Professionalism

01Feb09

In 2004/05 I wrote a Professional Printmaking Programme for the
Regional Print Centre at Yale College in Wrexham. I read in the latest
edition of a-n magazine an article by Michelle Letowski about
professionalism and amateurism in the arts. You know, I feel really
wierd about the concept of professionalism in the arts. I strive for
quality in everything I do but not being based in a major city it is
extremely hard to sell work on a regular basis. Although I am a visual
artist I could not survive without a “mixed portfolio” of projects,
residencies, commissions, exhibitions, writing, teaching etc etc. Does
this make me less professional? On our programme at the print centre
the team is encouraged to learn about presenting your work to a
diverse audience, to develop funding proposals in order to run
projects, to build networks in order to practise in a creative
environment with constructive input.

I don’t feel the necessity to sell work in order to justify my
position as a visual artist. My work has integrity and is not made
with selling in mind. The print centre team approach of working
collectively means that each artist can operate individually (some
work more commercially than others) but the team aesthetic means that
we can be considered as professionals. I guess as things have changed
in art education over the past twenty years (since Thatcherism) so
have the artists we are producing from our colleges and universities.

I have no recollection of really developing my “business skills” at
college. I felt a bit lost when I left college but you know the the
enthusiastic amateur approach stood me in good stead. I know all about
marketing and branding but the most important thing is that the
product itself is good. This doesn’t mean that, as an artist, I have
to make work that makes money. The most important thing to me is that
I am happy with my work. However this equally doesn’t mean that
therefore I am an amateur.

One of the most talented artists I know is Marcelle Hanselaar. She had
no formal art education. She operates successfully within the
establishment without being considered an outsider artist. She is a
professional artist.

On the other hand Bispo de Rosario had no formal training, he had a
vision and worked prolifically as an outsider. His work has been
exhibited internationally and has influenced artists including Louise
Bourgeois.

Two examples which highlight how difficult it is to quantify
“professionalism” within a fine art context.

I think I’m going to come back to this one…

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