Your work is your responsibility and so is your career.
– Crista Cloutier
Last week Crista Cloutier launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Working Artist at the cool Bentley Projects, in downtown Phoenix. It was the beginning of what will be for Crista, an intense month of campaigning to raise the funds to make The Working Artist available for all artists anywhere. I want to kick it off with a bang, she said, and a glass of wine!
As I learn about her project I recall when I left a full-time job to become a full-time artist – I went through numerous business of art books. I watched my husband receive his education and set out in what appeared steady and progressive steps. I watched as he prepared and negotiated terms and salary. I felt frustrated that there was no clear way I could see to get my work out, on my own. Between grad school notes, reading a number of business of art books and luck, I took some initial steps and met a curator and 2 gallery directors that would help me lay down ground work. I continue to meet people who teach me something I can utilize to keep going.
I understand the value of information. Crista’s workshop catches my attention. I decide to write about it. I have questions and she has answers….
Monica : Why did you launch your campaign here in Phoenix?
Crista : It was important to me to come back to Phoenix to launch my campaign because I knew that I would need a lot of support. This is my community, and no matter how far away I go, each time I return I am reminded that this is my community and these are my people. As I drive through town I see public art projects that I played a small role in, whether it was sitting on a committee or whatever. Years ago, I sat on the first panel that investigated building an arts center in Mesa, and look at it now! I feel a sense of pride in what we, as an arts community, have done by working together. And I think that we take that for granted sometimes because I rarely see such a strong sense of community and cooperation in other places.
I want to continue to be a part of this community here too. I intend to create The Working Artist project in Phoenix and will be traveling back and forth from London to do so. I believe that the talent is here and I trust the people.
M : Tell me about The Artist Workshop. How is it different from other things out there? Tell me a little about your audience and who your work is directed towards – emerging or a more established artist.
C : I worked extensively in the art business throughout my career before I fled to Europe in order to begin my own creative practice. In my former life, I had worked in nearly every professional role. I collaborated with blue-chip artists as well as the just-emerging, and I sold their work to museums and galleries throughout the world.
I have always worked with artists and I know what their questions are as well as their challenges. And I understand how the art market works. I have tailored The Working Artist to give artists all of the information that they need to take their career to the next level, but in a way that is digestible and that artists can understand. Because when I first began selling art, I read all of those business of art books too. I found them confusing and the information was buried within the text. That’s just not how most artists digest information. It’s got to be visual and its got to be interesting.
M : I see myself as a more established artist here in Phoenix, and though I have exhibited nationally as well as internationally, do you think you have information that I would find useful to get my work out of the area more solidly?
C : I have worked with artists in all stages of their careers, from the daring-to-aspire to the solidly established. For the latter, I believe the questions that I ask are important to re-visit periodically. And I also know that some of our materials can use a bit of spit and polish. We challenge ourselves creatively, why not continue to challenge ourselves professionally as well?
M : How / Why did you create the workshop and why do you want to put it on the internet?
C : The Working Artist is a long-time dream. When I had my own gallery, artists would come in daily asking me to sell their work. No one understands how the art business works and they aren’t teaching this stuff in schools. I actually wrote a book years ago but my agent didn’t think there were enough artists to warrant pursuing it. Little did he know there are millions of artists…
I started teaching the workshop to small groups and then began getting invited all over – England, France, South Africa, Greece. Artists are hungry for this knowledge. But its expensive to fly me out to these places. By putting the program online as a downloadable educational program, any artist anywhere can have access to the information. And so I am running an online crowd funding campaign to raise the funds to do just that. And any artist who donates will be pre-ordering the workshop at a discount. They will also be grandfathered in to future programs and communities that I want to build. The website is www.igg.me/at/theworkingartist.
M : When you say art business, what are you talking about : showing/selling artwork, museum connection, galleries/juried exhibitions, trade shows, web site, blogging?
I am talking about all of those things and more. It comes down to getting your work seen. Art is a conversation between artist and viewer so it’s your job, your business if you will, to find an audience. And then to know what to do with that audience once you’ve got them.
M : How much control do you think artist should want in the showing and selling of their work, as opposed to the making of it – where artists want full control?
C : I think that artists should have 100% control of their career. I meet a lot of artists who express a desire for someone to just do it all for them. And I have met many artists who found that someone only to discover that they lost everything, or were represented badly. Your work is your responsibility and so is your career.
There are a lot of great artists out there whose work is not getting seen. Just as there are a lot of mediocre artists whose work is selling out. I believe that the difference lies in taking this responsibility for their business.
…I smile because she’s right, as artists – we have to be right-brained and left-brained creatures . A balance worth striving for, though not always easy.
M : I saw a photo of you with Kiki Smith and Valerie Hammond, two great women artists. What were you doing with them? And last week I saw you at the monOrchid Arts’ Ball, here in Phoenix. You get around…across oceans, across the country …
C : I have recently curated an exhibition of new work by Kiki Smith and Valerie Hammond. During the course of the conversations about the show and the making of the work, I photographed the process. A book of my images and writings about the project will be released in a few months. But in the meantime, Kiki, Valerie and I have the great luck of following the exhibition as it shows in France, Atlanta, Savannah, and Hong Kong.
M : You’re a visual artist. What is your medium? You write as well don’t you?
C : I am a writer and photographer.
M : You received a mini grant through the Ted Decker Catalyst Fund. What does that support do for you? What did it allow?
C : Ted Decker supported my launch party, in part, with his mini-grant. Not only did that help me financially but Ted’s support gave me a huge sense of pride to belong to that legacy, one that I have admired for years.
Visit → The Working artist and consider supporting it. Each level of contribution offers something in return, it’s a clear win-win. Keep an eye on Crista, she’s got lots more brewing.
More about Crista and her artwork → CristaCloutier.com.