September 20, 2017

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Paint-by-Numbers: Emily Camp Plans to Make Art in 50 States in 52 Weeks
“We were seen as dangerous”: A conversation with artist Nabil Mousa
Steam rolled art
Try ‘plein air’ painting
A master of prints
As Hurricane Harvey’s Waters Recede, Houston Artists Pick Up the Pieces
The Persistence of DNA: Test Shows Dalí Wasn’t Tarot Card Reader’s Father
Financial Advice for Artists from Four Experts
A lack of local art supplies
A President's Passion for Painting
Pittsburgh sees an uptick in young artists relocating here
An Artist and “Dreamer” Discusses the Potential End of DACA





Paint-by-Numbers: Emily Camp Plans to Make Art in 50 States in 52 Weeks

When artist Emily Camp lived in Buffalo, New York, as a child, her mom would tell her to pack her bags: They were going to the city for the weekend. That love of travel rubbed off on Camp, now 21. So instead of renewing the lease on her Glendale apartment in January, she'll load her car (currently a Jeep Patriot, though she's on the lookout for a larger sprinter van) with art supplies and embark on a painting tour of the fifty states, which she'll pay for by selling her art via a GoFundMe campaign.

Camp, a self-taught artist, creates surrealist acrylic paintings; she says that reflecting on her string of gallery showings inspired her to combine art with her enthusiasm for travel. "What if," Camp remembers wondering, "I could do this [trip], and by doing, show other people that it's possible to follow those dreams before it's a comfortable just take that step forward and make it happen?"

This 50 Paints in 50 States project doesn't mark Camp's first foray into art-funded adventure. After high school, she sold her work in order to spend time volunteering and teaching at Indian and Kenyan orphanages for two months. This project will be more ambitious, though, because of her net mileage and duration. The first leg of Camp's trip will take her from Austin to Oklahoma, an eight-hour stretch scored to Johnny Cash, classic rock and podcasts or audiobooks. From there, she'll wend her way to Florida and up the East Coast. She anticipates spending about a week in each state, dividing her time between experiencing the natural landscape, visiting tourist sites and conversing with locals.

Camp plans to sell art to pay for the 52-week journey (her pieces are available via GoFundMe, online at BigCartel, and there's a monthly donation option, too). The campaign's $20,000 goal covers fuel costs, emergency money, art supplies, a DSLR camera, a rooftop cargo carrier, lodging when she's not staying with friends of friends, and other necessities. Camp also hopes to use her trip to aid other artists in pursuing passion projects; she wants to reserve 20 percent of the money from tour sales and divide it among fifty recipients of her new "Reach for Your Dreams" scholarship.

For now, Camp is painting, planning and packing, gearing up for her January departure. For more information, visit her website and GoFundMe page, or see her art in person at Kaladi Coffee Roasters at 2823 South Broadway. Westword


“We were seen as dangerous”: A conversation with artist Nabil Mousa

This September, Atlanta artist Nabil Mousa revisits his interactive work Judgement Day, inviting viewers to commemorate the events of 9/11 by helping to fill several panels of a movable wall with their thoughts and reflections. The work-in-progress was originally begun in 2012 and is meant to help create understanding and dialogue between different cultures in an often-divisive environment.

“After 9/11, a lot of attention was brought to people from the Middle East and not in a positive way,” says Mousa, who was born in Syria but who grew up in the United States. “All of a sudden we were seen as dangerous. It really became a problem. I had never experienced that kind of racism before . . . I wanted to do the project to bring people together so they can meet people from the Middle East. People need to understand we’ve lived together for thousands of years, and we’re all connected in one way or another.”

The work consists of several panels collaged with pages from the Bible, Torah and Koran, which will eventually form two separate walls measuring 10 by 50 feet each. Open gallery hours will be held at Atlanta’s Gallery 874 on September 10 from 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and September 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at which times viewers are invited to come add thoughts, names or images to the panels, with various art materials on hand.

Among the participants will be refugees from his native Syria, recently relocated to the Clarkston area. “Since 2012, the work has taken a whole new meaning,” he says. “Things have gotten a lot worse. The refugee crisis has gotten out of control. When we talk about 15 million refugees worldwide, it’s such a big number, nobody can connect with it. It’s too much to take it in. If I can bring it to a personal level.” Mousa’s own family emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s when he was 12 years old, fulfilling his parents’ longtime dream of coming to this country in search of a better life.

Mousa acknowledges that his work is bound to evoke any number of responses from participants. “Some people are going to come in who are angry and some will be compassionate,” he says. “I feel it’s important to have both. If we’re catering just to the people who are understanding, then the project is useless. I feel it’s important to have the people who disagree with us to meet here and work on the wall and to write what they want. The goal is for them to meet the people they disagree with or are afraid of and hopefully walk away with a completely different feeling.”

The eventual goal is to have the finished panels travel as an exhibition. “I’m optimistic,” says Mousa about the potential for projects like his to bring people together. “I believe if we focus on the positive it will happen. No matter how bad things get, something can always rise above it all in the end. It’s everybody’s job to make sure we’re doing what we can to make it happen quicker.” ARTSATL



ROME, ITALY: Italy is putting on display a 1st century marble head that an American museum returned after learning it was stolen during World War II from a southern Italian museum.

The Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio acquired the sculpture depicting Roman Emperor Tiberius' son Drusus in 2012.

Major Massimo Maresca of Italy's national paramilitary police art squad said Friday the original working assumption had been that the piece had been stolen by Nazi troops and taken to Germany, the fate of many artifacts and artworks from countries occupied by Nazi Germany.

But "we were looking in the wrong place," said Maresca, of the Carabinieri art squad, which has an excellent record of tracking down ancient artifacts illegally exported from Italy.

Instead, Maresca said, research determined that the piece, portraying Drusus, a general, with an aristocratic air, had been looted by Algerian soldiers from the museum in the southern town of Sessa Aurunca, near Caserta, in 1943, a chaotic time as Allied troops pressed their movement up the peninsula in the campaign against Nazi troops.

A second marble head, of the emperor himself, was similarly stolen and later recovered in a separate operation.

Maresca told The Associated Press in an interview that the Drusus sculpture was believed to have been first taken to Algeria, eventually moved to France, and in 2004, auctioned off in Paris.

After realizing it wasn't the Nazis who had made off with the statue, the police art squad discovered that "the heads had been stolen by allied French troops, specifically by Algerian troops stationed in Italy, who, at the moment of their departure following the (Allied) liberation of Southern Italy, carted away with them the two heads" along with other artifacts, Maresca said.

Eventually, the heads were sold, via France, to the U.S. antiquities markets, with the emperor's head acquired by a private citizen and the Drusus piece by the museum, the police official said.

When the transfer of the Drusus piece to Italy was agreed upon earlier this year, the museum said "extensive research" had indicated the sculpture originally came from North Africa.

The public can admire the sculpture every Saturday in September at the Rome headquarters of the Carabinieri art squad.

Maresca said that in line with similar agreements with other foreign museums which have returned to Italy pieces that turned out to be illegally exported, the Cleveland institution would be allowed a loan of several years of some similarly valuable ancient sculpture for display. WSB Radio


Steam rolled art

At the Old Threshers Reunion, this large machine has retired plowing fields and moved on to making art.

MOUNT PLEASANT, IA: While most of the large machinery at Old Threshers Reunion is used for plowing fields or harvesting crops, some are making art.

Artists from The Calico Press, a letterpress and digital print graphic design business in Birmingham, traded in their standard printing presses for a steam roller Friday morning.

Mel Stockwell, owner of The Calico Press, said she got the idea when she learned about a festival in California entirely devoted to the art form. She contacted the director of the festival and asked how to get started.

Artists can spend months creating the wood or linoleum originals, Stockwell said, drawing and carving out each detail by hand with small tools. While at Old Threshers, artists cover their carvings in a thick, black ink, using what looks like a rolling pin.

Each ink-covered carving is laid on the ground and then covered with a layer of wood and a layer of rubber.

Finally, The 1905 Kelly Springfield Road Roller drives over the top, applying the pressure needed to transfer ink to the paper.

“Basically the roller of the steam engine becomes the press,” Stockwell said. “It’s a 12-ton steam engine and when it rolls across it works just like a printing press.”

As artists remove the layers of wood and rubber to reveal the print, there is a sense of “instant gratification,” said Rebecca Bos.

Bos graduated from the University of Iowa and teaches art in Mount Pleasant. She attended the steam roller printing demonstration with her student Willow Barton, who has been trying out her own printmaking in class.

“Linoleum, silk screen, foil imaging - you name it,” Bos said. “Printmaking is where it’s at.”

Sandra Alt said she liked drawing and letterpress, and carving images for the steam roller combined those interests. Alt belongs to Printer’s Hall, an exhibit at Old Threshers Reunion that explores the history of printing through antique platen presses, cylinder presses and an 1870s hand press.

The most difficult part for Alt was getting used to making her original image a negative. Because of the way the steam roller presses ink onto the paper, artists need to create the original image backward.

Watching her print roll through the steam press, Alt said, “This is amazing.”

Another steam roller printing demonstration will take place 10 a.m. today at the steam traction area and Printer’s Hall. The demonstration also will include prints from The Firecracker Press in St. Louis. The Hawk Eye


Try ‘plein air’ painting

Pass by a beautiful park with a lake in the foreground, and see an artist’s easel sitting in what seems to be the perfect spot. The artist is painting the sunset with watercolors.

This style of painting is called plein air painting, a French term that roughly means “in the open air.”

“It refers to the fact that plein air artists do all or most of their painting directly from nature. It gained popularity centuries ago because artists felt there was no better way to learn about color, form, atmosphere and light than to make careful observations outdoors during different times of day, seasons of the year, and weather conditions,” said M. Stephen Doherty, a plein air artist and author.

Doherty recently published “The Art of Plein Air Painting: An Essential Guide to Materials, Concepts, and Techniques for Painting Outdoors,” an informational book for those looking at taking up plein air painting or improving their skills at it.

He said a growing international movement of plein air painting has been sparked today, and he believes that is because there is a social aspect to the activity.

