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Preparing for the Business of Art

Go Pro with Ken Tan, 6 June 2023

In today's rapidly evolving world, professional development is critical for artists and other art practitioners to remain competitive and relevant. In Singapore, there were 1,931 graduates from diploma and degree courses from LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE), Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and the other local universities in 2021. This number is surely set to increase with the newly established University of the Arts that will welcome its first cohort in 2024.

While I am glad to see more universities and art institutions offering design, applied and fine arts course to cater to increasing numbers of young people who are keen on careers in art, many graduates of these courses struggle to make a sustainable living from their art practices.

While there are a gamut of factors to explain this phenomenon, I’d like to focus on one contributing factor: the relative unpreparedness of our emerging art practitioners for the business of art.

Our undergrads are educated in art concepts and trained to create and produce art, but many may not be adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills to market and sell their services and artworks, negotiate contracts, or manage their finances. There is also a lack of opportunity for meaningful internships when compared to undergrad work opportunities in the tech and finance sectors.

Do The Hustle with Chow & Lin, 21 July 2023

Professional development opportunities can fill this gap by providing aspiring art practitioners with the necessary tools and resources to succeed in the art world. These opportunities can take many forms, from workshops and seminars on business and marketing to mentorship programmes and networking events. Professional development also offers the means to expand skills and knowledge in the field of art. Art practitioners who invest in their professional development can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques in their area of expertise. This can help them produce higher quality work, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and attract more clients.

Moreover, professional development can help with building a strong professional network, which is crucial for success in the art industry. Networking events and mentorship programmes provide opportunities for artists to connect with peers, industry experts, and potential clients. These connections can lead to new collaborations, projects, and opportunities for career advancement.

Level Up with John Tung, 22 July 2023

Additionally, professional development can help with keeping art practitioners motivated and inspired in their work. Artistic careers can be isolating, and it can be challenging to stay motivated and inspired when working alone. Attending workshops, conferences, and other professional development opportunities can provide artists with a sense of community and support, and expose them to new ideas and perspectives that can fuel their creativity.

Get Lit with Ron Tu, 22 July 2023

One example of an initiative that affords support to art practitioners is the Arts Resource Hub (ARH) by the National Arts Council. The ARH is a one-stop online platform that provides artists with access to information, resources, and services related to the arts. It offers a range of professional development opportunities, including training on business skills, funding opportunities, and networking events.

Art Outreach’s latest initiative that offers professional development talks and workshops is our effort to help address this gap in our ecosystem.

Meant as a corollary to complement [ h e a r t h ], our programme that offers free space to art practitioners, the professional development workshops present opportunities to delve into a variety of key topics with industry experts.

Go Pro with Ken Tan, 6 June 2023

We announced the first workshop on May 7: the session took place on 6 June featuring Ken Tan, Director of Lehmann Maupin Gallery, who drew on his extensive experience of working with artists in museums and galleries across the world. During his workshop, Ken shared advice and tips on how gallery-artist relationships work, and how to build a strong portfolio that would put artists in good stead to secure meaningful career opportunities. In less than half a day, all 70 spots for the workshop were fully booked. We take this as a strong signal that programmes like this one are very much in demand by the art practitioners we serve. Since then, we have organised several more professional development workshops including one with artist duo Chow & Lin, an installation workshop with curator John Tung, and a lighting workshop with Ron Tu and Joseph Pang from Auxilio Studio.

To sustain a career in art, it’s essential to treat your career like a business. The reality is that artworks and professional expertise alone do not sell themselves. One needs to be equipped with business skills and savvy to navigate the industry successfully. Professional development opportunities can provide art practitioners with the resources they need to thrive amidst increasingly formidable competition. While I urge practitioners to invest in themselves, and take advantage of available opportunities, I also call on others in our community to contribute their talent and time to this enterprise. It certainly takes a village, and I look forward to seeing a proliferation of professional development opportunities for the arts sector.

Please keep an eye out for upcoming workshops in our professional development series, and do reach out if you have suggestions for topics. We welcome all ideas and anyone who would like to pitch in!

Please reach out to me via our contact page, or send us a DM via our Instagram account @artoutreachsingapore.

Mae Anderson

Chairman, Art Outreach Singapore


1Source: Ministry of Education. (2022). Education Statistics Digest

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