Level Up: Artistic Career
September 18, 2018 9:04 PM   Subscribe

In Australian arts terms, I'm probably now a "midcareer" artist. What can I do to make the best of my current career path?

I've got a few important milestones lately that to me represent a move up in my artistic career. I just recently completed a successful season of my first-ever full-length show. I'm getting asked to speak or perform at events (rather than me doing all the outreach). I've been cast in large-scale big-deal productions. I'm on a magazine cover! I've also been working in the arts long enough (at least 8 years, much longer if you include professional writing) to kinda age out from the "emerging" bracket. I see this as a really great opportunity to move myself up to the next level, but am not sure what specifically I can do to leverage my position.

For most of my artistic life I was hampered by my immigration status. Specifically, 99% of grants and other opportunities in Australia (which the national arts scene relies on) are limited to permanent residents or citizens, and I was stuck in bridging visa limbo for a ridiculously long time, so I didn't qualify for anything. I was pretty much restricted to making small projects that I could fund myself or being part of other people's projects (when I qualified). Even so (and even with the added barrier of being in a scene that became hostile to me for racist reasons) I managed to accomplish a LOT.

I left the country, built my artistic career further there, and came back a couple of years ago. I finally found a community in this country that was super accepting of me & my work and got immersed in projects that actually had a future - including my recently-completed show. I'm building really important relationships. I didn't think I'd ever get to this spot and I now want to know what's next!

I have my PR finally so I qualify for things, but my lack of funding experience is coming back to haunt me by being a disqualifier (despite that really being out of my hands). I've also aged out of a lot of "emerging artist" opportunities because they tend to be geared towards people under 30 (I'm almost 33) or I'm not super new, but I also don't necessarily have the experience or body of work that is expected from a "midcareer" artist specifically BECAUSE of my prior limitations. It's that overqualified/underqualified wrinkle.

When people ask about breaking into, say, voice acting, the advice is usually "make a showreel". What's the performance artist/producer/writer equivalent of that? I do have a really comprehensive (sometimes overwhelming) portfolio (link in bio) - is there a a way to better organise that to present myself better? Are there materials I'm missing that I can work on obtaining? Is this where I get an agent or a manager? What questions am I not asking?

I'm currently in a program that includes mentorship with an industry veteran and an upcoming meeting will include discussion about the business side of the arts, and I'd like to come in with questions that are stronger than "WHAT NOW".

I am based in Australia so Australia-specific answers are most useful, but I do have at least 3 years of experience in the US and am more than open to an international career. (I've found though that while the US is super open to international experience, Australians tend to value local experience much more, so advice on leveraging that more effectively is useful.)
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The most important thing you can do to advance your artistic career once your skills are professional-level -- what I consider the midcareer point -- is network. Your trajectory now should be more focused on broadening your audience and name recognition, while still honing your particular style so your work becomes more recognizably yours

You do mention a mentorship, but that's just one person. I consider it critical to be involved in the community at many levels, from attending other shows, volunteering, organizing group exhibitions or shows, really anything you can do to give yourself more name recognition as a person who is always interested and involved in your particular art form.

That's why art school is typically such an important part of an early artist's career: networks and friendships are formed, and the skills for creating and maintaining professional relationships are honed. Since you're older now, school doesn't make much sense, but you'll have to go through the network building phase "manually" by finding or forming peer groups and people who will advise and advocate for you.

Ideally, with all this networking, your next artistic steps will simply suggest themselves automatically. Does someone want to see a showreel? Make one. Did someone ask for a catalogue, or detailed CV? Time to pull that together. Do you need letters of recommendation? You easily know a dozen people who'd tear one off for you overnight. Can you lead a workshop for early-career artists in your field? There's so many things to do that can put your name first on people's tongues.

(I'm as much writing this for me as for you. I've moved to a new city and need to get started on this myself. Good luck.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:48 AM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh I am very good at networking! Half the things I've been able to accomplish are precisely because of building relationships with people who plug me into their own networks and things flow on from there.

(I did go to art school but that was in another country)

Good luck with your new city!
posted by divabat at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2018

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