Finding Community in the Arts

I am an artist. It took me awhile to say that out loud.

Here I am, though, a working artist. I not only create and sell my jewelry, but I’ve branched out into painting and making zines. I also run a large local arts organization. How does someone who quietly tinkers with beads and metal get to a place where she is now organizing art shows, gallery openings, demonstrations, and supporting over one hundred artists? She gets there by her desire to connect with other like-minded souls, people who want to build relationships with other artists.

When my job as a pastry chef with a cake boutique ended, I decided to ramp up my jewelry making, which at that point was only a hobby. I thought I’d try to sell it at shows or on the internet. I noticed in my local paper that an artists’ group met monthly just ten minutes from my house, so I decided to check out a meeting. Perhaps I would meet other artists who were further along in the business side of selling their art. I immediately joined, and along the way, I’ve expanded my art knowledge, met a great group of friends, and have gained the job of running the organization.

I started making jewelry a few years ago, first giving it away to friends. Soon I realized that maybe I could try to sell some of it. I figured, if I sold a couple of pieces, I could then afford to make more. But what if you know nothing about the art business? I joined our art group, the Wellington Art Society (WAS), in September of 2008. In November I entered my first two-day, outdoor art show, complete with white tent, and a nice display of my jewelry. The WAS ran this show and made it very easy for me. They provided tent rentals, and it was set up waiting for me when I arrived. Volunteers showed me where to go and encouraged me. Many of the members are veterans of art shows and gave me great advice. I know that if I hadn’t connected with this group, I never would have entered a show. I sold many jewelry pieces that weekend, and have participated in other successful shows since.

jewelry

The WAS holds monthly meetings, which is a great way to meet other artists. At the start of each meeting, we have a “show and tell” portion, with a theme. The theme is announced the prior month, so if you’d like, you work on a new piece to bring to the next meeting. Recently, we chose the theme “A Wing and a Prayer.” About a dozen artists interpreted that theme through acrylic, oil, watercolor, pencil, and collage, impressing everyone with their creativity. The idea is to make time each month to create.

I’ve recently invited some friends to my home to paint. We bring our own supplies, open a bottle of wine, and we each paint and gab. At the end of the day, you have a completed canvas, or at the very least a work-in-progress, and the memory of a fun afternoon with friends. For me, it was a bold step to paint in front of others, since I’m self-taught. After meeting so many friendly and encouraging people, I’ve overcome my fears, and completed many new paintings for my home.

Paintings

We also invite artists, either in our group or not, to give demonstrations at each of our meetings. We’ve enjoyed presentations of encaustic wax painting, collage with paper and paint, and Photoshop manipulation of paintings. These are all things I would never have been exposed to on my own. Not only did we learn new techniques, but we met new people. To me, that’s the best reason to be a part of a group.

I’ve also learned about the business side of selling art. If I hadn’t put my jewelry in a show, I wouldn’t have thought about developing my business brand. Now, I’ve created a name for my business, business cards, jewelry tags, and I showcase new art and inspirations in my blog. I walk around the art shows, and see what other artists are doing: how have they set up their tent? How do they display their art? How many pieces do they display? Being a part of a group means that we are all in this together, and we are all supporting one another. Our members share their ideas freely.

Suzanne Redmond with her jewelry

Joining this group has also increased my social life tremendously. When I hear that a member is showing their art in a gallery, I’ll attend the opening night. I often bring a group of friends, whether they’re in this group or not, and make a night of it. We’ll walk around the reception, enjoy the art, wine, and snacks, and meet the other artists. As for connections, you never know when someone you meet today might provide you an opportunity in the future – or perhaps become another friend. These social events are just plain fun.

The Art Society also arranges outings to local museums, and we have lunch together afterward. If you’re like most people, there are probably many museums in town that the tourists visit, but you’ve never seen. Search around and you may find that most museums have free days for locals. Most gallery openings are free, or have a nominal fee that goes to charity. I now have a group of friends I can call any time when I want to visit a gallery, walk around an art show, or check out a new art store.

When I joined the Wellington Art Society, I wanted to be more than just a member. I realized it took a lot of volunteers to run an art show, and wanted to get involved. Three months into it, I attended a Board of Directors planning meeting. A few months after that, I took a job planning the monthly meetings, and became a member of the Board. Today, I am in my second year as its President. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone takes that career path, but I will say that volunteering with a group of like-minded people can be extremely rewarding. You’ll become more connected with your community. You’ll meet interesting, adventurous people, and in the process, you’ll push yourself to grow as an artist.

Joining a group is adventurous. Walking in to a meeting where you know no one is adventurous. Volunteering to work on a committee is adventurous. And as I’ve found, standing up, showing off your art, or demonstrating it in front of others, is adventurous. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The first step I took was alone, but I’ve never been alone since I joined this inspiring group.

The Wellington Art Society was formed in Wellington, Florida 30 years ago. It now has members from all over Palm Beach County. If you would like to learn how to start an arts group in your community, please drop me a line. I can be reached at sredmond75@comcast.net. 

Category: Connections

Suzanne Redmond

About Suzanne Redmond:

Suzanne lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She has worked as a financial analyst, contracts manager, computer specialist, pastry chef, private chef, and restaurant manager. She uses the business and creative sides of all those jobs in her present career as an artist and president of the Wellington Art Society. Visit her blog Blue Sand Studio for more about Suzanne.

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Suzanne, I loved the article , so explicit and covering many of the positive reasons to join our group, The Wellington Art Society. As a member for over 6 years where I have enjoyed many of the opportunities that WAS gives to its members to show and sell their art, and make friends in the same field.
    I now exhibit and sell my art as a professional, have opened my own Studio-Gallery, Fine Art at West Best here in West Palm Beach, Florida , where I exhibit my work , paint and teach art, I can say that WAS was the group that gave me the head start.
    Ursula E. Fernandez

  2. barbara bailey says:

    Hi Susan, What a great article. Loved the photo’s of your beautiful jewelry. Your a wonderful asset to W.A.S. and a terrific lady. Regards,Barbara

  3. Linda Rovolis says:

    Suzanne,
    Well like they say “ask a busy person”… Loved your line about your first step was alone but you haven’t been alone since, I feel the same way. WAS was part of my new adventure in Florida, opening the door to amazing people and surprising success through this wonderful organization. Thank you for putting this great experience into words. linda

  4. Suzanne says:

    See? I told you it was a great group!

  5. Phyllis Silk says:

    Great article, Great group of people, and you sure do your job well.

  6. Suzanne, Great article!!!! See you at our next meeting!

  7. Adrianne Hetherington says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for putting into words all the possibilities and opportunities of membership in the Wellington Art Society. I, too, have learned a great deal from the many demonstrations over the years and I have made so many friends with similar interests. I consider the W.A.S. my second family.
    And congratulations on your second year as pres of the W.A.S. Great job!!!!! See you at the Open House Sept. 14th, 2011. Wellington Community Center. 6:30pm

  8. Leslie Pfeiffer says:

    Suzanne
    Wonderful article!
    Thank you for your enthusiasm and committment to bringing art and community together.

  9. Shaiha says:

    I loved the article. Makes me really want to look around to find such a group in my area. I especially like the social aspects as I tend to be a hermit and working from home doesn’t help that out much.