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“Supporting Resilient Careers” NCECA Panel with (left to right) Cornelia Carey, Paul Sacaridiz, Christa Assad + Heather Mae Erickson

On March 22 – 25, CERF+ participated in the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Portland, Oregon. The conference, Future Flux, was a four-day gathering featuring lively lectures, panel presentations, demonstrations, and lots of meeting, greeting, information sharing, and commerce in the cavernous resource area. At the conference, CERF+ hosted a panel moderated by Executive Director, Cornelia Carey, with three accomplished mid-career artists who shared their experiences and perspectives about preparing artists, in particular, art school students, for building resilient careers. Paul Sacaridiz, executive director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a sculptor and CERF+ Board member started things off by calling for a more holistic and broad-based approach to defining professional practices and to implement such training on “Day One” of a student’s schooling whether as undergraduates or graduate school students. Sacaridiz noted:

“Not providing professional practices training to artists is like sending people on an expedition without a map – and then wondering why they all died.”

– Paul Sacaridiz, Haystack Executive Director

Clay artist and sculptor, Christa Assad, noted that art schools prepare artists for success but not failure. Assad’s successful and high profile career was threatened in 2013 when she broke her back jumping from a second story window to escape a fire which engulfed her home. She said that the injury forced her to recreate her art career as it was no longer physically possible to do the work she’d done prior to the accident. In this process, she found her training hadn’t prepared her for the new tasks of writing effective loan applications and creating cash flow projections on spread sheets. As Christa said:

“The only way to prepare for an art career is to begin behaving as an art professional as soon as the art-making begins: it is never too early to put a profession into practice.”

– Christa Assad, Artist

Our third panelist, Heather Mae Erickson, struggled in her first years out of art school with the business aspects of being an artist. Learning the hard way, she has dedicated her recent work as an assistant professor of Undergraduate and Graduate Ceramics and Studio Art at Western Carolina University to creating a new Arts and Entrepreneurship Certificate program which covers learning practical skills such as: financial management, copyright laws, taxes, contracts, and more. Heather Mae is also a graduate of CERF+ “Cover Your A’s” – Art, Assets, and Archives train the trainers program. Heather recommends:

“As soon as a student decides to focus in the arts, professional practices should be introduced so that students understand that their choice of a career in the arts is more than merely creating art.”

– Heather Mae Erickson, Artist + Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University

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