November 1, 2018 | Alyson Stanfield

How to Choose the Right Artist Group for You

I’m sure you’ve been to group meetings where you thought to yourself, What in the world am I doing here? Those are groups you want to exit quickly. No sense hanging around.

©Terri Lindbloom, 2.0. Plexi, concrete blocks, found imagery, and clamp, installation. Used with permission.
©Terri Lindbloom, 2.0. Installation. Plexi, concrete blocks, found imagery, and clamp. Used with permission.

Maybe it’s just not the right group for you. Or maybe it’s because it’s not well organized. I used this special podcast to talk— just me—about artist groups.

Being an artist is lonely and most artists need to spend time around others to thrive. There are 4 primary reasons to be part of an organized and well-run group.

  • Inspiration and Motivation
  • Opportunities and Connections
  • Support
  • Accountability

And there are 4 attributes to pay attention to in an artist group that should match your goals and ambition.

  • Vision
  • Members
  • Structure
  • Leadership

I discuss all of them in this episode. I'll also give you a few red flags to look out for.

Do listen to the full podcast (it’s shorter than most) and take notes. Or read the show notes below. After witnessing hundreds of artist groups thrive and fail, I have a few thoughts that could save you time and frustration when you’re looking for your tribe.

Music: Keep It Simple by Wildermiss. Used with permission.
Listen to or subscribe on iTunes.

Reasons You Should Join an Artist Group

Let’s acknowledge that much of the work you do—whether it’s working in the studio or at your computer—is done alone. There’s nothing wrong with that. Most of my work is done alone and I love it. Love that I don’t have a boss to report to. Love that I don’t have to deal with volunteers, the public, and a board of directors, as I did when I worked in art museums.

I love working by myself! I love working with my team, too. I love working FOR myself.

But it has its limits. I have to get out—get away from the computer, get out of the office, and talk with other people, especially artists, to be fulfilled.

There are 4 primary reasons to be part of an organized and well-run group. I’ve experienced them for myself and witnessed them in my clients. So here they are.

Inspiration & Motivation for Your Studio Work

You need inspiration for your work in the studio. I’m not talking about copying group members’ art. I’m talking about being inspired by their work ethic and production. It’s easier to up your game when you surround yourself with forward-thinking artists who practice what they preach.

You need inspiration for business ideas and strategies. It’s so helpful to hear what worked and what didn’t work for other artists. And WHY. Sure, you can read stuff on the Internet, but there are plenty of subtleties you miss when you don’t get your info directly from the people with the experience.

And you need motivation to follow through on that inspiration.

Opportunities for Your Art Career

As a member of an artist organization or group, you will hear about opportunities you never knew existed if you hadn’t been part of it. You’ll hear about them before they are ever published because I believe most artists are like the artists in my programs. You’re generous with your ideas and resources.

You’re also more likely to make contacts that lead to the next step on your career path. Why? Because you’re forming deeper relationships with more people and those deeper relationships are valuable for building trust and sharing. It might be another artist that you can collaborate with or a tip for a new venue.

Support for Your Art Career Ambitions

So many artists do not have sideline cheerleaders in the form of friends or family. Some people just don’t get you, and that breaks my heart. It’s hard to thrive when the people you’re closest to aren’t building you up, aren’t showing up for you.

If you’re in this predicament, you’ve gotta get your own cheering squad. An artist group has a built-in support system. Without this, you’ll find it hard to get excited about making art and sharing it.

Accountability

Have you ever started a day with high hopes that THIS was going to be the day that you finally get that project done? The one that has been on your to-do list for god-knows-how-long? And then, two hours later, you’re still on Facebook? Or perhaps you caved to your neighbor who grabbed you for coffee?

You need accountability! I believe you’ll be most successful when you hold yourself accountable, but sometimes you need a little extra push from a coach or an accountability partner. Or peer pressure motivates you into action.

Whatever it takes! And you can find loads of accountability by being involved in a well-organized group.

Strong Artist Groups Have a Purpose

Don’t join just any group. It has to be the right fit or it’s a waste of time.

Here’s the thing about strong artist groups. They have purpose. They exist not just because some artist wanted to hang out with other artists. They are working toward something.

They have vision.

A lot of people join groups without really understanding WHY they're joining. Maybe they’re lonely. Maybe they have a friend in the group. Or maybe … who knows?

