Professional Practice for Artists

The Evergreen State College Summer, 2017

Second Session

Tuesday and Thursday, 6-9:30 pm

Professor: Liz Sales

Email (for fastest response):

Office Hours: By Appointment



What does it mean to be an artist today, tomorrow and thirty years from now? Professional Practices for Artists looks at and potentially challenges the rules and systems within the art world to help you create your own dialog for maintaining a practice that is both engaging and financially viable.

Topics will include career options for creative professionals; identifying and following through on short and long term career goals; writing cover letters, resumes, and CVs, as well as artist statements and press releases; creating portfolios; preparing for a studio visit; planning exhibitions in traditional and non-traditional exhibition spaces; working with nonprofit organizations, galleries, dealers, agents, and consultants; writing proposals and grants; dealing with contracts, agreements, and other legal issues; participating in residencies and public art projects; forming formal and loose collectives; creating and maintaining an online presence; and creating and maintaining a community.

Through guided personal research, class discussions, and interactions with guests artists and guest art- world professionals, students will develop and present a basic online and/or physical professional portfolio that includes a cover letter, CV, artist statement, bio, and project packet.

Learning Objectives

  • To impart to students that the art-world in all of its incarnations is made up of real people and that an artist survives by building a community around their practice full of people who see them as a reliable professional.
  • To familiarize students with various career options and career paths in the visual arts.
  • To guide students in assembling a physical and/or online portfolio representing the best of their creative efforts thus far; to guide students in choosing the best platform/s for said portfolio.
  • To assist each student in the formulation of an articulate and succinct artist statement, bio, cover letter and CV.
  • To create a highly personal strategic plan for maintaining an art practice that is engaging, long lasting, and financially viable

Required Textbook

The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield (ISBN 0306816520)

In addition, there will be several required readings distributed through the course blog: https://

Course Website

The course blog is:

Class One: August 1

Course Introduction; Overview of Course Assignments and Expectations; Careers in the Arts; Making Short and Long Term Career Goals.


  • Read Battenfield Chapter One “How to Access, Plan, and Take Action”; AND Read “Career Self- Assessment and Setting Goals” by Susan Koblin Schear career-setting-goals. In response, write a list of 3-5 life goals. Bring in a physical copy to share in class.
  • Prepare “elevator speech” of 3 succinct sentences about yourself and your current work. Bring 3 or more works to class to illustrate your “elevator speech.”
  • Prepare 1 Question for the Guest.

Class Two: August 3

In-person Guest: Libby Pratt, co-founder of New Draft Collective; Publisher at Secretary Press; Director at Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York and teaches at City College of New York, CUNY.

 Artist Statements

In class Exercise: Goal Tracking: This assignment is designed to help you track your progress toward a professional goal related to your list of 3-5 life goals (from last week).  It’s best suited for goals related to building a professional habit, like updating your Instagram feed every day or carving out time each week for painting or writing, etc. 


  • Complete Goal Tracking Sheets
  • If you did not share work today, bring work to share Class Three: August 4

Class Three: August 4

Writing  CV’s and Resumes

Review Goals Tracking Sheets

In class Exercise: 20 Successes from Birth – Now: The goal of this in class exercise is to acknowledge our history of successes (everyone has a history of successes) AND to Identify how we Identify success.


  • Read Chapter 3 “Peer Networking, Readiness, And Creating Opportunities.
  • Read Chapter 5: “How to Build Long-Term Professional Relationships”
  • Write the 1st draft of your artist statement.

Class Four: August 8

Finding Exhibition Opportunities: Commercial Galleries, Non-Profit Spaces, and Juried Exhibitions; Art Fairs; Creating Your Own Opportunities; Artist Collectives

Share artist statements.

Watch and discuss: Amanda Palmer: The art of asking

In-class Exercise: The DEAR Formula: How to Ask for Anything.


Class Five: August 10

Guest via Skype: Christina Labey artist and publisher, founded Conveyor Arts with partner Jason Burstein, through which they run a publishing label, as well as custom bookmaking services for other artists, editor-in-chief of the Conveyor Magazine.

Creating professional documents of your artwork;_Creating promotional materials;_Web presence and Social media

Check in, how did asking someone for something you need to further your practice and/or career go? 


  • Read Battenfield Chapter 7: “How to Find Even More Support: Grants, Residencies, Gifts”;
  • Start creating a website. OR Start a social media campaign. Come to class ready to share what you have made.
  • 1 Questions for Guest

Class Six: August 15

Guest via Skype: Michi Jigarjian, co-founder of New Draft Collective; Publisher at Secretary Press; Board Member at Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York

Funding Your Art Practice: Finding and Applying for Grants and Artist Residencies; Self-Promotion: Creating and maintaining a Contact List 

Critique of drafted websites and/or social media campaigns.


  • Assignment: Reach out to an artist you admire and interview them. This interview can be in person, over Skype, on the phone or over email. Don’t forget to send them a thank you note after you speak/email. (The due date is flexible. Start now. And aim to complete this assignment by the 8/22) 
  • Write a short gallery, film, album or performance reviews. Post this review online or bring a copy to class. (Due Friday, August 18th.)
  • Update your goal tracking sheets, with what you learned today in mind, and continue to track your progress. Come to class ready to share your goal tracking sheets and insights. 
  • If you haven’t, add your info to the class Google Sheet (link in recap email).

