The following post is contributed by Victoria J. Fry, artist, educator, and founder of the Visionary Art Collective. She was the speaker for the Empowering Women Artists program this past September.
After graduating from art school in 2012 I was at a loss. I attended one of the most prestigious art institutions in the country and I didn’t know the first thing about setting myself up to have a successful art career. I had worked with amazing professors, took informative courses, and was exposed to the incredible, highly coveted NYC art scene. That said, I left school without any practical skills or knowledge, and becoming a successful artist felt like an abstract idea. I did not know how to submit to, or even find, opportunities to showcase my work. I also did not fully understand how to write a strong artist statement or how to create a professional website. Selling work without help from a gallery seemed like something only other artists knew how to do, and I felt ill-equipped. So, I jumped ship.
I always knew that in addition to making art I loved teaching, and I had a passion for connecting with young artists to help them actualize their own potential. I followed that passion to graduate school where I received a Master’s in Art Education. Although I loved teaching, and it gave me a deep sense of joy and fulfilment, I was constantly reminded of my own love for creating art. Balancing these two passions seemed nearly impossible to me for years. Visiting galleries and museums inspired me, but it also made me think that I abandoned my own art practice to become a full-time educator. I knew I wanted to find a way back into my art practice, but didn’t know how to ease back in. I asked myself, where do I go from here?
About three years after graduating from art school, I finally picked up the paintbrush and started painting again. At first it was solely for enjoyment, and I was happy to be back in the practice of creating art. I kept on like this for a few more years until the pandemic hit, and then everything changed. I was released from my school early and suddenly had an abundance of time. I knew that I wanted to use this newfound time to focus on my art in a much more serious way than I ever had before. Not only did I hit the studio every day to create a new body of work, I set time aside to learn about the skills and tools I would need to advance my art career. Through research and determination, I learned how to write a powerful artist statement, create a professional website and develop a strong body of work. I began submitting to opportunities for the first time in years, and finally I started to make headway. It was encouraging to be selected for shows, and it gave the confidence I needed to continue pushing forward.
I also invested in a mentorship program that helped me to gain clarity in regards to my overarching vision as an artist. I quickly realized that not only did I want to pursue an art career, I wanted to create a community that celebrated my two biggest passions: art and education. After several months of studio time and engaging in deep self-reflection, I launched Visionary Art Collective. Through Visionary Art Collective, I began to connect with artists and educators around the world and engage in meaningful conversations that further inspired my practice. I began to feel fulfilled in ways that I had never experienced, and realized that I had an underlying passion for community-building. As I experienced this creative metamorphosis, I also began to study qualities that successful artists and entrepreneurs possessed. The number one trait that I noticed among successful artists and entrepreneurs was showing up – showing up to make the work, showing up to post and share the work, showing up to sell work and submit to opportunities, and showing up to share about the beautiful but challenging journey and reality of being an artist. I began to open up even more on social media and I allowed myself to be vulnerable with fellow artists and educators. The more I shared about my journey, the more empowered I became. Sharing the process, even the messy parts, helped me to further connect with my community on a much deeper level.
At this point, I was making strides in my art career and had launched Visionary Art Collective, which was growing and expanding quickly. I came to realize that I was a multi-passionate person and I finally began to embrace this. For years I felt like I had to fit in the box of either being an artist or an educator, and I was always trying to choose the best path. I started celebrating the fact that I had many passions, despite what society conditions us to believe – which is that we have to choose a single, linear path and commit to it for life. Over the past year and a half, I have learned so much about myself and the kind of life that I want to lead. More importantly, I have begun to create a life that fulfills and excites me. Through the work that I’m doing as an artist, educator, and now founder of Visionary Art Collective, I hope to inspire, support, and empower fellow artists.
My advice for any artists, educators, or entrepreneurs who are reading this is to carve out time to reflect on how you want to live your life, and how you can push past your own boundaries to grow. Write down your big, hairy, audacious goals and try not to fear them or cast them aside for being unrealistic. Instead, sit with them, meditate on them, visualize them, and then get practical and write down everything you think you need to do in order to accomplish these goals. Although it can be challenging, do not shy away from putting yourself out there.
If we want to reach our goals and increase our own visibility, then we must learn to shamelessly promote ourselves and the work that we create. Otherwise, who else will do it for us? The key to achieving our goals is to first find clarity and then to get specific about what we want to do. Lastly, take inspired action. I encourage you to take the first leap today!
The Empowering Women Artists program is a collaboration between Huron River Art Collective, Women’s Caucus for Art Michigan Chapter, and the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. This program offers an invited speaker event every other month. On alternate months we will host a casual discussion and networking event. Together, we support and empower women in their pursuit to gain equity in the arts, assure diversity, equity, and inclusion with a special interest in supporting women of color and all persons who identify as women.