Dysfunctional v. Healthy Artist Organizations

Elephant painting by Karen Friedland

I’ve been encouraging artists to join artist organizations for my entire career, but the truth is that not all organizations are created equal.

And before you go thinking that you should start your own, let me say this: the world does not need more artist organizations. The world needs better artist organizations – organizations with powerful visions and commitment to serving their artists.

To be clear, I’m not talking about organizations for hobbyists. Those serve a separate and noble purpose, which is fodder for another article.

When you are trying to earn money from your art … when you aim for professional status … you need a higher level of support.

I think this is why Art Biz Coach has been so successful – because we fill a void. We support artists in classes like Magnetic You (starting soon!) and the Art Biz Inner Circle.

Healthy organizations aren’t my competition. We’re all here to elevate the status of artists while helping you lead healthy, productive lives. We’re stronger together.

With that said, here are some thoughts that might help you decide whether or not an organization is right for you.

Profile of a Healthy Artist Organization

Structure & Leadership

The organization has written guidelines, policies, and procedures – and follows them. You know know what is expected of you and what you can expect from the organization.

The organization plays a valuable role within the larger art community. In other words, it’s not an island operating by itself.


Meetings are

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Portrait Project and Museum Exhibition with Lisa Kovvuri (Podcast)

Little gives me more pleasure than watching a client successfully attain a major goal.

In this podcast episode, I share the story of Lisa Kovvuri, with whom I worked in my Art Biz Inner Circle as she was starting her project, The Portrait Experience.

We discuss:

  • How The Portrait Experience was conceived and executed at Whistler House Museum of Art.
  • How she found people to sit for her.
  • What she learned during the process.
  • What’s next.

We also find out that most of the paintings have since sold.

It’s been a joy to watch her progress and the ultimate culmination of her efforts – the opening of her museum show.

I hope you are inspired by this conversation about how Lisa accomplished her colossal goal. Listen now …

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When You Think You Live in a Cultural Desert

If I had a nickel for every time an artist told me that their lives would be better if only they lived somewhere else, well … I’d have a lot of nickels!

Some of you have convinced yourselves that your town isn’t an “art town.”

When I hear this excuse, I think to myself:

What is an art town?

Is it a place with galleries on every corner and informed people walking around buying art?

Is it a place that has a strong arts council with lots of support for public art?

Is it a place where museums attract plenty of blockbuster exhibitions?

Do art towns even exist?

I already know the answers to these questions. Except for a handful of places, I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as an art town brimming with enlightened art buyers.

Not living in an art town is simply another excuse for inaction. Artists who use this excuse think that they would be more successful if they lived in New York or Santa Fe or Portland or, frankly, anywhere else but where they are.

I’ve witnessed plenty of artists grow their businesses and careers in places that don’t show up on the world or even regional map of art towns.

But let’s set aside this argument on whether or not there’s such thing as “art towns.” That’s fodder for a different discussion.

Now we can focus on how to thrive in your supposed cultural desert.

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The Value of Community for Artists (Podcast)

Community is essential for artists. Not just for your well-being, but for the well-being of your art.

In this episode, Michael Keen and I talk about his background with artists’ communities and the value of community. In particular, community can provide:


– Inspiration

– Motivation

– Constructive feedback

As you’ll hear, other things came up.

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Nestle In to Your Artist Community

Christine Porter's Feeding Time

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!

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.

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.

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The Strength of Artists as a Community

©Gail Haile, Setting Sun Mandala. Photo collage. Used with permission.

I struggle for ways to acknowledge this solemn anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Should I ignore the date on my calendar, or try to write something profoundly moving?

©Gail Haile, Setting Sun Mandala. Photo collage. Used with permission.

Usually I ignore the date in my emails and on my blog, which seems more appropriate for my audience. This year I had an idea to use this space to focus on one of my top values and priorities: community.

Community is a value I absorbed from my mother and is something we cherished following September 11, 2001.

The Strength of Artists as a Community

I am inspired by a quote from Christy MacLear, Executive Director of The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. In a 2012 article in The New York Times, MacLear said of Rauschenberg:

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The Generosity of Artists

Map of Oklahoma

Artists are amazingly generous with their time and talents. You are among the first to respond to a disaster and to help out those in need. You give full out with our heart. Bravo! Here are a few recent artist philanthropy feats that I’d like to acknowledge.

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Beware of Poisonous Relationships


The second principle of no-excuse self-promotion, according to I’d Rather Be in the Studio is: “Connections are critical to your success. To succeed, you must make an effort to meet new people and to maintain relationships.” But not all connections are equal. Some connections can be detrimental to your art, your emotional well-being, and your growth.

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How I Collaborate

I want Conspiracy members to be proactive and seek out relationships that will further their careers. I want that for you, too. Perhaps sharing these lists about how I collaborate in my business might trigger something for you – a way you can make collaborations work for you.

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3 Ways to Be a Rock Star in Your Art Community

Be seen at openings, lectures, and events, and show your work – a lot! Be supportive of arts organizations and of other artists. Be a reporter.

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