Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making (New Years) Resolutions Work

February is notorious for “resolution failure,” just ask any gym, weight-loss program, or smoking cessation program staff.  That makes this the perfect time to consider how to make your resolutions successful.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you may recall that I recently wrote that I assign the making of a pledge in my professional practice course at Emily Carr University. A pledge is a resolution, and I am revisiting that topic for several reasons:
  • Many of my students develop, as their final assignment, a proposal for an exhibition that includes their own work plus the work of at least two other artists. In December, two former students who pledged to make their proposal become a reality wrote to say they had succeeded.
  • When I last wrote about pledges/resolutions, I feel that I did not place enough emphasis on “disclosure.” 
  •  I want to invite you to see the outcome of a disclosed pledge I made last year.
So many artists want to be exhibited and they work hard to that end developing inventory, but their artist statements and their approach to obtaining the exhibition experience they desire is often misguided.  Artists who have no or very limited (or dates) exhibition history can impress exhibition gatekeepers by doing two critical things:
  • An artist with limited or no experience should only rarely (read: never) propose a solo exhibition. Proposing your work as part of a group show dramatically increases your chances of success.
  •  Develop an impressive and compelling thesis (artist statement) for your show and use all resources possible to vet it and make it irresistible.
The most important part of my students’ assignment to propose a group exhibition that includes their own work, is their collective artist statement. An exhibition shines when good work is contextualized by an artist statement that makes you itch to see the work or reveals insights that profoundly impress you.

I mention all this because a resolution to have a show is incomplete and bound to fail. There is no investment in a self-promise to have a show. If, however, you follow my suggestion above, you will immediately involve other artists to exhibit and other people to develop and test the perfect artist statement and all these compatriots will keep you focused and moving forward. Your resolution will not fail in February or ever thereafter.

There is a lot of competition for available opportunities in the art world currently, so if you are inclined to make a career-related resolution, be sure to take time to craft one that is truly achievable. Test it with peers to ensure that it is as compelling to others as it is to you and the other participants. 

And it is this involvement with others that leads to my second point: disclosure. Telling your friends and colleagues, writing on your wall on Facebook or Tweeting your (carefully developed) goals is a vital part of a successful resolution or pledge. Your friends provide support, direction, encouragement and reward.

Resolutions or pledges that are not shared are secrets and easy to abandon. But disclosed resolutions are far more successful. And whereas it takes a lot of time and hard work to find the right artists with whom to exhibit and together develop a compelling artist statement, it is easy to disclose. All you have to do is make a few calls, write a post or call a few friends.

So if you made resolutions last month that you really want to happen, I suggest that you revisit them and express them in a seductive or provocative way that lures us into your inquiry or exploration and then declare your ambition to friends and or professional peers—whomever will provide the most encouragement.