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Surviving as an Artist in this Economy

Surviving as an Artist in this Economy

Amy Wilson

Just about every spring I’m reminded of the advice I got right as I was getting ready to graduate art school.

I had grad school laid out in front of me, but I saw it as not much more than the two-year diversion it really was, so I eagerly asked all the teachers that I liked and respected what they thought I should do as I tried to make my way as an artist.

Among the things I was told (and remember, this is 1995):

1. Get a studio in Manhattan – you have to get a studio in Manhattan. No one will ever visit you outside of Manhattan. If you move to Brooklyn or Queens or, god help you, Jersey, you may as well toss all your work in the Hudson.

2. Apply for a grant – there’s plenty of federal/city money out there, just waiting to be taken by ambitious young artists.

3. Get a cute, fluffy dog and walk it around the Wall Street area so that you meet rich men who you can date and who will help support your career. (I wish I was making this up or exaggerating. I got this “advice” by several different faculty members and went through different variations, including walking the dog through the campus at Yale, in Soho, and on the Upper East Side.)

Right. My point in listing these (and there was plenty more that I got) is that absolutely none of this advice is good; in fact, while it’s all patently absurd now, it wasn’t really any less absurd back in 1995.

Artists don’t have to have studios in Manhattan, there are no grants to be had especially for younger artists, and I have never had a rich boyfriend (or for that matter, a stupid fluffy dog). And yet somehow I’m still here.

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