“People are looking for opportunities to combine their interests in outdoor activities and art,” Doherty said. “Special events are being organized by art groups, tourist boards, galleries and charitable organizations.”

Those who have a love of the outdoors can find something fulfilling in taking up plein air painting.

“It is often the case that people involved in plein air painting grew up camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, or just taking long walks. They find that painting outdoors gives them the perfect opportunity to combine their lifelong loves of nature and art,” Doherty said.

Maybe the outdoor enthusiast can think about preparing to paint the same way they might think about preparing to hike or cycle, he recommends.

“They select the items which are the most efficient, lightweight, and portable supplies they will need. If they pack a limited number of brushes, paints, panels and supplies into a backpack, they can easily stop along a hiking trail, at a campground, or up in the mountains to paint what they observe,” he said.

Being that the equipment used for plein air is compact, and even the painting is done in smaller size — 8 x10 inches, 11×14, up to 16 x20 — artists can carry their materials into and out of their favorite outdoor locations.

“They often think of them as studies for larger studio paintings, or they will sell them as completed works of art. During a competitive plein air festival, some artists will paint large canvases during two or three sessions at the same time of day,” he said.

These works are also quick and can be completed in a single sitting, and really should be finished in a day. So, working fast is a skill that helps the plein air painter.

“The skills required relate to the need to work quickly while the light is changing and the bugs are moving in and one needs to complete a painting in about two hours before night falls or the tide rolls in,” Doherty said. “Artists who teach workshops show the participants how to simplify and punctuate the composition of their pictures; how to mix and apply colors; and how to finish a painting with soft edges, sharp accents, or fine details.”

The style of painting is mobile and the equipment is compact, so for those who are busy, it is a good fit and expands in their love of the outdoors.

“I became an avid plein air painter because I could keep up with my interest in art no matter where my job took me. If I had a few hours to kill before a banquet, I could find a painting site near my hotel,” Doherty said. “If I was waiting for my son’s soccer practice to end, I could do a small sketch of the field where he was playing. And if my wife wanted to walk slowly around a garden to study the plant material, I could sit on one of the benches to paint the lush vegetation.”

Doherty said the choice of supplies is up to the actual artist. A portable easel and painting panels to be able to work outdoors should definitely be on the equipment list.

Beyond that, he said, the choices depend on the painter’s preferred working conditions: a folding chair? an umbrella? plastic gloves? Consider the local environment — sunscreen, bug spray? And the style of painting — fast-drying medium, sketching materials, a palette knife?

“As artists become more involved with plein air and they share information with others out in the field, they might want a pochade box (a hinged box that holds paints and brushes and has a lid that holds painting panels) and a tripod rather than a folding easel, they might prefer to paint on stretched canvas rather than panels, and they might do better with bristle brushes rather than soft synthetic hair brushes,” Doherty said.

He recommends every painter have paper towels, drinking water and a plastic bag for garbage.

“Beyond what I have said, I should mention that I personally prefer to travel by air with watercolor painting supplies rather than those needed for oil painting,” he said. “A simple set of watercolor paints, brushes, and papers can fit easily inside carry-on luggage and never attract the attention of airport security personnel. Moreover, there is never a problem getting more water to paint with, whereas I would have to search for a hardware store or art supply store to buy mineral spirits to use with oils.”

As the day moves on, things change. The light begins to change, a kayaker comes into view, some wildlife appears in a meadow. Doherty describes how to paint this:

“The way to tackle the changing appearance of the landscape is to sharpen one’s ability to remember what one sees, develop a strategy for quickly recording those observations, and follow through on the initial plan for a painting,” he said.

Doherty wrote his book on plein air painting because he spent 40 years as an art magazine editor and he wanted to pass on some painting information before becoming a full-time artist.

“I wrote the text and selected the images with the idea of being helpful to both beginning outdoor painters as well as those with experience. I believe that beginners and professionals alike are eager to learn more and get better at plein air painting,” he said. The Express


A master of prints

One of the leading figures in the field of modern printmaking, Krishna Reddy turned 92 this July. The New York-based artist’s life story is awe-inspiring. Born to a family of agriculturists in Nandanoor, a small village near Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, his interest in making art began at a very young age. His earliest paintings were murals on temple walls.

Reddy was still in his teens when he was drawn to the country’s freedom struggle. Imprisoned by the colonial police for painting and pasting posters supporting the Quit India Movement, he fled to Santiniketan, West Bengal. He spent his formative years at Kala Bhavana training under masters such as Nandalal Bose, Ram Kinker Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee.

That heralded the beginning of Reddy’s long and meaningful journey in the world of art, which eventually took him to many places and earned him the friendship of many great artists. As a sculptor, he was fortunate to study under some of the best masters of the craft such as Ramkinker Baij (Santiniketan), Henry Moore (London), Ossip Zadkine (Paris) and Marino Marini (Italy).

It was in Paris that Reddy first came in contact with the British scientist and influential printmaker S W Hayter. A chemical engineer by training, Hayter had switched to being an artist after prospecting for oil in Iraq. He established Atelier 17 in 1927 in Paris; it was a workshop, an international hub for artists, where they could gather and work. Among other activities, Hayter and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky published editions of prints to raise funds for the communist cause during the Spanish Civil War.

