New artists must be entrepreneurs, too

Steve Bushong

In a space reminiscent of a shoebox, yet large enough to accommodate people and sculpture, is the Heights Arts Gallery.

The contemporary space is nearly hidden among the quaint brick-faced buildings of trendy Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.

Recently, Kent State graduate Kortney Niewierski exhibited her work at the gallery. Her artwork, sculpture based on attractive and repulsive human forms and medical anomalies, stood out against the white-washed gallery walls.

The show, named “New Artists in the Mix Machine,” was designed to limelight the work of new artists from the Cleveland area.

For Niewierski, it was an opportunity to be seen.

“If you want to make it as an artist, people have to see your work,” Niewierski said in an e-mail. “You have to keep applying, and eventually you will get something.”

She said usually one opportunity leads to the next, though there are a lot of rejections along the way.

“A professor once told me that if you aren’t getting rejections in the mail all the time, you aren’t applying for enough shows,” Niewierski wrote.

Scott Sherer, Kent State art professor and guest curator of “New Artists in the Mix Machine,” said artists today have to be like entrepreneurs.

“They have to enter galleries. They have to get the buzz going about themselves,” Sherer said.

Kent State offers a course called “Professional Practices,” where students learn techniques useful to the professional artist, such as how to prepare art show applications, make resumes and take photographs of their art.

However, regardless of how ambitious an artist may be, art is not always the easiest field to do well in, Sherer said. Many artists also have side jobs.

According to the Department of Labor Web site, many artists – such as those involved with sculpture, paintings and other forms of fine art – have additional jobs as art teachers, museum curators, art critics or in jobs unrelated to art.

The Web site also said 63 percent of artists are self-employed.

“You have to be prepared to work hard at something you may not enjoy in order to get the funds to keep making art,” Niewierski said, adding that many opportunities exist for artists – they just need to be found.

Sherer said artists need to persevere and not worry about money.

“People should pursue their dreams, not get sidetracked by the capitalist structures in the world,” he said.

Currently, Niewierski is preparing for an adjunct teaching position at Kent State this fall in sculpture. In the coming years, she’d like to be a full-time professor, she said.

Meanwhile, Niewierski is creating art for upcoming exhibitions.

“Everyone has to start somewhere,” she said in the e-mail.

Contact general assignment reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].