(Courtesy, Chicago Graphic Artists Guild) 

You will never advance your career as well on your own as you will if connected with influential figures and organizations in your region.  You don’t like socializing with them?  In the beginning, I didn’t either.  I considered myself too hip, and too literary, to bother.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

Eventually, after realizing what an idiot I’d been (nothing new there), I joined the Chamber of Commerce, made sure I got speaking gigs, then got appointed to various boards of relevant organizations.  Typically these would involve my serving as an art consultant for an economic development council, or a business group.  In addition, I began spending a lot of time working with inner-city high schools, and their art departments, my theory being that there is as much talent in a ghetto as anywhere else, just not as much opportunity.  I don’t tend to publicize these programs, but word always gets out.  This brings me respect from the business community, which usually leads to more commissions, which allows me to keep devoting time to the inner-city kids.  What goes around comes around.

I cannot in one post explain to you all the particulars of networking, but I can tell you that if you can inspire genuine admiration and awe for what you do, that is a very good beginning.  Simply follow up on it in a sincere way, making use of any contacts you might make, and returning the favor–whether in the art community, the business community, or both.  We all have things to lend one another; explore what you have to offer.  I assure you, you have far more than you might realize. 

At the same time, if you can find an underprivileged group to work with that doesn’t have your opportunities, the rewards will be profound, and will often indirectly bring you opportunities you hadn’t foreseen.  How exactly does this work?  I don’t actually know, but it always does.

Upshot?  Don’t stay in the studio, bemoaning your lack of contacts.  Become proactive, get involved outside the immediate area of your life, and join what organization you find relevant or worthwhile.  Great things can result, but only if you make use of the acquaintances you strike up.  Those relationships–and the relationship does come first–will help advance your career, often in surprising ways.  Surprises of that sort are a pretty damn good thing.

3 thoughts on “Networking

  1. I think a lot of artists don’t like the word networking because it is construed as something business people do to get business and some artists don’t want to think of themselves as business people. The truth is that any of us who are connected in our communities whether through a youth mentoring program, a cooperative of some sort, volunteer work, etc. are in a situation of expanding not only our own horizons but our contacts as well. Over the years I’ve been involved in many organizations and have done lots and lots of volunteer work and now am asked to do all sorts of interesting things involving my art, my writing, my teaching….None of this was intentional but I’m imagining that if one got involved with intent, was willing to speak, share their expertise, etc. that very cool things could come out of it….for everyone involved. So whether we call it networking or not, it is building and furthering relationships within our communities and that has to be a good thing.

  2. I absolutely agree with you on that. So many artists see themselves as above networking, as if it is too comercial or self serving. I think that when you find a good match, networking is not self serving at all, but mutally serving. Big difference. If both sides find rewards in the relationship, it’s bound to last and have good outcomes. If artists are creative about it, (which they SHOULD be)they would see that there are a myriad of possibilities to connect with others without becoming commercial or self serving.

  3. Finding your websight was like finding a needle in a haystack.

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