“My visit to Hayter’s Atelier 17 in 1951 was an eye-opening experience,” recalls Reddy in his book titled Intaglio Simultaneous Colour Printmaking (State University of New York Press/1988). “The Atelier was a place of great activity and experiment. Artists worked together, pooling their discoveries and achievements. In pursuit of direct expression, these artists sought to integrate and simplify the many elements in printmaking… In the free atmosphere of the Atelier, I was on my own and could take my own journeys.”

During his stint at Atelier 17, Reddy made path-breaking experiments and innovations, including the viscosity colour printing, even as he rubbed shoulders with leading modern artists of the time like Joan Miró, Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Juan Cardenas, Constantin Brancusi and Zarina Hashmi. With his background in sculpture, Krishna Reddy viewed the plate not merely as a tool or component for printmaking, but rather as a work of art in its own right. He went on to become the co-director at Atelier 17 (Paris) for more than a decade (1964-1976) and continued to rediscover existing printmaking materials, techniques and processes.

Even while he held that position, Reddy began making regular trips to teach colour viscosity in the United States. In 1976, he moved with his family to New York and became the director of the Department of Graphics at the New York University, where he established the Colour Print Atelier. He has been residing in NY since then, simultaneously practising his art and continuing his teaching.

Working an image

The philosophical and conceptual frameworks of Krishna Reddy’s work along with his mastery over materials and processes have inspired generations of artists across the world. He has always emphasised how handling materials is one of the great pleasures of printmaking; how one has to dig into materials in order to discover the image; and how the very process of working an image is always one of discovery.

Reddy has been hailed by critics for being an artist par excellence and a pioneer miles ahead of his time. “Every printmaker of any consequence in India has worked with Krishna or has been aware of his influence,” wrote art critic Richard Bartholomew, way back in 1974. “Krishna has been a splendid person as a teacher and a guide and a pathfinder. His prints radiate his personality.”

Bartholomew goes on to applaud the uniqueness of Reddy’s art. “His images manifest themselves in the form of embossed lines and impregnated colour, both of which are variegated and subtle. There is nothing esoteric about these images. They are universal. A fish, the wave, the meander of a river, an aerial view of the landscape, the charged fields of germination, the vibrations of a seated worshipper. But what is so distinctive about his work is that in our encounter these images appear to be inevitable and natural. A theme drawn from nature has been etched vividly and presented with all the nuances that the medium is capable of rendering and with much that was inspiring in the natural manifestation. The wealth of visual detail that is built in, and which is explicit, is amazing.”

Challenges he addressed

Reddy has received many honours, including the Padma Shri in 1972 and the Gagan Abani Puraskar of Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, in 1980. The Southern Graphics Council of America bestowed its highest honour on him — the Printmaker Emeritus Award 2000 — in recognition of his historic contribution in the field of graphic art and his involvement in art education for over half a century.

While his own innovations met with great success, Reddy was also aware of the changes and challenges of printmaking in an emerging context. In his 1988 book on colour printmaking, he warned about an increasingly complex atmosphere of growing technology in which the original sense of the medium was getting lost.

“Printmaking, as an original art form, has rapidly deteriorated into a process of reproduction. To practise printmaking under today’s circumstances requires a long apprenticeship and a host of materials and equipment. The expertise and competency required to work in this area have become distractions for the artist, turning him into a technician... In spite of great technological advances, printmaking is undergoing a profound crisis. The working artist finds himself far distanced from the creative potential of the medium. If he becomes preoccupied with product-oriented mechanical ways, he loses touch with the soul and spirit of the medium.” Deccan Herald


As Hurricane Harvey’s Waters Recede, Houston Artists Pick Up the Pieces
Artists in Houston are taking stock of the storm’s devastating impact and the long process of rebuilding that lies ahead.

HOUSTON, TX: More than a week after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas’s southeast Gulf Coast, Houston artists are only now beginning to evaluate the extent of damage to their studios and take stock of lost artworks. That’s a difficult task in any post-catastrophe situation, but it’s made more complex by Houston’s sprawling size and the ways in which artists set up their practices in a metropolitan area that’s more than 10,000 square miles — an area larger than the state of New Jersey. One of the nation’s fastest growing cities, Houston has a population of over 6.4 million, and with little in the way local zoning regulation, development has sprawled virtually unchecked. The city’s major art museums — almost all of which are located in a central area of Houston — emerged from the storm for the most part unscathed. The city’s artists, however, did not fare so well.

Rachel Cook, curator at the Houston arts nonprofit DiverseWorks, said she that as the rain began to let up, she began checking on the members of the organization’s artist advisory board.

“The immediate problem is just identifying everyone in need,” Cook told Hyperallergic. Along with Dennis Nance, curator at the Galveston Art Center, she is assembling a list of artists affected by the storm. “Houston’s population of artists is so spread out that’s a difficult task. … Most artists don’t congregate their studios in old warehouses like in other cities because Houston doesn’t really have many old warehouses. It’s more typical for Houston artists to convert their garages or maybe a second bedroom into a studio. And with the high cost of rent in central Houston, many artists are scattered out in suburban areas.”

