Way back, nearly a hundred years ago, when I was in 11th and 12th grades, I got involved in my high school’s speech club and participated in Saturday speech tournaments all over the LA area. For whatever reason, certain events came easily to me, and it seemed that I was always coming home with certificates, medals, and/or trophies.
Ironically, even after winning a state speech tournament during my senior year and being awarded “Best Senior Speaker” at graduation, I didn’t major in speech in college. In fact, I got a “B” in the only speech class I took in college, Speech 104, “Oral Interpretation,” during my freshman year at the school formerly known as San Fernando Valley State College. Why didn’t I get an “A” or take additional speech classes? Because it wasn’t fun being nobody at a big school and having to prove myself at something that had previously come so easily to me. Because I wasn’t willing to humble myself and admit that I had to work hard to earn new respect.
Why am I telling you this here–now? Because I’m feeling a little as if I’m back in high school again, winning awards for something that comes easily to me, only this time I’m participating in fine art exhibitions in and around Atlanta. This week I received notification of two more successes: 1st place in the ART Station’s Fall Member Juried Exhibition and a top-ten finalist in the Community Foundation of NW GA’s first annual “Art of Giving” juried exhibition (awards to be given on 9/26). (You can see this artwork on the “On Exhibition” page in this blog.)
What matters now is what I choose to do next. I’m at another crossroads. Can I rightfully call myself an artist if I just keep plodding along this path within my small community, creating my collages, entering them in local shows and winning a little money while selling a few on the side? Wouldn’t I be only a hobbyist?
To become a professional artist, I need to raise this to the next level. I’m not sure what that next level looks like, but I do know what has become my personal challenge for the remainder of the year: To define what a professional artist is and to create a plan for earning that distinction.
The simple path would be for me to remain a hobbyist and spend the next few years travelling with my husband and dabbling in art or whatever craft comes up next, but I no longer want to repeat a pattern that I established for myself at 17.
Instead, it’s time for me to “man-up” and make meaning for myself in this life.