Nestle In to Your Artist Community

As a student of art history, I love reading about communities of artists that evolved organically over the centuries. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in the Cedar Tavern in the 1940s and 50s!

I believe that an artist’s work is better when there are other artists around to question, critique, challenge, and, yes, to praise.

Amy Crews Handle With Care

©Amy Crews, Handle With Care. Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Artists’ communities are all around. Among other spots, you’ll find artists’ communities in:

  • Coffee shops and bars
  • Residencies
  • Classes and workshops
  • Conferences and events
  • Online (pick your favorite spot)
  • Studio spaces
  • Creative workspaces

Search for a group where you feel at home and nestle in. If you come up empty, you can always start your own.

The Value of Community

There are at least 5 key reasons to seek out and become an active part of an artists’ community.

1. Connection.

Artist-entrepreneurs are accustomed to being alone most of the time, but you need connection.

Your well-being depends on this bond, and so does your art. History’s best art wasn’t created in a vacuum.

When you are part of a community, you belong to something bigger than yourself. You realize you are not alone.

The Art Biz Coach office is within a coworking space. Everyone here is working toward something, and many are entrepreneurs in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds.

I may accomplish the same amount of work in my home office, but I’m more inspired when I connect with this energized community.

2. Engagement.

We all need places to share stories, which is why social media and blogs are important vehicles for building community.

Chris Maynard's In Flight 2

©Christ Maynard, Flight Pattern 2. Argus pheasant feathers, 20 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

We also need to remember that the story is only the match that lights the fire. A conversation can’t occur when you’re only broadcasting or talking at people. It’s important that people know they’re heard, so acknowledge community members by responding.

3. Education.

We learn more when we are in contact with others, and that includes things we didn’t even know we needed or wanted to learn.

For example, my office is hosting a workshop on Google Apps next month. I signed up immediately even though I wasn’t looking for such a workshop.

As another example, I’ll soon be teaching my Art Biz Inner Circle about planning, promoting, and leading successful workshops – not because it was on our agenda, but because we had so many members working on similar projects. It evolved because we are a community.

4. Empathy.

When we care about members of our community, we begin to better understand and respect our differences.

Empathy is the awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people – a trait found in abundance in artists. Heaven knows that we could use a lot more of this in our world.

Imagine if artists could facilitate empathy in others. Oh, wait! You already do!

Christine Porter's Feeding Time

©Christine Porter, Feeding Time. Acrylic on board, 4 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

5. Encouragement.

Once the bonds of the community have strengthened, you’ll find that other members are cheering you on. Rather than expressing jealousy, they’re happy when you sell a piece of art, land a commission, or gain gallery representation.

Encouraging others is part of the responsibility of being in the group.

Compliment your community members on their accomplishments, celebrate their wins, and brag on their work.

Your Turn

Where do you find community for your art and art business?

How do you nurture others in your community?

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22 comments to Nestle In to Your Artist Community

  • A fellow artist told me that a local art society was being started back in 2010 and I joined straight away. We meet every Tuesday night and it caters for all artists of all levels.
    We all support each other and use our talents to improve each others work. I think my main function is to bolster people’s confidence by praising their abilities. Artists are always worrying about what is wrong with their work. They need to be told about the good bits of their painting.
    It is also a good resource to hear of local opportunities and get support to take advantage of the opportunities.

  • I find community in the groups on facebook, but especially in Carrie Brummer’s Circle

  • Larkin Jean Van Horn

    I am currently in the first of ten weeks at the Grunewald Guild, up in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. During the summer, week-long residential workshops are offered in a huge variety of media, so the place is full of master artists, students, volunteers, staff, and folks who wander in to see what’s up. During my time here, I will be teaching, doing some volunteer work, and refilling the well after four years of running flat out for two major exhibitions (now in the recent past). Over the last 20 years, I have spent at least a little time here every year as a teacher, and have met many of the teachers and students, so it’s like a 10 week long family reunion. When I am at home, I belong to a small group of artists in various media who meet every Friday morning for coffee and art talk. I am learning a lot from these folks about a lot of different techniques, styles, and influences, not to mention hearing their stories of why and how their work gets done. And I found out about them from the reader board at the local library, and they welcomed me with open arms.

