How to Play the Art Game without Sacrificing Artistic Integrity

September 27, 2013

For many artists, the idea of promoting themselves and navigating the business side of the art world is intimidating. But two art world professionals are out to prove that it doesn’t have to be. In their new course at SVA this fall entitled The Rules: How to Play the Art Game without Sacrificing Artistic Integrity, Amani Olu and Larry Ossei-Mensah—co-founders of The Medium Group—will show how artists can be business savvy and creatively dedicated at the same time. SVA Close Up caught up with Olu and Ossei-Mensah recently via email to learn more.

larry200How did you come up with the idea/what was the inspiration for designing this course?
As art professionals with years of experience working with artists, we created this course in direct response to the frustration that many artists felt about the obstacles associated with advancing their careers in a competitive environment.

Whether you are a student, recent graduate or seasoned artist, there has always been a stigma attached to the idea of artists being business savvy. We believe it is time to debunk the stereotype and encourage a school of thought that allows artists to have a thriving and sustainable practice – one that leverages marketing as an extension of artistic practice.

Can you give us an idea of some of the topics that will be discussed during the course?
The course uses four pillars—artistic practice, brand development, relationship building and professionalism and likeability—as the core areas of focus. These pillars are the foundation, and

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explore various topics like how to best utilize digital and social media, engage with art professionals and identify suitable career opportunities. These topics provide a board cross-section of information that will enable artists to begin to realize their full potential.

What kind of mistakes have you noticed that artists tend to make when it comes to managing their careers?
There are too many to name here, but one of the biggest mistakes is not asking enough questions. There appears to be a stigma that asking questions, especially when you are engaged in a monetary transaction, are somehow inappropriate. This is, in fact, where artists are the most vulnerable to enter into an unfavorable agreement.

A second mistake is not having a website. With the plethora of free web platforms, there is no reason why an artist should not have a place where people see and discover their work.

What can students expect to get out of this course?
Students can expect a variety of takeaways, including: learning how to use marketing as an extension of their artistic practice; best practice methods for branding; a better understanding of what is takes to develop art world alliances and how to effectively navigate (and benefit from) the art world’s hierarchical system.

For more information or to register for the class, which starts on October 7th, see the course listing here.

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