Class Seven: August 17

Visit from the Writing Center!

Artist Collectives and Communities; Incorporating Art Writing into your Practice; Creating and Sharing Your Blog

In class exercise: Writing cover letters and/or artist biographies

Discussion on current goal tracking sheets and insights into challenges and successes and accountability buddy check-in.

Final Project Reminders



  • Read Battenfield Chapter 8: “How to Read and Work with the Fine Print: Contracts, Legal Issues, and the Art of Negotiation.”; AND Read “The Fable of Failure in Modern Art” by Paul Barolsky (http://
  • Short Gallery, Film or Performance Reviews Due next class; post these online or bring a copy to class. Due Friday, August 18th.

Class Eight: Friday, August 18th at 2pm-5:30 

Tim Ferriss: Defining Your Fears:

Discussion of Contracts and Legal Issues in the Arts


  • Read Battenfield Chapter 10: “How to Build Community to Survive Being Alone; AND 10 Tips for Those Considering
  • And MFA ( for-those-considering-mfa-programs.doc)
  • Prepare 1 Question for the Guest.

Class Nine: August 22

Guest via Skype: Elana Schlekner Graphic Designer: Princeton Architectural Press, Conde Nast, Rodale; Art Director: Gratuitous Type

The Ultimate Long-Range Planning Assignment-

In class Exercise: The Ultimate Long-Range Planning Assignment-: What do you want to do before you die? The goal of this assignment is to do a deeper dive into your professional planning and master long term planning and prioritizing

Check-in: Artist Interviews; Makeup opportunity: Gallery, Media or Performance Reviews


  • Finalize Final Promotional Packages
  • Finalize Goals/Self-Reflection

Class Ten: August 24

Oral Presentations


  • Final Promotional Packages Due
  • Goals/Self-Reflection Due

Further Explanation of Assignments Guest Speakers

This class will allow you the opportunity to interact with various artists and arts professionals, in person and via Skype. You will be required to do some independent research on the scheduled guest visitor and come up with 1 question that you would potentially like to ask them. These questions will be handed in at the beginning of class. Consider reaching out to them after their visit with a brief thank you e-mail. It’s a good habit to get into.

Professional Goals Statement and Self-Evaluation

Being an artist is like owning a small business. Even once you have representation, you are largely responsible for creating new work, getting your work out into the public, applying for grants or other opportunities and engaging in forms of fundraising that will allow you to continue the process of making new work.

If you would like your income or a portion of your income to come from your work, it is incredibly important to set both long and short-term goals to work towards. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? You might have the goal of having a solo exhibition in a commercial gallery or a freelance designer or photographer or work in production. Even if your goals change by the end of the course, this exercise will still be helpful for you.

For the assignment, write a list all of your goals for the next 5 years. Create an outline of all the actions that you think will need to take to achieve these goals. Create a timeline of when you think that you will reasonably be able to complete each step. Be realistic.

Gallery, Media or Performance Reviews

One of the most important jobs for an artist is to stay abreast of contemporary art, artists, and exhibition spaces. While not required, it is highly recommended that you read the arts sections of the Olympian, the Stranger and/or Portland Mercury.

Throughout the course of this class, you will need to see and review one exhibition, film or performance related to your own work. Pay attention to opening/closing dates and be aware that most galleries are closed on Sundays and Mondays. If you do not have a car, choose an exhibition, film or performance you can access via public transportation. I recommend in general, that you plan to visit the galleries with another student in the class- it’s a great way to get to know one another.

Oral Presentation/Artist Talk

Students will share a final portfolio of at least 10 original pieces that form a cohesive body of work will be presented during the final presentation. This work may predate the class. If this work is not born-digital, students will need to make sure that their work is carefully photographed or documented. During presentations, the student presents them-self to the class as if in pursuit of a specific career goal while sharing a slide presentation of their portfolio. Presentations should run 10 minutes in length.

Final Promotional Package

The final project will be the submission of a promotional package- the type that you might send out to a record company, a gallery, nonprofit space, competition, residency, grant committee etc.

It might be a good idea to research jobs or art institutions or spaces anywhere in the US or abroad. If you find an institution or space that you think would be a good match for your work, perhaps you can prepare your final project with that particular institution or space.

You will include the following materials:

Website including:

  • Bio
  • CV or Resume
  • Artist Statement
  • Images of visual work, sound files and/or video files

Sample Promotional Leave Behind, Postcard or Business Card

Further Reading:

“The Antidote” by Oliver Burkeman

“The Art of Self-Promotion” by Diane Rapaport

“Ten Tips for Those Considering MFA Programs” by Illana Stranger

“Thoughts on Audience” by Martha Roster

“Relational Aesthetics” by Nicolas Bourriaud

Professional Community: Researching and Exhibiting in Non-Profit Spaces

“Inventing Venice” by Massimiliano Goon

“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf “

“How to Stay Sane” by Phililppa Perry

“Peripheral Visions Learning Along the Way” by Mary Catherine Bateson

“The Silent Whistler” by Mary Oliver

“How to Stay Sane” by Phililppa Perry

“Four Hour Work Week, Your Everyday Artworld” by Lane Relyea

“First and last notebooks” by Simone Weil