  • The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance in Atlanta is a wonderful regional resource for anyone interested in fiber, fabric, and textiles – lectures, classes, workshops, regular open studio sessions, exhibitions, events, and low-cost rental space.

  • Recently I’ve become friendly with two artists who live in the next street. It’s a small community but it is a beginning. I get so much from their support and sympathy and enjoy giving what I can in return. I think we have to expand this group and meet regularly.

  • We have a local group of henna artists that get together for jam sessions once every other month — and these are my go-to colleagues that I send folks to when I am already booked. There are a few facebook groups of folks from around the world which I participate in. And finally, I connect with folks at conferences. The inspiration and support from all communities are fantastic.

  • This post is so relevant to my life this week, as I just started a Drawing Sanctuary. It’s my intention to grow a lively supportive art group that meets in Vermont to draw (as well as learn, network, help each other, and make friends).
    You inspire me, and I consider being a low key member of your tribe as one of my groups. There are so many ways and levels of belonging.
    May I quote this post and link back to it?

    • Thanks, Lillian! I love “Drawing Sanctuary.” Can you say more about what that consists of? Is it just a moniker for what you described? Or is there an actual sanctuary-like place?

      You may absolutely quote with attribution. Never have to ask about that.

      Really happy to have you in the tribe.

  • One of the best things I ever did was start an Artist’s Way group many years ago to build a community around my art. Now these people are my go to for questions and some of my biggest fans. I’ll never un-know them and they are all amazing artists! I have recently joined a North Boulder art group and immediately led to judging a flower photography competition coming up in September.

  • I have connected to a few on-line art groups but haven’t had much luck with regular, face-to face contact with artists in my small community. I did start a Meet Up group for networking and support, but the membership fell off after the first few meetings. Any suggestions?

  • I’m the founder and director of Women Artsists of Middle Tennessee. We meet monthly for lunch with no dues, no requirements, no agenda. We network, support, laugh, have lunch and let the conversation and content flow naturally. Meeting at different parts of town helps get more people engaged. It has been a big success. I keep the dates coming with email contact, have provided the group a show in downtown Nashville and watched shy artists blossom and find the courage to try new things because they know they have backup! This can be done anywhere by simply inviting like minded artists to join.

  • We recently relocated to a new state. Knowing I would long for a “group” to replace my old one, I screwed up all my courage and invited 10 local artists (different media, even poets) to dinner at my house for what I dubbed a “Salon.” I sent out a few questions for discussion and made a lasagna. It was a fascinating evening and while not everyone turned out to be my new bosom buddies, there are several from that night that have become dear friends and much loved supporters of our mutual interests in art. It was a fun way to begin networking in my new home area. (P.s. I had to invite more than ten to get 10 yeses, but all willing, fun loving participants… I figured that those who were not interested in gambling for a free dinner were not folks I wanted to know anyway…). Kind of a serendipitous way to let a group start organically.

  • Nan Henke

    I am working one step ahead on community-building: I belong to one artists group (monthly lunch, no agenda) in the town where I live. I also put significant miles on my car in order to belong to two groups (one education oriented and one that is art sales + giving back to the community oriented) in the town where I will live in about 2 years. I have been doing this for several years already, so I feel that I already have a web of friends there. It makes the thought of moving much easier.

  • Neo

    Anyone know of such art communities to join in South Africa (Pretoria/Johannesburg)

  • Leo

    This is a very well written post, my compliments. You have given the inspirational memorandum towards the Arts. It’s always a good way to hook up the Art with authentic life. We are also working with one of the prodigious website ” ArchesArt” that contain the vast collection of modern Contemporary Art & Prominent Artist’s paintings from around the World, You can also contribute to the most comprehensive platform for sharing your art through ArchesArt.

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