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New Artists in New Cities

A Parallel Planets piece by Nicole Lane
I moved to Chicago almost exactly a year ago. The winter was rough, but the opportunities were endless--I was, and still am, ecstatic. Prior to the move, I was growing up and attending college in North Carolina. The south is a place where the tea is sweet, the "bless your hearts" are frequent, and the art is underwhelming. Since moving from the friendly south, to the even friendlier American Midwest, I have been exposed to a world of conceptualism, free museums, and weekly artists talks. My calendar is always full and my creative thoughts are excessively flowing. 

The "beginning" for me started last year when I arrived in the Windy City with my very new boyfriend, and my very new college degree. With no concise vision for my future and an excitement to try all things creative, I indulged in the artistic opportunities handed to me by my refreshing city. I immediately began attending alternative spaces, as well as professional galleries, such as Roman Susan, The Hyde Park Art Center, Kitchen Space, and LVL3, to only list a few. Exposing myself to the Chicago art scene allowed me to taste-test what the local artists were creating and what they were interested in discussing. In addition to constantly moving and always discovering, I began to work on my personal oeuvre and experiment with various techniques and conceptual ideas (note: this is still a work in progress. 2015, be good to me).

Below are five simple, yet important, tips for surviving a new city while being a new artist. Chin up, youngin', it's a long ride. 

Photo by Nicole Lane, from the project "140 Miles South of Albuquerque"

Tip #1: Go to everything. 

I mean, everything, Fill your calendar all the way up. If I can venture outside during the polar vortex, you can dedicate your time to the arts. My personal calendar has something written down every week, sometimes multiple days. Many times, I have to choose between several events--picking which one would be more beneficial, often choosing the event with free food and a lecture.  Artist talks, historical discussions, opening receptions and film screenings are apart of my creative lifestyle. I try and attend everything and anything to get a sense of what I want and what I don't want, who I like and who I don't like. Nevertheless, I go. Experience is the best education and my past year as a wide-eyed beginner has been filled with events such as a lecture by the experimental filmmaker John Smith, an opening reception of Mathias Poledna, and several BFA and MFA shows at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Get out there and self-educate. 

Tip #2: Apply everywhere, don't limit yourself. 

Emerging artists believe this terrible, terrible, phrase that, "all artists are starving artists". What complete rubbish. For me personally, this is still one of the most disheartening and earth shattering notions around the topic of the artists. It's as if artists are set up to believe in failure. You don't have to work at that coffee shop, or bus that table, or "get by". Apply your little heart out to as many creative jobs as possible. Get rejected. Refine your CV. Apply to jobs where you aren't qualified. Get rejected again. Rejoice at the successful interview. 

If this is all completely out of touch with your current situation, whether it be financial or geographical, devote your free time away from your coffee shop job to your unpaid internship on Saturdays at a gallery like ThreeWalls. Expose yourself to the art world and eventually opportunities will arise. Spend all of your waking moments bettering yourself for a creative future. 
I began writing for Parallel Planets last year when I first moved to Chicago. My beginnings with the online magazine have now evolved into the beginnings of a writing career. I am currently writing for five magazines and officially consider myself a freelance art writer. Without reaching out to Erin and Parallel Planets, I wouldn't have considered becoming a writer for the Chicago based area. 

Dreams are real and everyone should chase them. 

Tip #3: Make connections but don't network. 

Become friends with artists but don't simply talk to so-and-so from gallery [x] because you are eyeballing that blank wall space and want to rise high in the art world. Consider who you are talking to and consider why you want to be connected to the said individual who has a position in the art community. 

Wherever you are in the world, just be nice. We are all trying to make it and we should all try to make it together. Yes, I'm aware that the competition is steep and yes, I know batting your eyes and overly complimenting a curator may seen like a easy way to succeed but I urge you to break this pattern and work as a collective team. Your new found friend could become your collaborator, a studio-mate, or a necessary mentor--let's all be genuine and connect, connect, connect! 

Tip #4: Stick to a schedule. 

Let's face it, I'm a millennial. I'm 24 years young and still figuring all of my complicated shit out. In 2014, I learned how to parallel park. Sort of. I rode my first public transportation alone. My partner taught me how to correctly load a dishwasher and I still revert to being a 10 year old child when I visit my moms house on Christmas. Like I said, I'm figuring things out. A few months ago, I moved into my first studio at Mana Contemporary located in the Pilsen neighborhood. Mana is a six story warehouse building which has been renovated into beautiful studio and storage spaces for local artists. Since moving in, I have utilized the space as a creative office and have begun my personal routine. I wake up to my alarm at 7:30 AM, I shower (trust me, this is huge), I make coffee (the most important addition), I pack a lunch (sometimes a boiled egg, often cookies), and I drive 15 minutes to my studio where I work until 5 or 6 PM. By beginning this routine, I have a regular work day which requires me to create, write, and research future project. Obviously, not everyone has the same schedule at me, but a day spent painting, photographing, sculpting, or whatever else, will allow you to fully utilize the time allotted. 

This is a Public Service Announcement: Once you're done reading this article, make a google calendar and set some regular dates for yourself. Do. It. 

Tip #5: Don't be so hard on yourself, friend. 

I think my work sucks. I also think my work kicks ass. This is probably typical for every creative, be you a musician or a visual artist, we all struggle with this push and pull of positive and negatives. I find that when we are hard on ourselves, we better our situation, strive for advanced ideas and polish techniques, however, we also get stuck. Really stuck. Here is a 5.1 tip version which carries over from tip #3 on the list: surround yourself with constructive voices and have open discussions about each others work. Get together with wine and cheese and host a critiquing party on an upcoming Saturday night. Hear what others have to say about your body of work, return to your studio the following morning and reflect on the feedback from the night before. Don't give up before you even started. 

My beginning was difficult, yet stimulating. Find your city, go there, stay hydrated, start googling local art galleries, and contribute to the chaotic art world in every way that you can. 


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