The work of making art

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Why this matters: Thanks in part to a generous gift from Duke Energy, ASC’s workshop and training opportunities enable artists and nonprofit professionals to develop in their careers.

Building a Sustainable Life as an Artist
Local artists learned how they can build a life that is balanced, productive and sustainable during the weekend-long “Building a Sustainable Life as an Artist” workshop in February 2015.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Being a professional artist is more involved than standing in front of a canvas and painting or sitting at a wheel throwing pots.

There’s other work that takes away from an individual’s time to be creative, from securing the commissions that pay the bills to managing websites and social media accounts and taking advantage of professional development opportunities that allow for continued growth within a chosen discipline.

Barbara Ellis.
Barbara Ellis.

“Time is everything,” said painter Barbara Ellis of Charlotte. “Sometimes I feel myself feeling a bit overwhelmed about ‘How am I going to be able to do all of these things?’”

Finding balance is the answer, she said. It’s one of her key takeaways from ASC’s “Building a Sustainable Life as an Artist” workshop in which she and 20 other creative individuals from around the region participated in February.

Support for this and other ASC workshop and training opportunities is provided, in part, by a generous gift from Duke Energy.

Under the direction of Andrew Simonet, founder of the Philadelphia-based Artist U grassroots planning and professional development program run by and for artists, local artists learned how they can build a life that is balanced, productive and sustainable during the weekend-long intensive.

It came at the right time for Mitchell Kearney, an established commercial photographer who sought insight on how to balance his professional projects with his creative interests, which includes developing an exhibition of his artistic work later this year.

“It reiterated to me what I needed to hear, that I am not going to grow another arm,” he said. “I simply need to bring my two hands together and realize that the strength of my commercial success is linked hand-in-hand with my artistic pursuits.”

The success of those personal pursuits, Kearney said, is tied to his connection to the broader creative community. And though he’s been in Charlotte for 30 years, the “Building a Sustainable Life” workshop still managed to expand his network of local artists.

Now he can call painter and sculptor Deborah Kern for feedback about a project or Allison Johnson if he needs a dancer to photograph. He’s looking forward to working with conceptual artist Erika Diamond – the daughter of a longtime friend – on a portrait with a loom she’s setting up.

“There’s a community with a commonality right there because we all existed together,” he said. “We have fostered an extended connectivity that I know I can bank on.”

There will also be more structured collaboration between the artists as a result of the workshop. They will come together in small groups beginning this month to develop personal strategic and financial plans, as well as to set goals and share resources.

“The whole idea is for us to support one another in different ways that will impact our practices,” Ellis said. “These are crucial things that we need to be thinking about and actually working on.”

They’re also the things that let artists do what they care about the most.

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