Roughly once a month, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.
Mass Cultural Council is proud to support artists with Artist Fellowships for excellence, but monetary grants are only one among numerous ways an artist might receive support. We asked a group of artists in different disciplines, What kinds of support have been most important to you?
Lucy Kim, visual artist
The most critical support comes from my closest friends and family. It’s an emotional and intellectual support that I would be utterly lost without. They are the ones I trust to be brutally honest with me when it matters most.
There is also the more public kind of validation and support that have been tremendously important. A year ago, I met Lisa Cooley and joined her gallery. I learned what it meant to have the support of a professional and ambitious gallerist – someone with a vision and a long view of things. The MacDowell Colony and Skowhegan both provided residencies where I was able to retreat and make work for two months at a time. This year, I was honored to receive an Artadia Award, which helps so much with production costs as I gear up for my first solo show.
Kate Leary, writer
This year, for the first time, I received support for my fiction in the form of grants – from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. I’m a parent of two young children, and I’m spending almost all of this money on childcare so I can work on my novel. Financial support is concrete, quantifiable, and exactly what I need right now. Knowing that my work was judged to be deserving of support matters, too. I’m approaching this novel with a level of confidence I’ve never felt before. Winning a residency at I-Park a few years ago provided a similar boost.
For a long time, I’ve been supported in ways that are less official but no less precious. My husband has never made me feel as though it’s overindulgent to invest time and money into writing fiction. When our youngest was two and we couldn’t fit babysitting into our budget, he juggled his work schedule so I could always have five hours a week to write that year. Support in the early days of parenting came from friends who enthusiastically agreed to childcare swaps that I probably needed more than they did. Before that, it came from teachers who encouraged me, and from writer friends who still read my work and help me improve it. Support has come from my entire family, but especially from my mom, a librarian who drove me around to branch libraries tirelessly so I could read exactly the books I was desperate to read.
Eric Gottesman, photographic artist and organizer
I feel the love from many places: my friends and family, funders, curators that want to show my work, residencies and organizations that have helped me produce it, partners in community-based projects, etc. But the one well of support I find myself returning to again and again is my community of fellow artists. There are several groups of artists I have met (in grad school, at residencies, in cities I’ve lived in) that I stay in touch with and, whenever we get a chance to hang out, there often arises an uncomfortable moment when one of us asks the rest to look at a proposal or a work in progress and give feedback; then the avalanche begins and everyone chimes in “Me too!” We depend on each other. We are friends but an important part of our friendship is our desire to be entwined in each other’s practices. A kind of deep understanding over many years results from watching someone develop and change.
Vanessa Michalak, painter
As an artist, the emotional support that I’ve received from people in my life has been invaluable. My friends, family members, teachers and significant other have helped me achieve more than I possible could have alone. So much about being an artist can be paralleled to the dedication of an athlete that shows up day after day to practice. On the toughest days, filled with self doubt and fear, the kindness, love and encouragement of all these special people is what gets me through and keeps me coming back to my art again and again.
Eric Gottesman is a photographic artist and organizer. His first book, Sudden Flowers, was published in October 2014 by Fishbar.
Lucy Kim is a visual artist who lives and works in New York City and Cambridge, MA. She has a solo show at Lisa Cooley in NYC opening on Jan. 11, 2015.
Vanessa Michalak is a painter who recently returned from an artist residency at PLAYA in Oregon. Her work will exhibit at Boston City Hall in May 2015.
Images: Lucy Kim, MARILYN MARKS (JON AND LUCY) (2013), oil paint and plastic on wood panel, 16×12 in; Vanessa Michalak, HOME SWEET HOME (2013), oil on canvas, 36×48 in.