Monday, March 25, 2013

Pressured to Submit?

Are we pushing people towards versions of success they don’t want? 

That’s what occurred to me when rereading the Jackie Battenfield book The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.

We spend a lot of our Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) energy promoting opportunities for artists—things artists can apply for like call to artists for exhibitions, grants, training and the like. We constantly encourage artists to “submit.”

Meanwhile, Battenfield emphasizes that artists should consider readiness, stating “understand where you are in your development rather than define your practice by where you think you should be” (emphasis mine).
Notes from Artist INC program about planning artists' careers

By sharing and encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities, we aren’t suggesting that they are required or right for everyone, but it might seem that way (especially since we can be relentless about promoting upcoming deadlines).

However, I am tempted to add more caveats to our calls to artists to encourage artists to consider, reconsider and weigh the opportunity more. 
Oklahoma Artist INC facilitators & administrators at Kansas City training
Over the past few days, a strong crew of Oklahoma artists, Kelsey Karper (from OVAC), and I have been trained to facilitate the innovative Artist INC in Oklahoma City this fall (check it out!).

The program underscores deliberate planning to reach artistic success. To really find sustainable careers, artists have to set their goals and be aware of dreams.

So we will keep encouraging people to apply, hoping that artists have the capability to apply and hear about the opportunity, but at the same time know that they can choose not to apply for good reason sometimes…

Watch for all our call for entries here or sign up for our email list to get direct notifications about artist deadlines. 


sarah makes pictures said...

What an interesting question. I think for many of the opportunities that OVAC presents, you should definitely push artists to submit.

For example, with the Fellowship deadline approaching - OVAC has made it ridiculously easy to apply for an opportunity that could change the path of an artist's career. It's also a great excuse for applicants to update their resumes and artist statements.

For another example, Momentum is sometimes the first show that a young artist in OK applies to. The process of learning how to apply to a show is a valuable experience in itself. Keep pushing.

Julia Kirt said...

Thanks Sarah. Well, I've been thinking since writing this... what's the alternative? We want people to know about these opportunities (we don't want them hidden!). Plus, artists have to make up their own minds about where to show & what to seek.

Laura Reese said...

I agree with Sarah. I think it is within OVAC’s purpose, and importance to its state as an art institution, to continue to push artists to apply to different opportunities.

However, I also know the personal experience of the un-necessary "drive to apply". I don’t mean that it is unimportant or unnecessary to apply. I am referring to the constant pressure by art institutitions like organizations and academia, to artists, especially emerging artists, to be continually applying.

This can be taxing. If you are not ready to apply for all the big things, it's sometimes not a bad idea to skip out. Now, you never know when something could change your career, but you have to weigh the risk involved for you, or the time involved. In undergraduate, one semester I spent over $1000 on show applications. That is a LOT for a struggling student working a part time job. I did not make it into over 1/10th of those I applied to. I felt I wasted my time and my money, but I was always encouraged to do that again, I was told that I was getting an experience out of it. Sure, I was giving money to arts organizations, but I got little to nothing out of my struggle.

I think when you are an emerging artist (of any age) you must realize what shows you might have the potential for, and to be prudent about how much you invest, in case you don't get a worthy outcome. Some big opportunities also have huge risks, not just application fees, but terms and conditions that might affect your copyright as an artist to specific works, as well as all the time and energy that might be spent in working on an opportunity.

However, if there is little risk (monetary, copyright, time) involved, then it might not be a bad idea to apply to see how you come out. But any artist of any level must gauge what is worth their time, what is too easy or too hard, what is beneficial or not to them. It doesn’t always involve comparing yourself to the art world as a whole and where you stand, but recognizing what step in your art journey you are in.

Did I just get too philosophical?