Why ‘Living from Art’?
In 2015 I was doing a variety of freelance work and running Cheltenham Art Office as a workplace and meeting space for all kinds of creatives, freelancers and micro business start ups. Several artists from the Lansdown Studios above the Art Office would call in for some decent coffee and a chat. One afternoon, a business colleague and part time artist, Gerald Crittle and I began talking about the particular needs of the artists we knew. Would they appreciate the chance to meet with other artists to support each other? Would they welcome advice and information to help them develop all the business skills needed by anyone seeking to earn money from their art?
We invited them to meet at the Art Office one Thursday evening to talk about the idea and see if such a group would be welcome. The idea proved very popular and there has been a monthly meeting of Living from Art ever since. At the first meeting we offered cheese and biscuits as well as tea and coffee and this has become an ongoing tradition – with vegan and gluten free alternatives. We soon outgrew the Art Office and moved to a larger meeting room and then to the Foyle room at the Wilson Art Gallery and Museum.
Every meeting has a theme related to making a living from art and usually a guest speaker- everyone from a solicitor, marketing professionals, tax advisers, social media experts and business coaches to people who work in art related businesses, galleries etc. We are very grateful to all our guests for their support. At some sessions a member, or members, of the group share their particular expertise or experience for the benefit of others. There is time at each meeting for getting to know the other artists, and this has led to a number of collaborations and joint projects. Two hours in never enough so we often carry on the conversation in the pub afterwards!
Some artists come along almost every month. The artists in the group have become a network of colleagues and every meeting is valuable for this reason, whatever the particular topic. Others ‘dip in and out’ depending on the topic for the meeting and what else is happening in their lives. Some people use the group for a while and then life happens and they move on. Whoever comes along will find a positive, friendly and supportive group of other artists.
We welcome artist at all stages of their careers – from successful full-time artists to those just thinking about trying to sell their work, and the many part timers who sell their work alongside other work, whether related to art or something completely different. There has been a wonderfully rich diversity of artists, working in many different mediums, styles and subject matter: botanical art, illustration, poured paint, abstract, landscapes, chain saw sculpture, bronze sculpture, glass, textiles print making and many, many more. On occasion we are joined by writers, story tellers and other creatives who find some of the topics equally relevant to them.
This mixture is also reflected in the Living from Art community on Facebook, currently over 220 members. As well as posting about opportunities and sharing what people are up to, it’s an incredibly helpful group. People post queries and questions and almost invariably someone will post an answer, suggestion or recommendation back to them.
So why Living from Art? In my experience, no one is an artist because it is easy or because they think it is a way to become rich. Many artists describe their work as something they need to do or would do no matter what. They want to share their art, to bring pleasure to others or as validation that their work is valuable. Most artists need to earn the money they require to have the time and resources to make their art. Living from Art sets out to help them do that.
There is a lot of business advice and training available, and we signpost to these opportunities. However, some artists are not yet comfortable to think of themselves as running a business, or find the generic advice does not match their particular needs or doesn’t have the right starting point for ‘where they are’. A community of other artists to share ideas and expertise with is really valuable. A 1:1 session with me helps an artist work out what are the next steps for them to develop their business, in a way that suits their work, their skills, their way of learning and feels comfortable for them. It offers a confidential ‘sounding board’, accountability, someone to cheer them on and signposting to useful connection and opportunities within the group.
It has been a real priviledge to see artists developing their careers – at all stages. Living from Art offers advice, support and encouragement to do this. Do see what is available on the website or contact me if you would like to know more.