ARTS SHRINK is a bi-weekly column designed to answer questions from artists and arts groups related to their arts business and practice. The Arts Shrink brings two decades of experience as an arts consultant, teacher, and mentor to the table as she responds your questions.
Dear Arts Shrink,
I'm in an artistic crisis! I can't work. My arts business (as you call it) is tanking. I don't know what to do. Any thoughts?
-L.A. Visual Artist
Dear LA VA,
Hope you're on the up-swing. In my last post "How Do I Deal with an Artistic Crisis, Part I" the focus was on you. The best first steps to take when you feel that you and/or your arts business are in trouble are as follows: look inward; acknowledge and observe what's going on with yourself; get physical; and connect with friends and family.
Now it's time to move beyond yourself a little and start putting your creative house in order. Today is the day to make a commitment to tomorrow.
PART II -- Tomorrow
Set Aside Time to Start Writing (or Rewriting) Your Artist Statement
Artist statements reflect who you are. Every artist, (performing, visual, or literary) should have one. In this statement you make clear what it is you do, how you do it, why you do it, and how your work relates to the larger artistic field. Here's an article from the Claremont Graduate School in which individual steps to creating an artist statement are discussed, along with some great excerpts and quotes from other artists.
If you already have an artist statement, take time to re-visit it. Does it still accurately reflect who you are as an artist?
What's important here is not that you finish your artist statement; it's that you start it. It may take you days or weeks or even longer to totally work through it. Don't be afraid to start by writing stream of conscious or throwing a bunch of words on a page that don't relate to one another. You can sort it out later. Just start.
Did you just roll your eyes at me? Don't think I can't hear you out there saying things like "I don't have time to write a flipping artist statement! I work full time and am involved in a million other projects! Don't waste my time, Arts Shrink!!
I know this is hard and time consuming. I've walked a mile or two mile in the same shoes that you're wearing and the last thing I want to do is waste your valuable time.
Try to keep yourself open to the possibility that investing time in writing an artist statement now will save you time and trouble in the future. It will clarify who you are to the public and other artists. You can use it as your bio, include it in press releases, post it on your website, etc.
But, perhaps more importantly, a thoughtful artist statement will inform and clarify decisions you make for years to come. It will introduce mindfulness into your creative business practice. For example: you are asked to do a project that just doesn't "sit" well with you. Refer to your artist statement for clarification on your instinctive response. Now you can say "I don't want to do this project because..." You may still decide to do the project, not because it directly advances who you are as an artist but for other reasons -- like money or to develop relationships. Now you are making a "mindful" decision.
Mindfulness is critical particularly for artists, who are sometimes naturally inclined to behave instinctively, because it keeps resentments and anger from building up. I believe resentments and anger are toxic to creativity. Imagine the emotional confusion that can build up inside a person after years of making random decisions while trying to advance a career. It's common to hear artists in this position say things like "I work and work and work but I can't get ahead. Everything is going against me. Luck is not on my side." These artists are not realizing their potential either creatively or professionally.