The Beauty of Workshops


After being on the tenure track train for ten years workshops seemed like a refreshing way to stay connected to teaching without the baggage.

Workshops: short bursts of high energy art making.

Love it.

I am always trying to figure out how to get more out of my time. Workshops seemed like just the ticket. They have so many potential benefits to artists and are not heavy on the overall time commitment or overhead. They are these beautiful little windows into art making and so much more. Teaching workshops gives you an opportunity to build your audience and what artist doesn't need an audience? Workshops are a great non-invasive platform for getting your voice heard and your work seen.

An obvious reason to teach workshops is to bring in extra income - definitely a bonus. If you are lucky enough to find a circuit for your workshops they could potentially provide a nice supplement to your monthly income. How much depends on what you want to charge and how many people sign up. I haven't gotten to the point where I am teaching them consistently yet. I have been able to teach one this year and had a blast but want to set myself up for teaching more workshops in the near future. That's the goal anyways.

As awesome as teaching workshops sound, I used to be a bit hesitant due to my equipment intensive mediums. Photography and Digital Art workshops are easiest when some digital equipment is available. But some venues for workshops are pretty low tech. So I often have the decision to make as to how to approach these mediums from an alternative standpoint. There are some pretty interesting ways to combine digital with analog but it take me a while sometimes to wrap my head around teaching in this way.

I've taught two workshops in the past (one a few months back) within computer labs. These were both at Universities and had all the hardware and software one could ask for. This worked great for editing photos and sharing results. I've also taught classes on how to incorporate photography into mixed media pieces without any equipment at my disposal - more of a challenge and I'd probably change my approach if I were to do this again. I have a few proposals I am about to send out that involve a portable printer for students to print out photos with. I have found some that only cost around one hundred dollars (not a bad investment!) and will allow students to either use cell phones for source imagery or more professional cameras. I have a lot of ideas revolving around printing on transparencies that I would like to test out as well. Pretty excited to see what comes of it...

And this leads me to my next point - experimentation. I think planning workshops gives artists (especially those crunched for time) a reason to experiment with techniques and ideas that may have sat dormant for way too long. I am struggling right now with this myself. Not enough hours in a day. But somehow when a deadline approaches (have to get that proposal in) these ideas are suddenly pushed to the forefront. Planning and teaching have a way of jumpstarting your own artistic self - at least they always have for me.

Now, how to propose said workshops and where to send these carefully crafted ideas out to? Well, if you have a nice studio space that you can invite people into then by all means teach from right where you are. For me maybe someday but for right now I've come up with a list of at least eight local venues that may be ideal workshop spots. I basically just went through and thought about art organizations around me that may have a space to work. There were a range of places that I had on my radar, including museums, local art centers, academic institutions, galleries, and art studios. Shortly after sending out emails requesting info on a their workshop proposal process I heard back from four right away. Encouraging - a great place to start.

I will eventually share some posts that cover my workshop and teaching projects in more depth. I think it would great to get some feedback and swap ideas sometime. One last thing I do want to share here is that although I have used the term "teaching" when it comes to workshops (or really any form of "teaching"), I really believe that I play the role of a facilitator if I am really doing things correctly. I don't want to use these creative windows to pour knowledge into anyone, but instead hope to help others learn more about themselves. I enjoy the workshop setting because of the high level of energy and passion that people bring into them. They come open to new ideas. I usually start out with a short presentation to jumpstart ideas and give a bit of structure but my conceptual guidance eventually leads to process which leads to self-led experimentation and self-discovery.

Workshops are wonderful for artists in so many ways. Just another piece to the art marketing / artist income / artistic inspiration puzzle. If you've never taught one - something else to consider. Maybe workshops could work for you.

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