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A Letter to Soon-to-Be Art School Graduates


Dear Soon-to-Be Art School Graduates,
Nadia 2

You’re about to begin your career as artists.  At this defining moment of transition, I’d like to offer five pieces of advice that I wish someone had shared with me when I graduated art school.

1. Always pay yourself.

When working for others or creating a budget in a grant, you need to pay yourself. Your skills are not for free. Know what your work is worth, what your overhead costs are, what the market will bear, and do not short change yourself.

2. Don’t jump on the first studio you see.

Artists just starting out are often looking for studios with low rent and adequate space. With student debt, episodic income, and/or a desire to create in a robust artist community, it’s tempting to secure a space that’s cheap and not the model of OSHA compliance. Please, stay away from these places. Your health and safety are more important. Educate yourself on what to look for in a safe studio.

3. Start protecting your career now.

It’s critical to develop good studio and business practices early in your career. Make sure you have health insurance. If you are renting space, you need to look around your studio and ask yourself what you couldn’t afford to lose and make sure that you’ve got proper insurance to cover you if the worst happens. Start saving now, even if it’s just $20 a month.  Keep good records so you can document your work, sales, tools and customers.

4. Embrace change and uncertainty.

Whether you’re moving to a new location, starting a new job, or figuring out what your next steps will be, embrace the uncertainly and excitement that this time offers. It’s tempting to react to change and uncertainly as unwanted and anxiety-producing, but I encourage you to see change as opportunity. As studio potter Mark Shapiro said, “being an artist is a radical act.” It’s a choice that you commit to everyday in your actions and your practice, throughout your lifetime. Embrace change and uncertainly as part of this process.

5. Maintain your relationships and pay it forward.

Your teachers, mentors, classmates and colleagues have helped shaped who you are. Don’t forget them. Chances are you’re still going to need their advice, networks and friendship in the future. Let them know the impact they have had on you. Keep them updated on what you’re doing. In turn, pay it forward when you can. Offer to help others. That’s what the Artists Safety Net is all about.

Congratulations and welcome to the next chapter in your journey as an artist.

Jenifer Simon
Director of Programs + Communications

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