All members need to understand and buy into the vision so they know they’re in the right place. You can’t be annoyed by members who don’t fit in with your group if you have never told them what’s expected of them.

Your group is only as strong as the weakest member. The wrong members will drag your group down, and I’ll tell you what I mean by the wrong members. Wrong members:

  • Leave negative or whiney posts in the group forum
  • Always ask for help but rarely offer it
  • Don’t participate in any group activities
  • Don’t volunteer to help out

Those aren’t the right people. I've written before about breaking up with the wrong group.

Diversity Makes Your Artist Group Stronger

The strongest groups have members with diverse experience and viewpoints. What I’m about to say is controversial, but I’ve seen too many artists get stuck by hanging out ONLY with members who work in the same medium or genre. Maybe it's a watercolor or pastel group. Or fiber or clay. Or photography.

Artists focused only on connecting with other artists who work in a similar medium will not grow as much creatively. You enter the same shows year after year. Show in the same safe places. Not really taking risks.

Your work will always be better and you’ll always be a better businessperson when you venture beyond the limited world of your medium and genre.

Art has never been created in a vacuum and is always enriched when it incubates in a varied environment.

So that’s about the members of your group. Now I want to talk about how the group stays together.

What Makes an Artist Group Worth Your Time

I believe that in order for a group to function well, the members need to know (1) what they can expect and (2) what is expected of them.

The group’s vision that I stressed earlier will take care of a good chunk of that, but there has to be some sort of structure. Are there meetings? How often and where? Regular events? Is there an online forum or member site? A website?

These aren’t small things. Running a group is a lot like running an entire business and it’s difficult to do by committee (when everyone has to agree before proceeding). It’s also hard to find volunteers to do the jobs.

Who is going to herd the members for meetings and events? And who is going to poke members who are inactive or haven’t paid their dues?

I’m sure you’ve been to group meetings where you thought to yourself, What in the world am I doing here? Those are groups you want to exit quickly. No sense hanging around.

Maybe it’s just not the right group for you.

Or maybe it’s because it’s not well organized.

Groups need a leader. Someone has to be in charge to organize meetings and events. I believe this is why so many artist groups fail— because they are leader-less. It’s hard to ask busy people to volunteer and those who do often get burnt out by doing all of the heavy lifting.

Those are my thoughts for now. Artist groups fail when they don’t have:

  • A clear vision as to why they exist.
  • The right members who buy into and support the vision.
  • Structure so that the members know what they can expect and what’s expected of them.
  • A leader. Someone has to be in charge.

If your group isn’t providing you with the inspiration and motivation, opportunities, support, and accountability you need, please take a moment to check out my Art Career Success System. While it is a community for learning, it's full of committed, ambitious artists who are focused on their work and business.

I’m certain you won’t find this level of support from people with our experience at such an affordable investment anywhere else.

>> Join us! <<

Music: Keep It Simple by Wildermiss. Used with permission.
Listen to or subscribe on iTunes.
Updated: December 23, 2019

 

 

7 comments add a comment
  • Thank you for this. Great information, I listened to it twice just to make sure it sunk in.

  • Margit

    Thanks for this interesting podcast. I have been in a ‘wrong group’ myself. I guess you can only find out its deficiencies when you are inside and become acquainted with the members.

  • Hiya;
    This is sinking in more and more as I work on my goals from Golden Mastermind, and confirming how true and appropriate it will be for me! Can’t we make holograms of everybody to beam up when we meet?

  • Great Podcast Alyson! So much useful info!

    But what about those organizations that seem to have a great vision, space, community etc. and also that one person. You know, the one who sucks all the oxygen out of the room? Always wants things done their way and ram it through come heck or high water?

    I have sadly watched one great organization implode from this-seems to be the ones with all volunteers. How would you recommending handling that? Either the organization or the power play…

    Thanks!

  • Great podcast! Listened to it on the way home from Asheville Mastermind. It gave me some things to think about given my frustrations with one of the groups I belong to. Thanks :-)

  • Sally-Ann Davies

    This is just what I needed to hear. I started an Art Group a few years ago, now it has turned really nasty. Listening to this podcast has lifted my spirits and I am now ready to move on in the direction I want to go. We all need support from other artists. Finding the best group of artists for you is so important. Thank you for sharing.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Oh no! That doesn’t sound productive or fun. Glad you’re moving on, Sally-Ann.

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