My exploration of Afri-love has tended to centre around creativity and the creative professions. Mainly because it's what I do and what I love but, also because of a strong belief that creativity is a powerful way of inspiring and creating positive change. I've also been going on and on (and you may be sick of it by now) about how everything starts with the self. Any change we can hope to encourage on a large scale is likely to be futile if we haven't also considered how to implement it for ourselves.
Enter artists and Baang+Burne directors, Kesha Bruce and Charlie Grosso, and their 6×6 project: their answer to the question “what if there were no more art galleries?” For 6 weeks starting in September this year, artists in New York City will take matters into their own hands and put on exhibitions to showcase their work. What an inspiring concept! What amazing potential such an idea could have in an African context, where the necessary infrastructure for a viable career as an artist is even more scarce …
I thought I'd get more wisdom from the source – the wonderful Kesha Bruce.
What does it take to make a living as an artist?
As much as I wish it weren’t so, it takes more than talent and passion to make a living as an artist. It takes a ton of courage, perseverance, and more importantly business knowledge. If you don’t take time and money and invest in learning how to run a business, it’s going to be hard to actually make enough money to live on.
Most art schools don’t teach artists anything about the business of art, so once you leave school you need to go about immediately getting the business education you need. Every artist needs to learn the basic business fundamentals and then move on to understanding how to create a concrete marketing system. I say this all the time because it’s true: every business on earth does some kind of marketing. Your art business is no different.
How important is an art community/working with other artists?
Working alone in your studio can be very isolating. When you do come up for air, it really helps to have a set of friends or at least colleagues who understand what it is you do. One of my best memories from grad school is the time I spent in the Hunter college MFA building. Being surrounded by and interacting with so many excited and motivated artists was not only a great experience for me, but it was good for my work.
Outside of the context of art school, the idea for community is just as important. Your peers are your greatest resource and your support system. Artists thrive in communities.
In what ways can artists use their own initiative in advancing their careers? (i.e. why should artists be more DIY?) What does a self-produced, "indie" art world look like?
I think artists, especially emerging artists, should stop waiting to be “discovered”. If you want to show your work or have an exhibition or event, get together with a bunch of your art friends and make it happen. Don’t wait. Don’t apply for a grant. Don’t ask for permission. Just do the thing.
The exciting thing about the prospect of an entirely “indie” art world is that it can take on absolutely any form it chooses. To be honest I don’t know what that will look like, but I know it’s coming, and I can’t wait to be part of it.
All artwork by Kesha Bruce. Photograph courtesy of Kesha Bruce.