Lessons in Sustainability: Five Questions for Sharon Louden

Sharon Louden needs no introduction. A successful artist, editor, author and advocate for artists, Sharon’s transparent and earnest approach to sustaining professional connections has made her four-part webinar, How to Approach and Engage with the Gatekeepers of the Art World, one of Creative Capital Professional Development Program’s most sought-out offerings. Back by popular demand, Sharon will be leading her series starting June 12th.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Sharon Louden and ask her five questions about how she manages to sustain her own practice, and what she’s learned along the way. If you want to learn more about how to communicate and build relationships with art world professionals, don’t forget to register for Sharon’s webinar.

Creative Capital: What are some of the things you’ve done to support your life as an artist? (from “hack jobs” to more interconnected work).

Sharon Louden: I have done many things to support myself over the years: pizza-maker for Domino’s, shoe shiner at an airport, bartender, office manager, registrar in Non-Degree Programs at SAIC, temp-secretary in offices in Manhattan, professional organizer for small businesses, teaching, and private consulting to other artists, to name just a few. Currently, I am building a new body of work in my studio, while regularly sending out RFQs for public art projects; applying for grants; teaching, lecturing and critiquing at different colleges as a visiting artist; conducting my lecture series at the New York Academy of Art; consulting for the Joan Mitchell Foundation and other crazy odds and ends. Basically, I am constantly filling in the cracks of my life.

Creative Capital: Did you make any early career mistakes in approaching galleries or museums? Can you tell me about one of them?

Sharon: Absolutely. I remember one embarrassing thing I did, which was an outrageous and fantastic learning lesson for me! There was potential for a museum to acquire my work, and I was so excited by the prospect of that happening. I was extremely impatient, worried, thinking about it all the time, so I found the phone number of the curator and called her – at her home – ugh! A terrible thing to do. I was totally desperate. She happened to pick up the phone as she just came back from a foot surgery! Of course, I never heard from her again and I should never hear from her again – it was totally out of line on my part. I feel guilty about it to this day and if I ever see her, I will apologize to her in person. I learned a lot from that experience as it forced me to ask myself: Why was I so desperate? What was the hurry? Why didn’t I think about the curator first? How would I feel if I were in her shoes? It was a great learning lesson for me that laid the groundwork for how I approach correspondence with everyone I encounter.

Creative Capital: What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

Sharon: There are so many points of advice I’ve received in the past that it’s difficult to pin down one. In the preface of my book, I wrote that my professor in graduate school said to me that my “work will carry me.” I understand that advice. The most important thing I have in my life is the truth of my work, and I would say that that is true for every artist. It is my most valuable asset and the core of my identity as an artist. But if I were to choose the one piece of advice that continually resonates with me on a daily basis, it would be: time carries you. No matter what happens in life, whether it is painful or glorious, time is going to just keep on clickin’ on. I always keep time in mind: the management of it, allowing it to carry me from one difficult situation to the next, and how the lack of it in life serves as a motivator. It’s more and more precious as I get older, so the decisions I make have much more weight.

Creative Capital: If you could only advise an artist to do three things today to help sustain his or her practice, what would they be?

1. Think of the other person first when corresponding with someone.
2. Express gratitude at every opportunity you have.
3. Make the absolute best work you can.

For more from Sharon, sign up for How to Approach and Engage the Gatekeepers of the Art World, taking place Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 12 – June 22, 2017 at 7:00pm EST. Registered participants will also have the opportunity to purchase one-on-one consultations with Sharon during the series.

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