Ask the Art Prof: How Can a Visual Artist Create an Artistic Group Outside of Art School?

"Control" Exhibition

“How can an artist create an artistic group outside of school?”

Fostering connections with other creative people is crucial to surviving as an artist.  The actual making of art is usually a solitary activity, so these social connections are very important. Your artist friends will understand and commiserate when things get tough in your creative process, and will offer the guidance and support that you need to keep going. I’ve had more than my share of rough patches when I really just needed to talk to another artist.  I feel less like a crazy person afterwards, and I always emerge from our conversations with a renewed sense of direction and clarity.

When making artist friends, you have to make a concerted effort to connect with people.  Developing friendships with other artists won’t happen on it’s own, and you can’t wait for someone to come to you.  Everyone is so busy and involved with their own lives that you have to be the one to take the initiative.

For example, you should never be intimidated to get in touch with your former teachers.  I was initially very afraid to contact my teachers after school.  Looking back on it now, I don’t know what the big deal was, but I’m glad I got over it, because I now have three former teachers who I consider to be good friends.  If you had a teacher with whom you feel you had a good connection with, get back in touch with them. That one simple gesture could potentially lead to a life long connection.

I strongly believe that it’s important to find local artist friends who you can meet with regularly in person.  While it’s also important to stay in touch with artist friends who live far away, nothing substitutes a face to face conversation. The connection is much deeper, and the exchange you have will be richer and more involved.

The quickest, easiest way to find an artistic community is to 1) have a job where many people in the company are creative or 2) work at an art school or at a school with an art department. Both of these environments plugs you in immediately to an incredible network of other artists.  Even that 5 minute conversation that I have with another faculty member right before I head off to class makes me feel more connected, and I make sure I have lunch with my colleagues whenever possible.

Opening Reception

But what if those are not viable options for you? Here are some concrete actions you can take to create an artistic social group:

1) Have a potluck.
Ask everyone to bring another artist friend.

2) Attend local art events.
Go to open studios events where you can meet and talk with other artists in person. Attend openings at the local galleries, artist lectures, other events.  You’ll notice after a while that it will be the same crowd, and it’s a chance to remind everyone that you’re around.

3) Get a studio in an artists building.
There are many buildings in most cities that are devoted entirely to artists. If you get a studio in one of these buildings it’s a great way to meet a lot of artists who you will see regularly.

4) Take a class or workshop.
Learning shouldn’t end after school.  If you have the time, take a class in something new, or if you can’t find the time for that kind of commitment, do a one day workshop.  After I graduated from RISD, I ran a life drawing group at a local arts center which was a chance for my friends and I to get together weekly and draw.

5) Join an artist’s association.
When I finished graduate school I was offered membership with the Boston Printmakers. I was new in Boston, and it was a terrific way to meet a lot of other printmakers in town. They have an annual lunch every year when everyone informally shows their prints in person.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

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