PDP Stories: Artist Carmella Jarvi on How PDP Inspired Her to Dream Bigger

2013 is a landmark year for Creative Capital—we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of our Professional Development Program! In that decade, we’ve worked with more than 5,900 artists in 170 communities. In honor of each of those artists, we present the new monthly series PDP Stories, in which we’ll share our participants’ accounts of how we’ve impacted their careers and lives.

This month’s PDP story comes from Carmella Jarvi, an artist from Charlotte who has attended five PDP workshops in North Carolina since 2004.

I have always been an artist and a teacher. I taught public school art for 13 years right out of college while continuing my own artwork on the side. I won some grants and always had a trickle of sales. But, as much as I enjoyed teaching high school, my art and my own career always got the leftovers.

In December of 2004, I attended my first Creative Capital PDP one-day seminar, sponsored by the North Carolina Arts Council. This opened up the possibility of leaving teaching and pursuing my own dreams.

In summer 2005, I attended a weekend Creative Capital PDP retreat in the North Carolina mountains. At the end, they said, “Write down a big goal.” I wrote down that I wanted to leave teaching at the end of that school year. 

Although I have always loved making my art, I also enjoy people and learning about business. I am a typical teacher/artist in that I’ve never been well off financially, but I understand the value of marketing, networking, etc. I honed these skills as an advocate for the arts and art education as a teacher, but through the Creative Capital PDP workshops, I was able to transfer these skills and really think about what creates a successful business in the arts. An added bonus to this training is that I realized how much I actually enjoy business!

I did quit my full-time, safe teaching job in June 2006 and have been self employed since. In that time, I attended three additional Creative Capital PDP workshops—the last one being an Internet for Artists workshop in 2012. Once again, excellent timing for my career needs.

Through the Creative Capital PDP, I learned skills that had not been taught to me in my traditional art undergraduate studies. In the ’90s there was not this kind of information out there readily available. Now, it is more commonplace to learn about the business of art.

However, Creative Capital’s approach to professional development is different is several ways. The session leaders are professional artists making a good living in their fields. There is the intensive, submerged nature of the programs, which worked really well with my particular skill set and make up. Finally, Creative Capital provides the materials to work at home at your own pace and are even available for a little follow up if you need it. They inspire creators to be successful, lay out a path and walk you through some first steps!

The most important lessons I learned from Creative Capital PDP are having multiple income sources; dreaming bigger (BIG dreams/goals with smaller steps); reaching out to people you know as well as people you want to know; the importance of assessing your skill sets, both strengths and weaknesses; and using system of triggers and rewards to be more productive. These have been the most beneficial to me, personally.

I believe that because of my business training, I’ve come further in my career over the past six years than some artists achieve in decades. Honestly, I have Creative Capital and their many talented, sharp and dedicated presenters to thank!

In many ways, I am not a traditional artist in that I don’t want to sequester myself away and paint all day. I absolutely love business and people. But, like most artists, I’ve struggled with making a living as an artist and how to generate multiple revenue streams.

Since I left my full-time teaching job, I have struggled financially. But, in the past 18 months, I have finally rounded that corner. I have different income sources and more opportunities in the works. In spite of this economy and juggling everything myself, I’ve managed to brand myself as a talented artist and business person.

I spent a year writing about the arts for The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation “Knight Arts” Charlotte, NC blog. I just won my third project grant to fund learning how to portray water with fused glass!

Last year, I was awarded an Arts & Science Council grant to start the Gallery @ Packard Place. This is especially cool since it allows me to create exhibitions and programming connecting art and business in this hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. Having a solid business reputation, I was invited to apply for this opportunity, which in turn has exposed me to forward-thinking business leaders and helped me create new opportunities for local artists.

In all sincerity, Creative Capital changed my life. Their programs are intense and information filled, but being an artist IS having a business. We need to improve our chances for success with the sometimes difficult work. It is more than worth the investment!

You can learn more about Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program at http://creative-capital.org/pdp.

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