Keliy Anderson-Staley, a photographer and University of Houston faculty member, said she chose her house in Meyerland, a midcentury subdivision in southwest Houston, precisely because it had a small apartment over a detached garage that made a perfect studio for her practice, which involves wet plate collodion tintype photography. But the Meyerland neighborhood suffered widespread flooding as the storm raged, forcing Anderson-Staley, her husband, and their two small children to evacuate after two days of constant rain.

“We were in the [second-floor studio] and could see people wading down our street hip-deep in water,” Anderson-Staley said. She lost her darkroom, which was on the first floor of the garage, and her family lost most of its possessions after its one-story house took on about two-feet of water. She added: “I was able to rescue 85% of my archive and some of my work had already been sent to galleries for upcoming exhibits, but I lost equipment including several enlargers.”

Anderson-Staley has flood insurance on her home, but like other Houston artists affected by Harvey, she has turned to crowdfunding to help rebuild her studio. As of press time, her GoFundMe campaign has surpassed its $25,000 goal by more than $5,000. “I’m really overwhelmed by the support,” she said.

Photographer Emily Peacock and her husband, the sculptor Patrick Renner, live and work in a converted autobody shop in a neighborhood just north of Houston’s Interstate 610 loop — a relatively central location. Peacock had been in the process of preparing prints for a solo exhibition that opens this week at Austin’s Big Medium gallery. Roof damage caused by the more than 50 inches of rainfall that hit Houston left Peacock’s studio drenched. She turned to crowdfunding, too.

Born and raised on Texas’s hurricane-prone Gulf Coast, Peacock remained sanguine despite the losses she suffered: “I’ll be able to get everything to Austin that I had planned, but I did lose some prints,” she said. “I didn’t get it as bad as some folks.”

Sarah Paige Welch and James Beard use the first floor of their unit in a 1903 building in downtown Houston for their individual studios as well as Mystic Multiples, their print shop that produces zines and comics. The couple awoke in the middle of the night on August 26 to find that about 15 inches of water had pushed their way in, while the street outside was under more than four feet of water.

“We were able to quickly move small things upstairs into the loft, but obviously couldn’t save everything,” said Welch. Welch and Beard lost paper stock, tools, artworks, and a 1920s letterpress. The couple’s kitchen is also on the first floor and they lost their stove and refrigerator, along with personal possessions.

“We don’t yet know how long we will be out of home and print shop,” said Welch, who said their renter’s insurance doesn’t cover damage due to floods. Welch and Beard have also set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of covering some of the costs of the disaster.

“We both rely our respective creative businesses so this is definitely a blow,” Welch said. “We’re both just trying to come to terms with feeling we’re not in control of anything anymore.”

To help artists like Welch and Baird, Dennis Nance from the Galveston Art Center is collaborating with Houston arts organization Fresh Arts to keep an updated a list of artist-focused disaster relief resources.

“I’m hoping new sources of support will emerge from this effort, as well as awareness for the need for local resources to be targeted to artists,” said Nance. “We’re a vulnerable group that is an integral part of the cultural fabric of this city.” Hyperallergic


The Persistence of DNA: Test Shows Dalí Wasn’t Tarot Card Reader’s Father
The results of a paternity test carried out after the artist’s remains were exhumed in July show that María Pilar Abel Martínez is not his daughter.

The results of a DNA test carried out after the body of Salvador Dalí was exhumed in July are in: the Spanish Surrealist is not the father of María Pilar Abel Martínez. In court documents, Martínez — a tarot card reader — had claimed that her mother had an affair with Dalí in the 1950s, and in June a judge ordered the artist’s body exhumed so a paternity test could be performed. Had the test come back positive, Martínez could have claimed a share of the artist’s estate, which he left to the Spanish state.

According to the BBC, Martínez has not made a public statement about the test results. Meanwhile, in a statement, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation — which manages the artist’s estate and the museum in Figueres where he is buried — quoted the report from the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences as concluding that the result “permits the exclusion of Salvador Dalí as the biological father of María Pilar Abel Martínez.”

“This conclusion comes as no surprise to the Foundation, since at no time has there been any evidence of the veracity of an alleged paternity,” the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation’s statement continues. “The unusual and unjustified court decision to practice the exhumation is confirmed as totally inadequate and disproportionate, showing its utter inadmissibility and the uselessness of the costs and damages caused of all kind, in respect of which the Foundation reiterates its express right of actions.”

The Foundation’s statement fails to point out the one major benefit of exhuming Dalí’s body: we now know that his mustache is indestructible. Hyperallergic


Financial Advice for Artists from Four Experts

When artist Christina Empedocles decided to pursue an MFA at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, she signed up for expensive tuition payments and an uncertain financial future in one fell swoop. With that in mind, she began asking professors, advisors, and visiting artists what she thought was a straightforward question: “How did you make an art career work financially?”

To her surprise, satisfactory responses were in short supply.

“Nobody really wanted to answer [the question], period,” Empedocles said. “I thought, Why is this subject such a taboo?”

