WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS AND ARTS PROFESSIONALS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS.
Alix Sloan has been in the arts for over 20 years. During that time she has been a gallery owner, gallery director, curator, consultant, author and educator. She opened Sloan Fine Art, one of the first galleries in the now vibrant Lower East Side arts district, in 2008. Today she continues to mount pop up shows under the Sloan Fine Art banner, guest curate exhibitions, work with freelance clients, teach, coach artists and consult for artists, collectors and businesses. She is the author of “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists” and maintains the website PracticalArtists.com where she posts helpful information and resources for artists and has recently launched online courses.
Can you describe your path as a writer/curator/arts professional – from where and when you began, until now?
It’s been a bit of a circuitous path. My first job out of college was at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, which was a great experience. I learned so much. But I hadn’t done much else and was anxious to try other things. I left to explore TV and Film Production and Copywriting. About six years later I was running the writing department at an Interactive Agency when the dotcom bomb hit. The company closed, I was out of work and realized how much I missed the arts. So I just started calling people – artists, clients, galleries – to see if they needed help with anything and got back into it by way of organizing events, helping artists get books done and curating shows. And my experience as a copywriter led to writing opportunities. Eventually, I relocated to New York and opened the gallery, an accomplishment I’m super proud of. It was definitely one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve done. But it was also all consuming. So when I couldn’t negotiate a reasonable lease renewal I took it as a sign and closed the physical space. I’ve been doing pop up shows and occasional art fairs, consulting, teaching, coaching artists and writing since. It’s a bit frenetic but I love it.
What does a day or week in your professional life look like?
Every week is different. I have a few artists I work with on an ongoing basis, so I prioritize them and make sure we’re on track with any projects or goals. Then I divide my time as needed between everything else. It all kind of depends on deadlines and timing.
How do you balance your personal and client work and what have you learned from balancing all your projects?
Balancing has always been a struggle for me. The past five years or so I feel like I’ve gotten a much better handle on it. I’ve become a huge fan of time blocking which I definitely recommend. It helps me focus and organize my time. I find it also helps combat procrastination. I plan each week out ahead of time to get my head around what it’s going to look like. I commit the first hour or two every workday writing because that’s when I’m most productive and creative. Then I plan out the rest of the day after that. I try to stick to that week’s schedule knowing I may have to move things around and make adjustments to accommodate anything unexpected.
Since getting married, I’ve made a commitment to try not work over the weekend unless I really have to. That was a big step for me and has been such an upgrade. It forces me to work more efficiently and longer during the week but it frees up most weekends for a personal life. Also there’s plenty of overlap in my life. I enjoy going out to openings. That’s both business and fun. And I’m good friends with many of the artists I work with. Work doesn’t always feel like work, which is nice.
In your book, Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists, can you give us the top three things that an artist needs to do in order to win the opportunities that they want?
It’s hard to come up with just three, but I think I’d say building and maintaining community is definitely #1. Whether directly or indirectly, most opportunities come through friends and colleagues. The most valuable resource artists have is each other.
Then making time for career development – things like finding and pursuing opportunities, networking, creating and maintaining effective support materials – is so important. So many artists are committed to making wonderful work but not to getting their work out into the world. An artist can have the most amazing work in the world but if nobody knows it exists then it won’t be seen, enjoyed or make an impact.
And finally, patience and perseverance. I didn’t get into this enough in my book so I’m happy to have the opportunity here. Developing a career can take time and everyone’s path is different. It can be really frustrating, but if you stick with it, you’re ahead of anyone else who doesn’t. I know one artist who applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship every year for something like five years with no luck and then finally it happened. He was selected to be a Guggenheim Fellow. Thank goodness he didn’t give up!
As a curator and someone who coaches artists, what are good ways to network in the art world and beyond?
There really is no substitute for getting out, supporting your community and meeting people in person. If an artist is able to attend openings, open studios and arts events, I always recommend it. If you show up for people, they’ll show up for you. And you never know what could happen or whom you might meet.
Social media can be a great tool if used properly. People may enjoy seeing your art. But if you also share information, make recommendations and share other people’s work and news, you bring value to your community and become someone people want to be connected with.
Where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?
Professionally, I find being around other art lovers, like on a really busy night where there are lots of openings and people milling around, incredibly inspiring. Creatively and personally any quiet space works. If I had my choice it would be a gorgeous beach or balcony with a great view. But on the couch with the phone turned off and the cats by my side works, too.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve expanded my Practical Advice for Artists website to include online courses which I’m incredibly excited about. I love the idea of making straightforward, encouraging information available to artists everywhere. I’m also teaching a one-day workshop at Art Center College of Design in July 2017. It’s part of their extension program, so it’s open to anyone. And the next Sloan Fine Art exhibition is a four-person show in collaboration with Phylogeny Contemporary in Seattle in early 2018.