The Art Biz ep. 160: Overcoming Anxiety about Making Art World Connections with Heather Beardsley

Heather Beardsley’s art has been influenced by extensive travel and residencies in diverse cultures. This started with her year in Vienna as a Fulbright Scholar and then continued for several years until the pandemic shut down her residency in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Heather Beardsley dollhouse
©Heather Beardsley, Strange Plants, Dollhouse. Air-dry clay and acrylic varnish on artist's childhood dollhouse, 30 x 32.5 x 25 inches.

Like everyone else, Heather had to pivot upon returning to the U.S. She used the downtime to her advantage by getting organized and shaping her career path.

In our conversation in this episode of The Art Biz, you’ll hear how she managed to transform her social anxiety into opportunities—realizing that real growth could only happen when she overcame the urge to play it safe by sticking to open calls for entry.

Heather has learned to navigate the complex art world with intention while connecting with institutions and curators to propel her career.

She shares her experiences of the following:

  • Securing exhibition fees, grants, and residencies while managing expectations.
  • The importance of being organized and ready for opportunities.
  • Using Microsoft OneNote to organize opportunities and deadlines.
  • Building authentic relationships within the art world where so much can seem transactional.

You’ll also hear about Heather’s current solo show at the Chrysler Museum of Art and how it came about.


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“I think it just forces you to grow as a person being in other cultures constantly. It's very easy when you're in one place to surround yourself with people who are like you, who think like you, and so it takes much more effort to force yourself out of your comfort zone, but when you're traveling that just has to happen.”—Heather Beardsley

On anxiety about reaching out to art world players: “The people that reach out too much, they're not worried that they're reaching out too much. So the fact that we're conscientious enough to have some concerns and think through it means that you're probably okay.”—Heather Beardsley

“You have to just keep applying year after year. And in the meantime you still need to be doing things.”—Heather Beardsley

“There’s a difference between making professional connections and using people.”—Alyson Stanfield

Heather Beardsley working in studio
Heather working on a large sculpture at her La Box residency in Bourges, France in the spring of 2022.

About My Guest

Heather Beardsley creates mixed-media projects at the intersection of art, science, and environmental issues, resulting in her first solo museum exhibition, Heather Beardsley: Strange Plants, at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA in 2023.

Upon receiving her MFA in fiber from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, Heather spent a year in Vienna, Austria on a Fulbright Scholarship for Installation Art. She has shown her work both nationally and internationally, including group exhibitions at Science Gallery Dublin, Museo del Traje in Madrid, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and Museum Rijswijk in the Netherlands.

Follow her on Instagram @heather_beardsley

Heather Beardsley

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