Monday, September 27, 2010

Artist Survival Kit Recap: Making a Statement

On Saturday, September 11, a group of artists gathered for the “Making a Statement” workshop, created to help artists write and refine their artist statements.

Janice McCormick, writer and philosophy teacher, began the workshop with an explanation of why artist statements are important. Janice has read many artist statements. She receives them from artists when she writes her regular stories for Art Focus Oklahoma. She is also a volunteer with the Tulsa Artists’ Coalition, where she is in charge of organizing artist submissions for the selection committee. Janice pointed out three key reasons for writing an artist statement:
1. To help audiences approach looking at your art, especially for those unfamiliar with art.
2. For public relations, such as when a gallery is writing a press release about your upcoming show.
3. It may help you to clarify what you are doing, even to yourself.

So, what should you include in your statement? Consider these elements:
1. A clear, concise paragraph conveying the theme of your work.
2. An explanation of your technique, especially if it is unusual, and how it relates to your theme.
3. Life experiences you draw upon in your creative process that are relevant to your work.

Slips of paper with descriptive words helped artists to get their statements started. An exercise had them choosing 3 words that did describe their work, as well as 3 words that did not describe their work, and explain why.

Beth Downing, an artist and writer, led artists through some exercises to get started with the actual writing of the statement. Beth suggested having 3 lengths of your statement:
1. About 25 words. Also known as the “elevator pitch” – explaining your work in the amount of time you would have riding in an elevator with someone.
2. 2 paragraphs. Hit the highlights, used for short publications, online, etc.
3. 1 page. For exhibitions, portfolios, grant applications, press.

In explaining what an artist statement should be, Beth found it helpful to also explain what it is NOT. For example, your artist statement is not: easy, constant, preachy, negative, defensive, pretentious, jargon, or your life story.

For examples of exercises you can do to help with the writing process, see this past blog post.

The next Artist Survival Kit Workshop is “Expanding Your Horizons: Finding New Markets For Your Art.” It will be held Saturday, October 23, 1-4 pm at Mainsite Contemporary Art Gallery, 122 E Main St, Norman. Visit for details.

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