Empedocles, now based in San Francisco, graduated in 2008 in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, still without a good idea of how to support herself, and her art practice. She knew chances of selling work right out of school were slim. How could she make money without sacrificing her practice? What jobs would allow her enough flexibility and time to make art? And when she did begin to sell work, how should she spend that income?

With her informal survey unanswered, she took matters into her own hands. “I decided that I was going to learn everything I could about money,” she recalled. “Pretty much right after I graduated, I started taking classes about personal finance.”

Today, Empedocles splits her time between making art and working as a certified financial planner, with a focus on guiding people in creative industries. She is one of a number of arts professionals and advisors across the country who have devoted their careers to helping artists better manage their careers and finances, with an eye toward sustaining their art practices.

Artsy spoke to four of them about their strategies for how artists should budget and spend; temper the volatility of multiple and inconsistent income streams; navigate student loan debt; and invest in their practices and career goals.

Be mindful of your expenses

Successfully managing an artist’s finances (or anyone’s) begins with outlining living and working expenses: How much money do you need to live and make your art?

Adding up monthly costs—apartment and, if applicable, studio rent, utilities, credit card and student loan payments, as well as food, art supplies, and other additional necessities or activities (insurance, entertainment, travel, etc.)—allows artists to understand how much money they need to amass in order to fund their basic needs and, simultaneously, their practice. It also helps prioritize payments, identify unnecessary expenses, and free up more money to devote to materials and studio costs.

“The artists who I know who’ve been able to maintain financial stability are mindful of their needs, their costs, and understand what their budget has to be as far as laying out their expenses,” said Sharon Louden, an artist, educator, and author of Living and Sustaining a Creative Life.

Create a budget

With these elements down on paper, design a budget. Don’t be daunted by the term—it’s simply a way of strategically organizing the spending you already do, allowing you to spend smarter.

“Budgets help you identify all the things you need to do with your money,” said Empedocles. “When your money doesn’t have a job and you’re just spending willy nilly on the things that come up on a day-to-day basis, you might find at the end of the month that you didn’t pay that credit card off or you didn’t get your electric bill paid.”

Empedocles also emphasized the importance of a budget for navigating an artist’s fluctuating income, and planning for periods when money isn’t coming in. “It’s very easy to pay all of your bills on that one month out of six when you make a big chunk of money,” she said. “And it’s also super easy to spend the rest and forget that there will be months in the future that aren’t as lucrative.” To temper this inconsistency, Empedocles recommends immediately setting aside living expenses for the next several months, before spending on extras.

For recurring expenses that aren’t going away, like rent, utilities, student loans, and the like, total them up (so you know what you have to have set aside) and set them up on recurring and automatic payments through your bank or credit card. That way you’re budgeting without even thinking about it.

McLean Emenegger, founder of McLean Art Projects, a company offering professional practice guidance to artists, recommends a series of tools that can make budgeting easier, and less time consuming for artists. She advises to begin early and simply: “Start with an Excel spreadsheet. On it, account for what you spend, how much you’re selling work for.” There are also a wealth of free apps that advertise easy budgeting set up and spending tracking, such as BillGuard, Dollarbird, Fudget, and more. Mint illustrates how close you are to overspending with gorgeous infographics that aesthetes will appreciate.

Set goals

Budgeting, according to both Empedocles and Emenegger, is made less arduous and more effective by setting goals. “A budget is not going to work at all without a set of clearly defined goals, because your goals will inspire you to do incredible things that you never thought you were able to accomplish,” says Empedocles. “Once you define your goals, or what you’re trying to save for, you want to put that money away—you want to rein in your spending on stuff that’s not as necessary.”

Emenegger noted that setting career and monetary goals will help define your budget, and funnel money towards the aspects of your life and art career that matter most to you. “Be specific about what your overhead is, what your goals are, and how you’re going to reach them,” she says. “Because if you say you want to make $5,000, well, that’s a nifty amount of money, but how are you going to do that? What will that money go towards? How will it help you reach your goals?” In other words, have a plan for your money so that when you make it, you’ll have a clear idea of how to spend it in a way that furthers your life and professional goals.

Pay down your debts

Wendi Norris, a gallerist with a background in business, works with a group of artists who often use her as a sounding board. If and when they ask her for advice on how to spend the money from art sales, she advises paying down student loans and credit card debt first. “The burden of student loans is so toxic that some people ignore it thinking it will go away, when in fact it won’t,” she said. America’s student debt tab is set to top a trillion dollars this year, and artists have it worse than most: A 2013 Wall Street Journal analysis found that the top three schools with the most student debt load, out of almost 4,000 institutions, were art, music, and design schools.

This past year, when Norris sold work by one of her artists, she immediately paid down that artist’s debt. “When I called her and told her she no longer had debt, she basically dropped her phone in her studio,” she said. “It was just eating away at her.”

