Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beau Leland: Trust Your Gut

"Take control of your career, create opportunity, shape your future and strengthen your art practice ..." begins Artist INC's description of their programs. This successful program helps artists of all disciplines work together to overcome challenges they all face. The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition will host the first Artist INC Live in Oklahoma through the support of the Mid-America Arts Alliance this fall working with many great local partners

Local artist facilitators Beau Leland, Robert Matson, Sunni Mercer, Michelle Moeller, Jerod Tate and Sarah Hearn and area topic experts to jointly conduct the eight-week program. These facilitators approach their careers in widely varying ways with a myriad of entrepreneurial pursuits and different goals. 

Guest writer Erin Shaw profiled some of the facilitators to explore their artistic practices (which gives a hint why we thought they'd make good Artist INC facilitators!). 

Beau Leland, Film and Video

Beau Leland is a media artist working in film and video. Beau works primarily as an editor on narrative and documentary shorts and features. Beau lives and works in Oklahoma City. His work can be viewed at

Erin Shaw: What is an important piece of your artistic philosophy, something that you feel is necessary to you and your particular art practice?
Beau Leland: In my field, a lot of attention tends to migrate toward the latest and greatest hardware and software.  While all of that is particularly important, I find that being a storyteller is most important. My philosophy is that it has to feel right.  If I don't feel like it sits well in the gut, it's not good enough.

ES: Describe a pivotal experience, conversation or happening within your career.
BL:  I think my career took a real turn when I decided to leave the four-year program at the University of Oklahoma, and instead transfer to Oklahoma City Community College.  Making that decision is what led me to discover my love of editing, and forged many valuable relationships that I have to this day.

ES: What do you feel is your unique contribution to the OKC arts community?
BL: I have been involved in the film community here in OKC for a while now, and I feel very fortunate to have earned a reputation as a trusted editor and collaborator. Much of the work I receive calls for come from the referrals of other people who I have worked with. It's nice to receive so many endorsements from the Oklahoma filmmaking community.

ES: What is one piece of advice you would give a young artist as they begin their career?
BL: As I mentioned above regarding my artistic philosophies, I often tell young people to trust in their gut.  Don't let anything past you that you don't feel right about.  

ES: How have you resolved the tension or relationship between making art and making money?
BL: From the beginning of my career, it has always been about building my business around my craft.  I'm different than a traditional artist in that I don't create multiple pieces in my studio that I then exhibit and sell. In a way, I'm service-based.  The majority of my work is spent on other people's projects.  So I don't really feel like I have to put my art on the back burner while I work to make money to survive.

I'm fortunate in that my art, or my craft rather, is how I make money.  Someday soon I may start producing more abstract work that is truly mine, but I don't feel deprived for not having done more of that kind of work.  

ES: Describe unique aspects of your artistic practice and how you have been able to make a life making art.
BL: I think what may separate me from a lot of other artists is that I don't create works for myself.  I truly do collaborate with another person or more in nearly everything I do.  It's what I enjoy the most about my work.  And I've always approached it as a business.  

Much of my downtime is spent working on the business side of my practice, which is almost an art form in itself.  When times get slow, I start working on ways to improve the business or how to grow my skills as an editor.  I think approaching my art in this way is one of the reasons I have been able to stay somewhat successful…knock on wood.

Oklahoma artists of all disciplines may apply for the Artist INC program until June 14, 2013. See for more information and the application. 

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