Over the last few months, I’ve been able to speak with artists across a wide range of mediums, skill levels, artistic goals and varying levels of entrepreneurial aspirations. Whether you want to create full-time or part-time or sometimes, there’s one thing (out of many) that can boost your stride – it’s name is community. So what exactly is a community and why does it matter?
Tribe. Community. Squad. Whatever you call it, a community or tribe is simply a group of people interested in or participating in the arts alongside you. Typically, these people are outside of your family or besties but they don’t always have to be. Either way it goes, it’s an important aspect to the creative journey. Why? Can’t I just sit in the corner and do my thing? Well…
But for some of us, having a community represents more than a networking opportunity – it can mean having the emotional or financial support to take an idea floating in our minds and put action behind it to bring a dream to fruition. Support, in all forms, is like giving your inner creative a hug (and then shoving some cash into their back pocket). And who doesn’t like a hug?
Whether you’re starting out or have been in the game a while, here are some reasons why finding a community matter:
Information is key!
We’ve all heard knowledge is power. Seems basic but it’s one of those universal truths. When you don’t know what you don’t know, being around people who know more than you or know different things than you helps guide you into new realms. You learn about things you didn’t know existed, vocab you just might need, or associations and organizations out here helping (cough) young Black artists.
Did someone say money?
You may not be in it for the money, but it definitely helps to see what others are doing to make ends meet and keep the lights on. Regardless of your artistic pursuits, being in contact with others who share similar financial struggles can provide affirmation that you’re not alone and sometimes, knowing you’re not alone is enough to want to keep going.
But forreal, did someone say money??
For those no longer riding the struggle bus, you may just be the beacon of hope others need. Or you may be seeking out bridges to new clientele, resources for fancier equipment, or opportunities to showcase your work in uncharted seas. Get around enough people with things in common, and you never know what might get started!
YouTube alone is not going to cut it.
Sorry, I know. You tried. But the world outside has so much to offer! Yes, the world wide web is full of resources and information and people doing similar things or different things, etc. However, nothing beats in-person conversations and interactions. Nothing. As one artist so poignantly stated, “People seeing you perform sparks interest in seeing you perform more, engaging with your work.” And this isn’t advice limited to performing artists. Humans are still creatures of curiosity and the desire to engage with anything novel or familiar. Seeing it with your eyes or hearing it with your ears converts the stranger into a supporter, a customer, or a business partner.
One of my personal favorite feelings in this beautiful world is feeling the difference between Then and Now. It feels wonderful to look back at some previous version of your inner creative’s work and see how you’ve progressed. Maybe your medium of choice has changed as a painter, maybe you’ve found your voice as a poet, or maybe you’ve finally felt like you’re creating with purpose. For people like us who exist to create, we will always morph and transform. A supportive (yet honest) feedback loop accelerates that transformation. New perspectives offer unlikely inspiration. Constructive critique strengthen our foundation. Diamonds are made under pressure afterall.
And if that’s not enough, here’s some solid advice on how to go about finding those communities and making moves:
Talk to people (IRL).
Ideally, you can just reach out to people around you. Well, if it was that easy I would have done it. I get it. Have you spoken to the local coffee shop baristas? What about the public library staff? What if someone in the art department of a nearby high school/university/community college was open to speaking with you? What about going to galleries and asking the owner questions? What if you asked people attending an art event, about other art events? I’ll stop there. You’re welcome.
Talk to people online.
I know, I put the big, scary tip first. But of course, there is always the internet. Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and so on and so on. But wait! Didn’t you say to get out into the real world? Yes, and you should still do that. Google is a great starting point with the end goal of having in-person social interactions.
Be the change you want to see in the world!
Can’t find galleries that will feature your work? Not finding any markets or shows to present your work? Perhaps then, the answer is to create your own darn gallery space or pop-up market! I spoke with an artist who looked around and saw …well, nothing that he needed readily available. So, instead of waiting for help, he started his own community to help other creatives use their knowledge and skills while helping his own projects flourish. It just starts with one person putting it out there for others to see. There could be local associations or organizations unaware that what they really need at their next event, is you!
Comment below: Have you found your community? What has or hasn’t worked for you?
All images in this article are from giphy