The Artists Summer Institute: A Professional Development Intensive
Something about the Artist Summer Institute (ASI), created and developed by Creative Capital and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), feels like the set up for a joke. “Fifty five artists walk into a workshop on tax basics and….” But the ASI is far from comedy. Over the four years it has been offered, ASI has become a fundamental resource that provides the best of LMCC’s Basic Finance for Artists program and Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program (PDP) to artists in all stages of their careers working across a broad spectrum of disciplines. And it has also become high in demand. ASI receives hundreds of applications to fill the 55 spots for the free week-long program.
This year’s ASI workshop, which took place August 7-11, began with talks on strategic planning and creating a business plan. These sessions provided the building blocks for content that covered areas such as promoting one’s work, public speaking skills, budgeting and cash flow, and the aforementioned tax basics. “The ASI programing was all encompassing,” said Jenny Krasner, one of the attending artists. “We learned techniques on how to effectively network and negotiate in New York with gallery dealers, collectors, curators and other artists, how to organize our finances, how to proceed by targeting our personal goals, how to organize our time more effectively…the list goes on and on.”
Each day, after spending the morning in sessions together, the artists split into breakout groups that focused on practical tools, including business negotiation (an area many artists fail to utilize to their advantage) and practicing elevator pitches (a classic business school training exercise). On the whole, the curriculum aimed to equip attending artists with all the skills necessary to run their business effectively while still having time to produce art.
One of the unique features of the ASI was the opportunity for artists to meet each other and learn about each other’s work through daily artist presentations. Because the participating artists work in a wide range of creative disciplines, this presentation took on a different meaning for each individual. Some showed slides of their work and discussed the inspiration behind it; some performed new dances in progress; and some read poetry to the group. The presentations were a moment between the structured classes when the artists could connect purely at the artistic level. This balance between meeting so many new artists, while being steeped in professional development curriculum, was one of the most appealing aspects to attendees. “We got to meet 54 new artists over the period of five days, which of course is so special in and of itself,” said Krasner. “Two of our colleagues put together a Facebook page for all of us to share information about all things ‘art,’ which has already helped me find out about programs I would not have known before.”
A sentiment echoed often by the attendees was that every artist left the workshop with new knowledge, having learned something from the over 20 workshop sessions and the dozens of other artists. The skills artists learn at ASI are important, but equally important is what happens when the artists go back to their communities. That is professional development at its best—when the artists use their new knowledge to better themselves and the world around them.
You can see more pictures from the 2013 ASI workshop on our Facebook page!