Seven Steps to Scale your Career as an Artist | Step Five: Set Goals and Search for Opportunities

Wednesday Aug 28th, 2019

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Hobbyist vs. Working Artist

In the first post of this series, we examined the differences between emerging, mid-career, and established artists. After reading that post, hopefully you’ve taken some time to reflect on your practice as an artist to determine what qualifier you should employ when describing yourself. Once you have identified the most accurate qualifier, it’s time to ask yourself the next important question. Do you want to be a hobbyist or a working artist?

A person who creates as a hobby does so strictly for personal pleasure. They’re not necessarily interested in developing a following or audience for their work. It isn’t important for a hobbyist to have a set routine or schedule because they create whenever they feel like it. A hobbyist may take art lessons or enroll in classes, but they have no serious commitment to artistic development.

A working artist, on the other hand, is someone who is committed to lifelong learning. They continuously push themselves and their limits through the work that they create. Because of that, they stay connected to the broader art community as a means of expanding their creative thinking and to further advance their techniques. A working artist also doesn’t wait for inspiration to strike. They have an established routine rooted in process and they schedule time in the studio each and every day.

Because a hobbyist creates casually, they most likely do not have practical goals connected to their art. A working artist, however, is driven by their passion and sets targeted goals for their career. A working artist also derives either a portion or all of their income from their art practice, which means they have a need for cultivating and maintaining a professional network.

If you’re a working artist, the goals you set for yourself should evolve as your career evolves. For instance, if you’re an emerging artist, your goals should largely be rooted in building an independent body of work and developing a deeper understanding of your artistic discipline and how to maneuver through the art world as a whole. If you’re a mid-career artist, perhaps your goals are connected to obtaining residencies, exhibition opportunities, and commissions. And, if you’re an established artist, your goals may be associated with public lectures, publishing a retrospective of your work, and fellowship opportunities.

Stephen Covey, author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” encourages people to “begin with the end in mind.” Employ this method by making a list of your career goals and the things you’d like to accomplish in both the short and long term. Setting realistic and measurable goals can help get you organized, motivated, and keep you on track. Goal setting doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Start with small short-term goals and work your way up to larger long-term goals.

Once your goals are defined, you should develop a flexible plan for how you intend to approach the action items necessary to eventually accomplish your stated goals. Within your plan, detail the types of opportunities that you’re interested in pursuing. But, when evaluating opportunities, you should always ask yourself, “how does this move me closer to my goals?.” It’s important to ask this question because when you say yes to one thing you’re inevitably saying no to something else. This is known as an opportunity cost. Asking this question will help you avoid chasing opportunities that are not in line with your stated goals.

It’s important to reiterate, it can be detrimental to your career if you chase opportunities simply because potential funding is present. Time is a finite resource. Only say yes to those opportunities that move you closer to accomplishing your goals.

Unfortunately, opportunities don’t just present themselves, at least not often anyways. It takes time and effort to search for, review, and apply to opportunities. As a jumping off point, begin with reviewing programs offered by your local arts council. Erie Arts & Culture is a Regional Arts Agency in Northwestern Pennsylvania. We have a formal partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and we offer a menu of programs designed to support artists as they build their careers. Such programs include Project Grants, Artist Fellowships, Teaching Artist Residencies, and Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeships.

Online Resources for Identifying Opportunities

There is a swath of other online resources for identifying opportunities, including (but not limited to):

The Art Guide

The Art Guide is designed to support, promote and encourage the growth of art and spirit of creativity. It offers a comprehensive internet resource of up-to-date listings for exhibitions, events, and calls for entry.

Call for Entry and Application Management for the Arts (CAFE)

CaFÉ is a program of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) a regional nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to strengthening the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the West. WESTAF assists state arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists in their quest to serve diverse audiences, enrich the lives of local communities, and provide access to the arts and arts education for all.

Art Deadline

Since 1994 Art Deadine and the Access Arts® Network has been dedicated to the world wide distribution of information for artists and contemporary art institutions.

Creative Capital

Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counsel, gatherings, and career development services.

United States Artists

In 2003, the Urban Institute conducted a study which revealed that 96% of Americans valued art in their lives, while only 27% valued artists. Motivated by the study and in response to the NEA’s severe budget cuts, four inspiring leaders of the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations spearheaded the launch of an organization to illuminate the value of artists to American society and address their economic challenges. Since its founding in 2006, United Sates Artists has awarded more than 550 artists with over $25 million of direct support in all disciplines including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing. With this unrestricted award, Fellows decide for themselves how to best use the money – whether it is creating new work, paying rent, reducing debt, getting healthcare, or supporting their families.

National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government.

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

The mission of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), a state agency, is to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in Pennsylvania and to broaden the availability and appreciation of those arts throughout the state.

Online Resources for Artists and Arts-based Project Funding

It’s also beneficial if you research what foundations directly fund artists and arts-based projects, either nationwide or specifically in your region. Such foundations include:

Foundation for Contemporary Arts

Since its inception in 1963, the mission of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts has been to encourage, sponsor, and promote innovative work in the arts created and presented by individuals, groups, and organizations.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties.

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation was established in 1979 to promote and support multi-state arts programming in a region that includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the US Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. Over the last 35 years, the Foundation has expanded its reach to include national and international initiatives. The Foundation’s work is focused on performing arts touring, jazz, independent film, support for individual artists, and international cultural exchange.

The Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation

Since 1976, the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation has offered grants to individual visual artists through two programs: an annual Individual Support Grant and a separate program to assist visual artists in cases of catastrophic events through an Emergency Grant program.

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922. The Foundation offers Fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color, or creed.

