This week I gave a new lecture called “Business Tips for Artists.” I covered logistical topics such as taxes, contracts, commissions, but actually I think the more compelling part of the lecture was where I discussed networking. I think most people understand that networking is necessary to have a career in the arts, but in terms of defining concrete actions to make it happen, most people are at a loss for where to begin.
I thought about how explain networking in a way that would be concrete and easy for people to follow. There a specific directives that I give such as saying “thank you,” following up, and being polite and gracious. You would think those would be a given, but I’ve been in enough situations to understand that actually, saying “thank you” is the exception in most cases. Many people are asked to follow up, but never do, which astounds me when I think about how quickly one could write a simple email reminding someone about your recent interaction.
Ultimately, the best way for me to illustrate how networking works was to create a visual map of an example that happened to me. This image above explains how I got my first college teaching job. While the map looks easy and straightforward, it maps out a process that took 3 years to come to full fruition. What started as a conversation with one of my former professors at RISD, when I was in my second year of graduate school eventually led to my first college teaching job and my first bona fide solo exhibition.
2006 solo exhibition at the Danforth Museum of Art
Networking is inherently frustrating because most of the time, you don’t get immediate results, and so many directions you make a lot of effort to pursue often end up as dead ends. That can be really frustrating and many people get discouraged and begin to lose faith in the process. Until it does, and something falls right in your lap. You never know, and those opportunities will never present themselves unless you put yourself out there and follow every bread crumb that comes your way.