit group or art workshop, various opportunities exist to consult with existing art professionals and networks to better understand how to surmount challenges that you encounter as a working artist within your career. Some examples include arts career coaching or one-to-one work with experts in a particular field, such as arts marketing or fundraising.

While these opportunities range from affordable to expensive, it’s important to note what artists should look for when seeking guidance. We call this the E-A-T guide: you should seek professional advice from those who demonstrate Expertise, Accessibility, and Time (Spent in the Field). You are seeking someone with demonstrable expertise in a specific topic, who will be accessible and available to answer specific topics (not just a voice in an online art workshop!) and has demonstrated time applying their expertise to a field in the art world, whether as a professor, advisor or in a similar role.

visual art grants
Visual art grants are available for artists that have specific projects in mind.

Cashing In With Visual Art Grants

At Artrepreneur, we have a variety of topics available for artists looking for pointers on everything from artist residency opportunities to seeking funding for art projects. For artists specifically looking for guidance on pursuing funding opportunities, particularly visual art grants related to their practice, there is a wide net of resources available. While some of these opportunities can be local, such as the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in New York City and the Brooklyn Arts Council for Brooklynites, some grants depend upon the artist’s chosen medium, geographic location or career milestones. Grantspace, for example, focuses on doling out resources specific to finding and landing visual art grants according to mediums such as visual artists, filmmakers, and more.

Finally, it’s important for artists to identify exactly what they are seeking to fund. When applying as an independent working artist, for example, there are categories as specific as seeking emergency funds or traveling to research specific topics or expand their practice or knowledge base in a particular field of study (such as through transartists’ resource listings). By specifying clearly what an artist is seeking to fund in their practice when searching for visual artist grants, there will be a greater likelihood that artists will retrieve results that will more accurately apply to their practice.

Finding Administrative Guidance

Artists running a studio and developing their practice are well aware of the need to be on top of their administrative game. Whether allocating resources toward accounting or legal matters, there are always opportunities available for artists as a creative class that should be visible to the wider arts community. One such example organization is the New York-based Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a legal aid and educational organization available to local artists and arts organizations. Similarly, in the St. Louis bi-state region of Missouri and Illinois, the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts is an organization supporting artists and arts organizations seeking financial and legal advice. It can be beneficial to ask artists in your immediate networks for referrals to private practitioners or to reach out to local arts funders or art granting organizations for resources specific to one’s locale, as volunteer administrative professionals are generally organized by region or urban centers.  

Whether seeking everyday practical advice or hunting for answers to specific questions across various disciplines or art topics, there are always solutions available to creative professionals at various stages in their careers. Perhaps the most important aspect of these affordable solutions is to ensure that the counsel one pursues are ultimately helpful and not harmful. By carefully vetting professional development opportunities and following the advice of established professionals in the arts, working artists can access a wide range of resources that can make an immediate impact in their chosen career.

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About the author

Nicole Martinez

Nicole is the Managing Editor of Publications at Orangenius. A veteran arts and culture journalist, her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

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