Support Systems

hinges, photograph

“It’s hard to overemphasize the fact that the most difficult part of artmaking is not the making-a-living part – it’s the staying-alive-as-an-artist part. Without a support system, you not only lose a precious connection with your fellow artmakers, you also lose access to all those school experiences that have no natural counterpart in the outside world”.

Ted Orland

A friend of our just told us that her college-aged daughter is attending a 4 year art school program. Another friend recently completed her MFA at the same school. This brought to my mind a discussion Orland has in his book The View from the Studio Door in which he talks about the pros and cons of art school.

He observes that one of the differences between art school and the outside world is that there are not that many ways to be part of a community of artists outside of school in our world today. Art is no longer woven as tightly into society’s fabric as it used to be. It’s easy to find oneself working as an artist in relative isolation. I’m sure this can be a difficult change upon graduating from art school – a lot of the support systems are suddenly absent.

I believe that blogging and other social networking communities have given many of us a welcome means of connecting with others. It’s become an amazing window to a worldwide artist community. I’ve enjoyed participating in this but felt the need for something else, something more immediate.

A friend and I decided about 6 months ago to start a group composed of local photographers which meets monthly. One of the goals was to foster a sense of artistic community among our peers. We give ourselves an “assignment” each month, something vague enough we can each interpret it our own way, and we share what we’ve done that month at each meeting. This gives us an incentive to go out and do some art – often the assignment pushes us to try something we would not have otherwise done. We share our work, books we’ve read, shows we’ve seen, things we’ve been struggling with – and we top it off with a great potluck lunch.

It’s been a great success so far, and I think we’ve all been surprised at how revealing and inspirational the process has been. Interestingly enough, Orland shares that he has been in such groups himself for many years, sometimes more than one at a time and some for a very long time.

What do you do to find or create artistic community? What forms has this taken for you? How have you found it to be beneficial?
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