Start Your Professional Practice Now!

by Joanna Katchutas
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Slide from "Entrepreneurship Boot Camp - in 90 Minutes" Keynote presentation by Petra Kassun-Mutch, Start Your Professional Practice Now

Slide from “Entrepreneurship Boot Camp – in 90 Minutes” Keynote presentation by Petra Kassun-Mutch, Start Your Professional Practice Now

Last week I attended a session at the annual seminar series “Start Your Professional Practice Now” at OCAD University (OCADU) in Toronto. This motivating and inspiring four-day seminar held from Monday, January 13 – Thursday, January 16, 2014 was free and open to OCADU students and alumni. Now in its third year, interest in the annual seminar has grown immensely. The session I attended was on Wednesday January 15 and was entitled “Building Your Community: Connect and Contribute” presented by Jennie Suddick and Jamie McMillan. This segment was geared towards encouraging students and alumni to reach out to the creative community, encourage networking and creating opportunities to build a successful art/design practice. The seminar broke down methods to discover and understand the different artist communities that are currently available in the city. Jennie and Jamie explained their own experiences and encouraged their audience not to wait until after graduating to “get out there”, but to have the confidence to go collaborate and connect with others now. As an Alumnus of OCADU and as a business owner/fine artist myself, I enjoyed this seminar thoroughly and came out of it having learned a lot –  and with some great tips to share.

The importance of not simply thinking of great ideas but instead making great ideas happen is a key element to success.  Making your ideas a reality doesn’t just magically happen by accident.  It takes a lot of time, effort and planning to build a body of work or a business. It is important to write out, speak out and start working on and developing your ideas when you have the motivation and excitement to create them. Leadership skills are management skills, they say. If you can show the enthusiasm to develop your own projects and test your capabilities to the max, you will show people just how valuable you are. This goes especially for students still studying – you have a built-in community of peers and faculty that play an important role in helping and motivating you to decide what your professional path could be.  In the crowded room, Jennie Suddick exclaimed, “It’s important to have and maintain a professional attitude in any project you do. Ideas need community and dialogue in order to be developed and refined and gathering the knowledge let’s you succeed on your own terms.”

Photo from seminar segment "Building your Community: Connect and Contribute!" Jennie Suddick & Jamie McMillan First Generation Program, Start Your Own Professional Practice Now Seminar photo by Joanna katchutas

Photo from seminar segment “Building your Community: Connect and Contribute!” Jennie Suddick & Jamie McMillan First Generation Program, Start Your Own Professional Practice Now Seminar photo by Joanna katchutas

Take the first steps by attending workshops or seminars to help you learn to write a business plan and figure out exactly what you’ll need to get started.  Continuing to learn and grow at any point in your career is so important. While you may think you excel in your field there is always room for improvement.  No one is perfect at anything and you’ll never stop learning from others throughout the course of your life. Taking advantage of any learning opportunities available is so important to stay motivated and for business growth. ­Going to workshops and seminars, watching tutorials, reading about ways to build your skills in your business practice, and embracing other resources are just a few ways.

Try to consistently make and show new work, even if you’re going through a dry period with your creativity. Be persistent but also be aware that getting out into the workforce or art world is hard! Applying for jobs, contracts, grants, residencies, exhibitions, magazine submissions, competitions, working collaboratively, organizing group exhibitions, applying for residencies and scholarships, etc. are all so important. I understand it can be exhausting and discouraging when you are rejected.  I believe, however, that the most important part of creative ventures is to know your failures.  Ask for critical feedback so that in the future you don’t make the same mistakes.  By doing research and applying yourself to apply for available opportunities you will learn what you like and where you think you belong in the world. Being rejected is part of the business. There are always advantages to applying yourself.  Even if the opportunity you apply for doesn’t work out it means that someone out there saw your work and that may benefit you in some other way in the future.

Be picky about what you put in your portfolio and take advice on how to improve from others. Try and establish your own style and avoid trends. You’ll eventually develop an original style, making your work stand out and be recognizable to others.  Artists need time to develop and that can take a lifetime.  The point is to enjoy what opportunities you have and to be confident in your art. Things that get people’s attention is confidence and a great portfolio. You should prepare yourself to answer questions about your work and be comfortable talking about yourself and your work. It is important to make long-term goals and to develop a realistic work plan to achieve these goals so you can feel good about your progress along the way. Always have an up-to-date resume, CV, and cover letter and gallery package ready to rework for opportunities that arise and for artwork and freelance work keep pricing information readily available.

Rarely do people have instant stardom but there is good reason to keep your momentum up and get out there. Doing what you love for a living and working hard to make something out of it can be the most exhausting yet satisfying feeling in the whole world. Whether you accomplish a major body of work, achieve a milestone in your career or have a successful exhibition when you can stand back and say, “I did that”, nothing will bring you more joy.

“Start Your Professional Practice Now 2014” was presented by OCADU Financial Aid & Awards, Student Success Programs and Alumni Relations and is proudly sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), with the support of sponsorship for the alumni panels sponsored by Toronto Dominion Bank (TD). The keynote presentation for the seminar was given by OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst entrepreneurship/business incubator by Executive Director Petra Kassun-Mutch and the seminar featured engaging alumni panellists, inspiring guest speakers and informative talks by practicing professionals. Topics covered in the seminar included steps to starting your business, building art/design communities after graduation, how to promote your work, financial management for artists and designers, a focus on internships, applying your creativity in other industries, tax planning for the creative professional and much more. Presenters included Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping from Spark Box Studio, Cole SwansonOCAD U Sessional Faculty, Diana Bahr OCADU Financial Aid & Awards, Jennie Suddick& Jamie McMillan First Generation/Student Success Programs, Tammi Hensch Harmony Tax Services, Zev Farber, Career Development OCADU. The Alumni panelists for the faculty of Art and for the faculty of Design also held two separate discussions on how to make the leap from student to art/design professional with a networking social event following the discussion.

Photo from Seminar "Finding Your Footing: Getting to Know the Business of Art and Design" with Cole Swanson, Start Your Professional Practice Now! Photo by Diana Bahr

Photo from Seminar “Finding Your Footing: Getting to Know the Business of Art and Design” with Cole Swanson, Start Your Professional Practice Now! Photo by Diana Bahr

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