The Virginia A. Groot Foundation

The Virginia A. Groot Foundation was established in 1988 so that artists working in three dimensions could have the opportunity to devote additional time and resources to the development of their work.

The Harpo Foundation

The Harpo Foundation is an artist-endowed non-profit organization dedicated to the support of emerging visual artists. They offer support via their grants and fellowships programs.

Jubilation Foundation

The Jubilation Foundation helps individuals and organizations with an exceptional talent for helping young people feel fully alive through rhythm - as expressed in music and dance.


The Pollock-Krasner Foundation

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. was established in 1985 for the sole purpose of providing financial assistance to individual visual artists of established ability through the generosity of the late Lee Krasner, one of the leading abstract expressionist painters and the widow of Jackson Pollock.

Sustainable Arts Foundation

The Sustainable Arts Foundation supports artists and writers with children. They make annual unrestricted cash awards to individuals; at least half of these awards are made to applicants of color.

The Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation

The Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation gives unrestricted cash awards to individual artists for the continuation of their work. Grantees are selected by a panel of judges consisting of artists and art professionals, many of whom are previous recipients of an RHCF grant.

Aaron Siskin Foundation

Photographer and educator Aaron Siskind (1903-1991) holds a preeminent place in the history of American photography.Since his death in 1991, the Aaron Siskind Foundation has been one of the few American organizations providing cash grants to individual photographic artists on a yearly basis. The Individual Photographer's Fellowship (IPF) review panel examines the work of upwards of 1,000 applicants each year, awarding a varying number of grants in amounts of up to $10,000.

W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund

The W. Eugene Smith Fund supports photographers whose work follows the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s humanistic photography and dedicated compassion evidenced during his 45-year career as a photographic essayist.

The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation

The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation was created in 1955 by Charles Glass Greendshields, a distinguished lawyer and amateur artist, in memory of his mother. To date, the Foundation has provided financial assistance to some 1,800 students and artists in 40 countries. First grants are in the amount of $15,000 CAD. Subsequent grants are in the amount of $18,000 CAD.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation

The Joan Mitchell Foundation celebrates the life of abstract artist Joan Mitchell by expanding awareness of her pioneering work and fulfilling her wish to support and provide opportunities for visual artists. Through grants, residencies, and related initiatives, the Foundation advances the work of today’s artists and amplifies their essential contributions to communities around the world.

Additional Opportunities for Artists to Review Include:


The MacArthur Fellowship

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Halcyon Arts Lab Fellowship

The Halcyon Arts Lab Fellowship is a nine-month program established to provide emerging artists with time and space to explore new ideas and ambitious projects in an environment of independent learning, study, and collaboration. The fellowship is designed to provide support and resources to emerging artists who desire to develop projects (at any stage) that promote meaningful social impact, and for those who wish to follow the path of leadership in the field of socially-engaged art. Halcyon Arts Lab accepts six national or international fellows and two DC-resident fellows in each year of the program. Fellows receive a dedicated studio, competitive financial scholarship, offsite residential accommodation and other benefits.

The MacDowell Colony Fellowship

The MacDowell Colony is the nation’s leading artist colony. Each year about 300 Fellowships, or residencies, are awarded to artists in seven disciplines: architecture, film/video arts, interdisciplinary arts, literature, music composition, theatre, and visual arts. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. MacDowell encourages applications from emerging and established artists representing the widest possible range of perspectives and demographics. Enrolled students are ineligible.

Kala Fellowship

The Kala Fellowship award is an international competition open to artists from the U.S. and around the world. Artists producing innovative work in all mediums including printmaking, digital media, installation art, social practice, photography, and book arts are encouraged to apply. Kala will award eight artists a $3,000 stipend, unlimited access to Kala’s facilities for up to six months, one Kala class, and a culminating show in the Kala Gallery in Berkeley, CA. The award is geared towards supporting artists in completing specific projects or bodies of work that would benefit from Kala’s specialized equipment in printmaking and digital media.


 Fullbright/National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

The Fulbright/National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship is a new component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program that provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and digital storytelling in up to three countries on a globally significant social or environmental topic. In addition to receiving Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.), Fellows will receive instruction in digital storytelling techniques and will be paired with one or more National Geographic editors. Applicants may submit proposals for grants to 1-3 foreign countries.

Sketch Model: Olin College Creative Residency

Olin College of Engineering hosts a creative residency program, an initiative that’s part of Sketch Model, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to bring artists and other creative practitioners to Olin’s campus to awaken the political and cultural contexts for technology. The residency is a one-year opportunity for early, mid-, and late-career practitioners and/or scholars in the arts or humanities to carry out independent projects, collaborative engagement with students and faculty, and campus-wide events. Practitioners can come from the fine arts, design and architecture, craft, music, theatrical or dance performance, film, writing, new media, and the many hybrid forms of socially engaged and durational practices in contemporary global culture. The stipend for the year is $75,000.

Harpo Foundation Emerging Artist Residency Fellowship

The Harpo Foundation’s Emerging Artist Residency Fellowship at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) was established in 2013 to provide an annual opportunity to an emerging visual artist 25 years and older who needs time and space to explore ideas and start new projects. Artist Fellows will receive a one-month residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, which includes a private room and bath, a private studio space, and a $500 travel stipend. Founded in 1985, the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) provides a unique opportunity for emerging artists to pursue creative projects without interruption. SFAI supports over 50 residents per year and offers a cohesive, arts-focused environment that creates the ideal working conditions for resident artists. Living and studio space is located within a nearly 17,000 square foot complex designed by renowned Mexican architect, Ricardo Legoretta. The unique SFAI environment allows residents to be as interactive or private as they wish. There are no requirements on the work produced during their time at SFAI.

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