At least from this artist's perspective. Many come to Santa Fe because it's one of the largest art markets in the country, and many have "made it" here. The lure of a better life, the weather, food, many cultures, and the amazing surreal landscape all attract artists from all over our globe. But there is one point that I'm trying to figure out, trying to express here. Is the art dream still alive in Santa Fe? I could only explain and explore from personal experience.
I think we know all by now that these are tough economic times. I'm tired of hearing about it, even more annoyed hearing it on the radio and seeing the many unemployed locals at the Department of Labor. Really tired. My compassion goes out to people who are struggling, but we need solutions, not alibis or excuses. From working in the Santa Fe gallery industry, many galleries are struggling to sell artwork and some are closing its doors, mostly due to low sales and high overhead. I was laid off from a gallery job 9 months ago due to business and restructuring. Sure it didn't feel good losing my job, and fortunately I still get unemployment benefits. It used to be easy to find work in no time, I'm used to bouncing back. As for day jobs go, I usually go for a graphic design or gallery job. Both have been very tough to find. Job fairs, interviews, networking, I'm working it all, but no results yet. But what about the art dream I came to Santa Fe for 3 years ago to pursue?
Fortunately as I stated before, I'm still receiving benefits and I also have tightened my belt for spending. I have paid off my credit card debt a few months back and postponed my student loan payments for now. I'm used to working 2 jobs, 6 or 7 days per week so this newfound freedom from not working has unleashed an unbelievably large time slot. Through the negativity and depressing moments, I decided to stop making excuses and to stop procrastinating. It was time to make positive changes, personally and professionally. Now is it a good time to follow that art dream? I may never have this opportunity, to take advantage of this gift of time. I've watched some art instruction videos, painted stronger artwork, received tons of support and advice, and even started a new artblog and website. It's truly a positive start in pursuing "the dream".
Here are some results of "the gift of time". I have seen a progression in my artwork, I feel more dedicated and focused without the hassles of a day job getting, even though I'm still looking. I've had some good fortune too, fortunately. A few days after getting laid off, I received an inquiry to do a mural for a local Santa Fe couple. This was my first commissioned piece and first mural, they saw a photo of a landscape I posted on Craigslist. It took several weeks to paint a very colorful landscape, I was working on a 6"x14" stucco wall in their condo courtyard. Best of all, they loved the results, I got paid well and thought, "Now I'm a real full time artist!" I was so grateful, this couldn't have come at a better time and I started to believe that fate steps in when you most need or desire it.
A few months later, another good fortune happened. I knew this one gallery owner in town and he offered me a p/t job working sales in his other gallery nearby. I was getting paid and becoming educated by learning how to be a better salesman on selling art. Best of all, I finally got my first gallery representation, one of my main goals, a contract that would last till the end of the year. Plus, to let people know that my work was hanging in a Santa Fe gallery, was important and I felt like once again, "a real artist". Fate stepped in again and I seized that opportunity. But the gallery closed like many others and I'm focusing on more opportunities again. See the trend? It's all about trying to move forward. Remember, no excuses.
So maybe the art dream is still alive after all. It's easy to be influenced by the negative stream of thought that many artists and media spew in the mainstream. I certainly feel my idealistic dream of being a full time artist has been tainted a bit by the some of the personal experiences I've endured living in Santa Fe. Heck, I've even considered moving to a bigger, progressive city where I can continue my pursuit of the dream. I've learned many valuable life lessons in the City Different but the ones that stick out the most are to look at the big picture. It's important to observe your own growth as an artist and person, through all kinds of adversity. And lastly, to accept yourself for who you are, warts and all. So is the Art dream still alive? Is it all still worth the struggle? Only if you want it to, that's all I really know for now.
Author: Joshua Lance, www.joshualp.com