The Art Biz ep. 3: The Value of Community for Artists

Community is essential for artists. Not just for your well-being, but for the well-being of your art.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, Michael Keen and I talk about his background with artists’ communities and the value of community. In particular, community can provide:

  • Validation
  • Inspiration
  • Motivation
  • Constructive feedback

As you’ll hear, other things came up.

©Gloria J Callahan, Life’s Bowl. Colored pencil on paster hardboard, 18 x 18 inches. Used with permission.
©Gloria J Callahan, Life’s Bowl. Colored pencil on paster hardboard, 18 x 18 inches. Used with permission.

We stumbled over the title of Malcolm Gladwell’s first book, but if you hang tight, the words come to me later in the program. (It’s also below – under Mentioned.)

Listen in and enjoy Michael’s insights.

Song: Resolution (Cover) by Emma Drae. Used with permission.


Big Table Art Talks
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
How to ask for feedback, give it, and receive it
Ambitious artists – why you should own your ambition

About My Guest

Michael Keen is an illustrator, designer, and fine artist. He is the former owner of a coffee shop in one of Denver’s premier art districts – where he created “coffee art” – a skill he continues to teach to baristas.

As if that isn’t enough, Michael is also the program director for Art Gym Denver here in Colorado.

Click here to subscribe to the Art Biz Podcast on iTunes and leave us a rating. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on community in a comment below.

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21 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 3: The Value of Community for Artists”

  1. Yes, I am listening and I want to hear more.

    Michael is one sharp guy – so astute.

    I second Loretta’s request for a transcription. Transcription is not an inexpensive service, but if you find you get enough interest, I know I’d love it.

    Alyson, you and Michael hit on many valuable points. Yes, some of those points we may have heard before, but we’re not always in the right place in our lives the first few times we hear them.

    To hear them once again is reinforcement and validation. And hearing them in a slightly different way, they finally begin to take hold.

    One question: At 31:55 you said “some of my clients do surveys… if they teach they might do a survey and ask [their potential students] ‘what do you want me to teach?’ and I’m like, ‘don’t ask people that'” – I played that bit a few times and still am not clear. Could you please explain what you meant?

    One of my takeaways: “Art is all about connection to other people. The best art is made through connection and not working in a vacuum.”

    Thank you, Alyson. More, please.

    1. Jay: Sorry. Sometimes I do that when I think I’m getting off-track – skim over a point.

      What I meant is that most of the time people don’t know what they want or need. And what they tell you in those surveys is most likely something that you either can’t or don’t want to deliver on.

      So, let them vote or give them options, but don’t ask an open-ended question that might lead to a whole bunch of feedback that you can’t use.

      Does that help?

  2. I LOVED this podcast. It took me all day to hear it, with my household interruptions, and I’m so glad that I did get to hear all of it. Fantastic. He is really neat and brought out a lot of interesting points and ideas. I liked how he got you to answer too, because I learned a lot from both of you. I went to his website, and his work is gorgeous. His buttons on his website are to reach out to him, like send him an email, instead of to subscribe or follow him, though. He is someone that I would want to see what new thing he is doing. Thank you for this podcast and all that you do.

    1. Lou: So happy you could listen.

      Michael used to be the co-host of a local art podcast – a really good one that, sadly, is no more. So he used an old trick and started interviewing me. Sly devil.

  3. I really enjoyed the whole discussion about community and the parts of the podcast about art school. I got to go to art school, SFAI, and it was really tough, but amazing. It’s so different being out and I miss what that was. The quality and depth of conversations, especially compared to my current life as a homeschool mom running a gaming club. I meet many nice people and I’ve created a community for my kids and I as unschoolers and gamers. I’m a connector type too. I haven’t done any of that for me as an artist. It’s just me, trying to keep learning and keep doing. The parts of the podcast about your neat thing in October in Colorado with 100 artists and about art school, really hit a lonely spot for me and something that I miss – community and being around other artists. Thank you, listening has made me aware that I miss all of that so much. I think I need to put some of the same energy toward connecting with other artists as I have put toward for my kids connecting with other unschoolers and gamers. 😀 I shied away from art communities as I made less and less art after having kids. I didn’t feel worthy to join, needing to make more art to allow myself to join, but by not having a community it was harder to make art, in a vacuum of ‘mommyhood’, child autism, etc.

  4. Fascinating. I am just so envious of any artist living close enough to use the Art Gym – it sounds like artistic Heaven! Having an art community is a big issue for me. I live in a small city in the middle of nowhere and am very frustrated by not having an art community here that I can really be a part of. Our local art center is a nice resource for the city and for hobbyists, but not for people who are striving to improve their skills or wanting to create a career in the visual arts. I have volunteered and taught there for years since I do want to support them because I think they are a good resource for the city (and heck, it’s all I’ve got here), but any innovative suggestions I have for classes or to increase membership or community outreach – including ideas that I offer to do myself for free for the center – are, more often than not, ignored. I get the impression that they all think I’m weird for wanting to improve my art skills, for focusing on professionalism and such. They are satisfied with running the center the way it’s always been run. Dealing with them often gives me a headache and lately I have scaled back my involvement with them. So I rely on the internet for my art community, but it is lonely. This post gives me a chance to say that Art Biz Blog has been a lifeline for me. Thank you!

    1. Oh, Elaine. I’m so happy to hear that we’ve been helpful for you.

      It’s nice that you want to help, but it’s just so frustrating when the receiving end isn’t ready to receive. I’ve learned that over the years.

  5. Hi Alyson,
    First let me say “Thank You So Much For showing my colored pencil painting “Life’s Bowl” On your blog this time. I am so honored to have you notice my art!” I follow your blog and your advise is always very helpful and referred back to frequently. Love this post and the community involvement.

    Art communities in my rural area have been a challenge, I and a few others tried to start one 5 years back but it lacked enough interest to continue. Going into Richmond helped and I am a juried member of a the largest and most active here, but their demands are great with the 80 20 rule more like 90 10. And I have had to cut back because all the volunteering left me no time to create art with my additional teaching in my home studio. But I hunger for the a small group of profession striving artists who I can make a bond with. One where I’m not the mentor (although I value that capacity) but am one of a few who share mentoring and support each other. Thank you again for helping artists with this blog!

  6. Thank you for this timely podcast…the Art Gym is an interesting concept!
    Seems like it would work best for designers and those who work on a small scale…because of sharing the space and leaving it ready for the next person.
    You couldn’t b creating huge sculptures!
    Need to listen again… to make sure i understand the concept.
    Maybe i am not getting it.
    You always seems to have your finger on the dial Alyson…and know what your people need and want maybe even before we do!
    Hmmm…sounds like Steve Jobs…❗❗❗♻

  7. Lyna Lou Nordstrom

    Great reminder about not being isolated! The Gym idea sounds great to keep interaction alive and also to make access to many tools that not everyone needs all the time available. Michael’s “joy” about doing his taxes made me realize why I don’t relish doing mine!! I don’t have the big income or increasing income that shows up in my taxes! Instead I realize that I spent another year supporting my art instead of it supporting me.
    Hope to change that soon!!

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