JOHNSON CITY – A visual artist herself, Crista Cloutier spent most of her career on the business end of the arts, selling millions of dollars of artwork to galleries, running her own gallery and nationally recognized studio, appraising, licensing and writing about art and curating exhibitions.
Then Cloutier decided “to push the refresh button,” sell all her possessions and move to France. There, she created a new life for herself, writing about being an artist and developing an international business school for visual artists called “The Working Artist.” Her resulting work with artists in over 30 countries and myriad arts areas has earned Cloutier the recent honor of being selected by LinkedIn as an “Influencer in the Contemporary Art World.”
The Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University will present a free public talk by Cloutier titled “To Be A Working Artist: Creating a Career in the Arts” on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. at the Reece Museum. The talk is in tandem with the Best of Tennessee Craft 2016 Exhibition at Reece Museum through Dec. 2.
“Ever since she walked away from the commercial world, Crista has been teaching workshops and developing programs and courses to help artists learn the business side of the art world, and this is something that is pretty significant,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU. “There are several current studies indicating that college arts programs (theatre, dance, visual art, music, etc.) aren’t teaching students the business skills that they need in order to survive once they leave school.
“So why are we having a business person come in and talk during this particular exhibition? As it turns out, one of the things that Tennessee Craft includes in its mission is helping craft artists market themselves. We thought it was important to have some discussions on this particular topic during that exhibition.”
Every day in her “first” career, Cloutier says, she met an artist who was “lost, confused or doing it wrong. The struggling artist is not a myth. It’s a real person.”
In her talk, Cloutier will, she says, explore the journey of the artist, how one finds a voice, develops it and uses it to create a professional career as a working artist.
“You are really responsible for your own business,” says Cloutier in an interview with Smart Hustle Magazine. “Because as an artist, you are an entrepreneur. So artists just need to start stepping up and taking on that responsibility.”
An artist, she says, is a self-employed small business owner and that position carries specific responsibilities. “They must understand their market, they must behave professionally within that market and they must set and achieve financial goals,” Cloutier says in an artsjournal.com blog. “They also need to understand the unique financial and legal situations that their business entails.”
Cloutier can’t address all the issues in a public talk that she covers in a multi-session online course, but she will illustrate her message of the importance of practice, authenticity and the coupling of tenacity with audacity, she says.
The arts mentor also does not recommend that business or marketing drive the artist or artwork. “I strongly advise that artists create the work that speaks to them – and only after, worry about finding their market,” she tells blogger Matt Lehrman. “If there is no market, then artists have to create one.”
While at ETSU, Cloutier will also conduct a workshop on project planning with ETSU students, alumni, and regional artists. For information on that RSVP-required session Friday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m., call 423-439-8587.
“When I was an arts dealer, I worked with a lot of ‘blue chip’ artists,” she tells artsjournal.com. “Now that I teach aspiring and emerging artists and photographers, I meet a whole spectrum of creatives, from those whose work hangs in museums to those who paint kittens. I don’t have any value judgments as to what is Art and what is art. What I care about is that each artist finds their audience and achieves their goals.”
For more information on Crista Cloutier and The Working Artist, visit theworkingartist.com.
The Best of Tennessee Craft Exhibition showcases the finest contemporary and traditional craft Tennessee has to offer, providing public visibility and recognition for the quality and diversity of craft found throughout the state. In addition to its regular hours Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Reece Museum is offering special Saturday hours from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Oct. 8 and 22 and Nov. 12. Admission is free. For information on Best of Tennessee Craft exhibitions, visit http://tennesseecraft.org/events/best-of-tennessee-craft-2016.
For information about the talk or ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, call 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin.