05 February 2014

Being an "Art Worker"

Gerhard Richter, Two Candles, 1982.
via Cave to Canvas
When I parted ways with the Art Institute, I firmly believed that I didn't need to work in the arts to be close to the arts. That I could pursue my passion for art in ways that were different than my career choices, opting to try a line of work, though still related to fundraising, that was not so closely aligned with my true passion for arts and culture. Reflecting on my last five months in my current role as a researcher at a consulting firm, I have gleaned, that a big part of me is yearning to assume my place in the art world. Lately, I find myself happiest when I am reading about art / exhibitions, viewing art / exhibitions, and talking about art / exhibitions. It has become so clear to me that my passion for art cannot be snuffed out.

So how do I negotiate this you ask? I can't exactly pour ashes over the fire and turn my back on what I know makes me happy - that's not my style. As my father likes to say, "Guttmans never quit" - and ain't that the truth? Rather than walk away from a piece of me that is flickering within my core, I am slowly feeding my burgeoning flame the kindling it needs to grow into a sweltering hot house that was the Great Chicago Fire, that is my alma mater's mascot, the Prairie Fire, and that maybe one day could be the flame of my future.

How I negotiate this yearning, this aching desire, is up to me. Lately, I've been pursuing art in my spare time. Visiting art openings around the city, taking my time when I walk through museum exhibitions to read every didactic plate, attending artist lectures, and reading every article the Internet has presented me (kids crawling on Donald Judd sculptures, Obama hatin' on Art History majors, the Molly Soda art appropriation "scandal") knowing full well that I am on my way to attaining fulfillment in my work with every effort (big or small) I make to get closer to this thing I love so intimately.

I attended a talk last night, given by the curator and "art worker," Dieter Roelstraete of the MCA. His discussion of the art world in terms of status gave way to the idea of those in the art world as being "art workers" or "art laborers" - that every role is important. From artist, to curator, to critic, to viewer, each role needs to work in tandem with another. That art cannot exist without the viewer, that the curator and critic cannot exist without the artist, brings about the point that the art world, while driven by status, is actually driven by the symbiotic relationship of these "art workers".

A person plainly asked him, how does one become a curator? To which he quite candidly responded:
One must take in a broad range of experiences. To learn to curate is a practice in looking. See as many exhibitions as you can, take stock of what you see.

So here I am. Pursuing the art world from the "outside" working my way back in. Initially as a viewer, maybe a small part as an artist, and one day as curator and critic. I savor ever moment I have with a work on view, cherishing the experience for the singularity of it. Reflection on viewing is part of attaining fulfillment for me, and I have a feeling my reflections have only just begun.

8 comments :

  1. I just found your blog through a friend and it is fantastic. I, too, often have trouble negotiating between passions and career, and am trying to find a similar balance. It sounds like you are on the right track to your future career.

    -Claire

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    1. Claire,

      Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words. It's a difficult pass figuring out the balance of work/life/passion. I worked in an art museum (one of my big goals), but I wasn't near the art, if that makes sense? I did research in fundraising, but my time with the art or in the galleries was so limited. It was like being a kid in a candy store, without getting to eat any of the candy. And after a while, I realized I just needed to take a different approach. I needed to step out of the proverbial candy store to get a broader look at the big picture. To get closer to the art was going to have to take a different path, and I am beginning that journey from square one.

      It's so exciting! If I may ask, who showed you my blog? And also, do you have one as well? Also, what are you negotiating? What are your passions?

      -Sandy

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  2. Hi Sandy.
    In college, I worked at the art museum as a tour guide. Part of the job required me to spend time in the galleries, creating themed tours for different groups. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been to be so close to the art, but not have time to see it.

    In terms of my own struggles, I have been trying to incorporate my love of comics into my daily life. I used to have a blog (http://thepapertigress.blogspot.com/), but I haven’t updated it for years. As a person who can neither write nor draw and also doesn’t want to get into academia, I’ve been having trouble trying to find a way I can fit comics into my life. So reading about your goals is pretty inspirational.

    A friend introduced me to Sweaty Wisdom, and I saw your quote and blog.

    -Claire

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    1. Claire,

      I worked giving tours at my museum right after college too! How funny! Wasn't it a dream to be in a gallery talking about art with engaged visitors? I remember being skeptical at how much I liked my job (erm internship) right out of college. But there are engaging and interesting jobs out there that are in fields that interest us. Compensation is a whole other discussion... but at this point I'd rather be compensated modestly doing something that fills my heart to the brim, than compensated well for something that doesn't rev my engines.

      As for your own dreams and passions, you say you can't write or draw, but I look at blogs like http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/ which take amateurish / Microsoft paint tools and harness the simplicity and amateur aspect as a style and vehicle for storytelling. I think you still have it in you, but finding your voice and style are where you need to focus initially. Don't completely let go of your dream. Search for illustration styles that speak to you. Take classes. Carry a sketchbook if you don't already. Dream big, start small.

      Sweaty Wisdom is the best. Chris inspires me so much. She's got a big heart, a simple style, and a great product. She took a stab at starting a business, and is running this labor of love out of her apartment. I am completely in awe of her, and the positivity she is sharing with the universe!

      Keep trying, you will find your voice and style :)

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    2. Thanks for the kind words and good advice. I do agree that trying to find a voice and style is important. I think, like most people, it is hard for me to make the time to think so creatively and introspectively. But I like how in your blog, you seem to focus on making every moment count. It is a good perspective to have.

      In terms of art museums, when I was a guide I mostly gave tours to children. My favorite tour was a color and shapes tour with a group of 3-4 year olds. I wanted to show them the most colorful paintings in the museum, so I brought them to one of a man dancing and playing a tambourine, surrounded by flowers, and wearing only a tangerine orange loincloth. The kids immediately began giggling, and when I asked them what they were giggling about, one child said, “That man is naked!” A small failure on my part, but that tour was one of my favorites.

      Thanks for the encouragement and I’m looking forward to your next post.

      -Claire

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    3. One of the first things they trained us on (For tour giving) was understanding our crowd. I gave tours to children, as well as member tours - which was much more rigorous! We discussed the importance of picking galleries and art that didn't have nudity for the younger crowds, but in a big museum full of "tasteful nudes" it was hard to dodge them. I feel your pain.

      Is your background in art? Or did you just wind up working there on a whim?

      Here's some blogging I did on touring at the museum (in case you were interested).
      http://aicintern2010.blogspot.com/search/label/Sandy%20Guttman

      Keep up the good vibes, I'm really enjoying our dialogue, Claire!

      Sandy

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  3. GUYS I CAN HEAR YOU AND I'M GONNA CRY I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

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    1. CHRIS, WE LOVE YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS AND THE JOY YOU BRING TO THE UNIVERSE. KEEP BEING AWESOME. XO

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