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HUSTLE & FLOW LIKE VINCENT VAN GOGH

AN ARTIST MOM’S MUSINGS ON HOW TO SUPPORT AN ART CAREER

Megan Rieke “Starving Artist” is an expression most people are familiar with, but artists do not literally have to starve themselves for their art. Rather, artists are starving to explore their art and to continue to create. Most of us, therefore, have a side job to support our art careers. I’m lucky that my husband sustains our basic needs but, with our three growing boys all in school, I have to start earning money which is hard as a creative because there’s no guarantee I will sell paintings. But I’ve come too far to stop now. So, I’ve begun to hustle which simply means: “Make some money so I can keep painting.” Here are my hustling guidelines:

Megan Rieke, I hear ya, Sisyphus. I hear ya. (courtesy of the artist)

1. Say yes to cash. If someone offers to pay you for a product or service - no matter what it is (well almost)- say yes! I have cleaned and painted houses, written resumes, transcribed tapes, typed documents, painted pumpkins and wine glasses, and I’ve even taught step aerobics, to earn a buck when I wasn’t selling art. Some of these jobs paid in lump sums which calculated to less than minimum wage. Some of them were so dull they made me cry. But it was money in my account and I could keep creating!

2. Set realistic monetary goals. Sit down and figure out what you ideally would like to bring in each week. Sometimes just an extra $200 per week helps, other times of the year (holidays! birthdays!) I have to try to hustle for a little more. Okay, a lot more. 3. Reevaluate your goals. Even though hustling is supposed to give me time and money to keep painting, it is also exhausting. For the past six weeks, I’ve only created three new paintings but I’ve made a couple of bucks. This is the exact scenario I want to avoid because I’ve begun to feel a creative deficiency in my bones. If I can’t paint, I can’t explore. If I can’t do that, I can’t improve. Then I convince myself I’m not good anyway so I might as well stop painting altogether. It’s a vicious cycle. 4. Focus, Balance and Dance. Art is intense work. Hustling is uncertain. Three boys and seven soccer teams are ridiculous. My deadlines, schedules and responsibilities overwhelm me sometimes and then I morph into a ball of anxiety. Daily yoga practice helps in finding balance. Sometimes, though, a girl just has to put herself in time out. So I put my kids to bed without cleaning the kitchen, call up a girlfriend, and drink a glass of wine (or two). By taking time to dance and play, I generate positive energy which becomes reflective in my work. And when that happens, I remember why I paint in the first place. This isn’t a perfect plan - certainly not a viable long-term plan - but it’s a good enough plan for right now...until my next hustle.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU INVEST IN ART SCULPTURE ON THE SIU EDWARDSVILLE CAMPUS

Katherine Poole-Jones SIU Edwardsville’s annual Sculpture on Campus program (SoC) gives 12 students the unique opportunity to propose, design, and install large-scale outdoor sculpture on the university grounds, as well as interact with and receive critiques from nationally and internationally known sculptors who serve as guest jurors. Thad Duhigg, sculpture area head at SIUE, is the driving force behind this singular program, now in its 15th year. The culmination of SoC is the campus walk, an event that allows the participants to speak publicly about their work and to field questions from the crowd, often 250-300 people. This year’s participants possessed varied sculptural experiences, including MFA candidates in the final year of their degree, as well as undergraduates who had never taken a sculpture class prior to SoC. The sculptures themselves embraced a wide range of themes: the disruption of traditional gender roles, the effects of technology on human interaction, the impact of aging on the body, the absurdity that arises when transforming utilitarian objects into something monumental. The sculptures left a vivid impression on viewers, not least of all guest juror and renowned environmental sculptor, Patrick Dougherty, who praised the professional caliber of the sculptures, commenting that he “found it difficult to single out place winners from this array of excellence.”

Participants stress the benefits of being able to work large-scale and for a wider public audience, viewing SoC as an invaluable professional development opportunity that offers them an impressive portfolio entry and a marketability distinct from other young sculptors as they apply to graduate school or enter the job market. And indeed, the benefits – and lasting impact – of this artistic investment are clear, as alumni of the SoC program have attended prestigious graduate schools, forged successful careers as both studio artists and educators, and have even received large scale public commissions, the latter in no small part to their experience at SIUE. Despite strong support from the university and the students themselves, Duhigg notes that funding for SoC is an ongoing challenge. This year, the program was sustained through the generosity of an anonymous donor. Duhigg’s ultimate goal is to endow SoC, ensuring that student artists continue to have this one-of-a-kind opportunity and that university and community access to the exceptional works of art created by this program is maintained.

Sarah Bonn, Interbeing installation, SIUE (photo credit: Howard Ash) COMMUNITY VOICES

WINTER 2015 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 20

All the Art, Winter 2015  

The Visual Art Quarterly of St. Louis

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