Feature Issue on Careers in The Arts for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Supporting a Budding Artist
When Jeremy discovered his gift for painting, I encouraged him with basic art supplies. When he was passionate about painting five to six afternoons a week, and some people we knew offered to pay him small amounts for his artwork, I realized a career as a professional artist could be a possibility. As a successful professional writer (including five books), I knew that there was more to making a successful career out of art than creating beautiful artwork, and having friends willing to buy your art. Some lessons learned:
- Start small. Keep track of what is being spent on art supplies, and what people are offering to pay for the art.
- Find out what attracts people to your art. Art is a luxury item. People buy it because they feel an emotional connection to the art. What is it they are feeling; why are they connecting to your art? That is the key to understanding who your “market” or customers are.
- Marketing is important and can be done in different ways. Social media can be one way, sending e-newsletters about new art to past clients (a good source for referrals) and people who have expressed interest in your art is another.
- Exposure through art shows is good for meeting potential clients. Art shows (pre-Covid) were an excellent way to have some sales, get to meet people and collect emails for e-newsletters. I found that being accepted into curated shows in art galleries was a good way to build on Jeremy’s resume, but did not create immediate sales.
- An on-line presence is necessary, especially post-pandemic. Depending on the kind of art you create and your comfort level and your market, there are many options available for selling online. No matter what option you choose, marketing (letting people know your art exists, where and why) is still a key ingredient to success as a professional artist.
- Plan for the future. Jeremy’s professional career is dependent on unpaid family members to take care of many of the tasks mentioned above. My current focus is on isolating the different tasks that are necessary for Jeremy’s career to continue to blossom, creating task lists and figuring out the costs to hire someone to do more of them. This is important so that Jeremy’s career can be assured of continued success, whether or not I am here to help him.