Start saving—for both the near future, and the far

After an artist clears their debt, Norris encourages them to begin saving money in different ways. “If you can, you want to have a six-month minimum build-up of savings. That’s just personal finance 101,” she said. Empedocles added for artists, this is especially important, given the inevitable slow periods in an artist’s life between jobs, art sales, or exhibitions. The savings fund, she said, is “a barrier from you going into debt.”
Empedocles also emphasizes the value in saving for the future—whether for long-term goals, or for retirement. “A lot of artists think, ‘I don’t have any money. There’s no purpose in even trying to start saving,’” she explains. “But even small amounts saved on a regular basis, as a habit, can be very powerful over time.” In particular, she recommends establishing a Roth IRA, or a highly diversified retirement account, which invests your money—even amounts as small as $10—so that it will grow over time. On her blog, Empedocles describes the account as “one of the most powerful tools regular people have to get ahead.”

Norris recommends another security guarantee for an artist’s future and legacy: “When I see an amazing body of work come together, even if I know I have a great collector for it, I am insistent that my artists keep one work for themselves. That is their retirement plan.” Norris gleaned this advice from her work with the late Surrealist masters Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington. Tanning, in particular, kept some of her best works for herself, selling some and earmarking others for specific foundations and museums. “It was brilliant, really, because it’s proving to preserve her legacy,” Norris said.

An ancillary income or side job can provide stability—but choose wisely

Most artists aren’t able to support their lives on art sales alone, and even established artists have slow sales periods, or encounter moments when they need more money than art sales provide. Another way to counterbalance the volatility of an artist’s finances is to establish multiple income streams. “When your main source of income—say, your creative practice—has a natural cycle to it, perhaps your side gig has a different cycle,” Empedocles notes. “Those two things can balance each other out, so that you can smooth out the volatility a bit—even a lot.”

Alternate income streams can come in many shapes and sizes. Emenegger suggests pursuing a job that aligns with the world you want to be in—in this case, art. “There’s so much opportunity out there to learn about your practice, to learn about the art world, to seize a networking opportunity—and to simultaneously make money,” she said.

In her advisory sessions with artists, she’s recommended securing teaching positions (whether full-time or part-time) within an artist’s medium of choice, or becoming a studio assistant to a more well-known artist—“anything that can help develop the skills, the language, the networking and mentorship opportunities that can also help support their careers,” she continues.

Empedocles adds that side jobs should pay their keep, while simultaneously allowing for time to pursue a practice. “If your side job doesn’t pay you enough to support yourself and your art practice, that side job is working against you,” she explains.

She’s seen artists successfully take on part-time gigs as virtual assistant, using skills they’ve developed to advance their own careers on behalf of others, such as designing Squarespace sites, managing social media strategy (particularly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), using Wordpress, or creating marketing assets using their design skills—and, what she calls “the secret sauce”: connecting these tools effectively. “For example, instead of just knowing how to send an email newsletter through Mailchimp, they’re able to put up a blog for their clients, help with image assets, share posts in targeted Facebook groups, which attracts a specific audience whose email addresses are collected into Mailchimp,” she said. She also noted that teaching online courses through established platforms like Skillshare, or courses outside of college or university degree programs, through Airbnb Experiences, for instance, can bolster an artist’s financial stability.

Norris has also observed her artists, who normally support themselves through art sales, also take on teaching gigs, collaborations with design studios, or public art commissions. She described them not just as side hustles but terrific opportunities for artists to get outside of the studio and into new, potentially inspiring contexts. “After a point of working in the studio day in and day out, the law of diminishing returns kicks in,” she said. “Many artists need to free their mind up, and doing other work can be a good way of accomplishing that.”

Advocate for yourself; i.e. don’t forget your artist’s fee

When you do take on a commission, or schedule a show with a gallery, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. “Number one, if you have a commission or public art project or something similar, make sure you put aside at least 10 percent for yourself in the budget,” said Louden. “So many artists forget to take care of themselves and put everything back into the work. Take at least a 10 percent artist fee—and make sure that’s clear in the budget.”
If you secure a gallery or representation, Louden also emphasizes the importance of having frank conversations about finances before sales are made. “Make sure you’re part of a conversation, tell them what you need, and don’t be shy about it,” she said. “The artists who I’ve discussed this with first ask the gallery what they can do as a team member—after all, it’s a business partnership. Then they lay out the things that they’d like to steer the sales towards.”

Apply for grants and awards—but be smart about it

Grants and awards can also help navigate slow sales periods, or fund an aspect of your practice or special project. But be aware of the time and effort it will take to apply, and the breadth of grants that are available. Don’t just apply to the most visible, competitive grants.

“There are actually a lot of other under-the-radar opportunities out there,” said Louden. “You’ll need to invest some time and research to find these more accessible opportunities, but it might save you from wasting time over many, many years to apply to the grants that everyone else is applying to.”
Emenegger said to find grants that match your career phase and type of work, such as a grant or residency aimed at supporting emerging artists, like the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s residency program, for newer artists. Grants and awards support a wide range of niches, from artistic medium to an artist’s cultural background or ethnicity, so find the one that’s right for you.

There are some resources that aggregate grant opportunities. Empedocles, for instance, has done much of the work for you by compiling a list of over 40 grants and awards on her blog. She’s also included sign-up list that delivers updates via email as new opportunities are added. Cranbrook Academy of Art has also compiled a comprehensive list, organized by niche and region, as has New Blood Art, with a focus on opportunities available to emerging artists.

