On Saturday November 16th artists of various stripe descended upon the University of Puget Sound campus to attend the Tacoma Arts Conference put on by Arts Leadership Lab Tacoma. I attended several of the sessions and was really impressed with the content – totally worth the $15 investment! Here are some tidbits from the sessions I saw:
Online Engagement: A Beginner’s Guide – While I am pretty able when it comes to working with technology; the web of social media and what gives the biggest bang for the time investment is still a bit of a mystery for me. I found it very interesting to find out what social media outlets other artists and organizations used. The most helpful advice from this session was to determine the purpose you are using the social media for and then to really target and engage your audience. There was also some time spent on how some media links together and also places in which you can sell. Most outlets mentioned I had heard about: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Big Cartel, Etsy, PayPal, Square, tweetdeck, and sprout social. Additionally, most agreed that you didn’t have to use them all but to concentrate your efforts using the outlet(s) that really spoke to you.
Joining Tacoma’s New Creative Economy – was a little different than what I had expected. The panelist line up was pretty diverse with crafters, restaurateurs, and fine artists. A common theme was building community and opportunities for collaboration as a pathway for success. I loved a comment from Chris Keil of the Hilltop Kitchen was that building choice for consumers “lifts all boats.” During the studio tours I thought something very similar – the reason people came out in the numbers they did was to see a variety of offerings – some of the sales I had would have never happened otherwise. A rich community full of choices draws people in – which helps us all in the end. Additionally my studio space at Jet Artist Cooperative has really helped me start to plug into the Tacoma arts scene and start building a group of peers.
Behind Closed Doors: The Funding Panel – was the most interesting to me. This mock panel reviewed seven funding applications giving “bug on the wall” insight into what really goes on. Of no surprise is that the work samples provided should be of the highest quality, follow the guidelines on sizing, and of course be organized in the same order they are listed. What I hadn’t anticipated was that story was important – who are you, what have you done, how does all that relate to what you want to do that needs funding, what is your intent behind the project, how will this benefit the public – never assume the panel will know anything about you and help them avoid making assumptions about your work. Also it is very important to show that others are backing you – don’t discount or forget about the value of “in kind” contributions or your own time. Lastly really show that you can finish what you start and have the ability to bring the project you are asking for funding to completion – as they have no interest in funding a project that has little chance of success.
An Artist’s Career: Establishing Your Practice, Building Demand – was the session that prompted my decision to go to the conference in the first place. The most relevant advice was to say yes to every opportunity and schedule time to create new works so you are ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. I also thought it was interesting that you should apply, apply, apply for grants and awards even if you don’t think you are “there” yet. The main benefit of this approach is that you get your work in front of review panels comprised of movers and shakers in the industry that you might never come across otherwise and of course you will never win if you don’t even try in the first place. Additionally the use of a schedule and calendar really made sense as perhaps more sales happen prior to the holidays while be very sparse in the beginning of the year – so take this seasonality into account when deciding on projects and activities to concentrate on. And lastly know your talents and weaknesses to explore creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
Places for Art: How Space Helps Define Arts Programming – was the keynote, had the most diverse set of panelists, and limited each presentation to only five minutes each. I had never considered that a space concern for some would be how much upkeep becomes a concern for very large spaces, while the transiency and non-traditional aspects of space can be freeing or limiting depending on how you choose to interact with it. As a visual artist my studio space has a huge impact on my work. The Jet Artist Cooperative enables me to be around other creators, provides opportunity to start building a peer group of artists, and gets me out into the community. Also considering how lazy I can be the schedule of going to the studio for work helps we keep on creating.
I’m curious if you went to this event and what your take on it was – love to hear and share!