You’re part of a community: Help and be helped

Louden advises artists to find their own opportunities, and suggests crowdsourcing amongst peers.

“Other people have different experiences and information than you do, so use your community. It’s much harder when you’re operating on an island,” Louden said. “It can be as simple as getting a group of artists together once a week or month to share opportunities, like an inexpensive studio, a grant, or tactics for money saving.”

Artists can help each other “open doors that we don’t even know are even there,” said Empedocles. She administers a public Facebook group called “Artists Making Dollars and Sense,” as part of her financial advisory, Insight Personal Finance. The group doubles as an open forum for artists to ask questions and share opportunities related to their finances, on which Empedocles or other group members can weigh in.

“I always tell artists: Look at your resources, look at who you know, who can you trade with. There is no end of resources out there for you to support you, to answer your questions, to lend advice,” Emenegger said. “You should never feel bereft, there’s plenty of support out there. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. It just takes planning.” Artsy


A lack of local art supplies
A lack of local art stores in town leaves some art students without access to art supplies.

In addition to having to purchase regular books and school supplies, some students have to include art materials like canvases, clay and paint to their shopping lists.

Art students and visualization design majors and minors can be hindered by the lack of local art stores in Bryan-College Station. College towns such as Waco and Fort Worth have at least one store dedicated to fine arts and stocking supplies.

A&M art students like visualization junior Taylor Chojecki gravitate to online stores such as Amazon or craft and department stores such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Wal-Mart to obtain their supplies.

“Sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for, or the Amazon shipping price really goes up, and it really hurts because you have to buy so many different things,” Chojecki said.

Chojecki said in order to avoid higher prices, or lack of inventory, some students resort to buying their supplies as the semester goes on to complete each project.

“Sometimes [instructors] will recommend things you end up not needing and you just waste your money,” Chojecki said.

To avoid spending too much money, marketing senior and visualization minor Jessica Tran said she will buy a cheaper product but then find out the product may not be of the highest quality. Tran said she bought a cheaper version of a class-required tool from one of the major craft stores, but found it to be faulty when attempting to use it.

“To get the highest quality of work, you need higher quality supplies,” Tran said. “So sometimes Hobby Lobby or Michaels isn’t exactly the highest quality.”

Dalton Walker, customer experience manager at Michaels, said it can not only be taxing for students to find arts supplies, but for the employees at the stores as well.

“There are some of the specialty items that we don’t necessarily carry here in the store,” Walker said. “We try to redirect them to online sale, and then there’s some stuff that Michaels doesn’t carry, but we try still to help the customer out and kind of point them in the right direction.”

Without a specialized art store, students like Chojecki and Tran are left to obtain supplies from the major craft and department stores in Bryan-College Station. The Battalion


A President's Passion for Painting
"I never thought I'd be an artist": President George W. Bush talks about what led him to start painting

After leaving office, President George W. Bush moved back to Dallas and taken up golf and mountain biking, but still the former president wanted something more. He found that by picking up a paintbrush.

"I'm a good example of pushing boundaries and seeking new avenues for learning and I never thought I'd be an artist," Bush said.

It was an essay, Winston Churchill's "Painting as a Pastime," that sparked his newfound interest in art.

"The president was one of the greatest learning experiences of all time -- the presidency -- I learned a lot and after the presidency I thought, 'What am I going to do?" Bush said. "The painting came along and it's opened up whole new vistas for me -- a whole new way of thinking, a whole new study pattern."

Teaching him the new study pattern were three North Texas art instructors. He started as a beginner under the direction of Gail Norfleet, a fine artist who shared a mutual friend with the former president.

"She said, 'Well this student wants private lessons.' And I said, 'Well who is it?' and she said, 'Um, George Bush.' And I said, 'Well, I'm speechless,'" Norfleet recalled.

She said the two did not see eye-to-eye on political issues, but that did not matter in art.

"I even wondered what my friends might say -- I was working with George Bush," Norfleet said. "As we got to be friends and as he was so accepting of my ideas, I became more comfortable and I found him to be a very reasonable person."

The president said Norfleet did a noble thing as an instructor by knowing when to let go and transition him to another instructor. She sent him along to Jim Woodson, an artist who painted one of the works that hangs in the Bush home. Woodson found his student to be determined.

"All I had to do was make a suggestion and he would try it -- of all the students I taught in my life, he was probably the most open to trying things in any of them," Woodson said.

Each instructor met with the forty-third president at his home in Dallas, in what the instructors all called the "man cave."

The president is quick to correct that name, which has changed. It is now an art studio. There, the president painted just about anything around him.

"I've painted the cats. I've painted the trees. I paint just about anything that comes to my mind, and I cannot tell you what a liberating experience it's been," Bush said.

Sedrick Huckaby, Bush's third instructor, said there was a moment that took the president's art to the next level.

"I told him, one day at the table, and said, 'You know? You painted the world leaders and that was an interesting group. But what about the people who have been of service to you?" Huckaby said. "I didn't know what I meant by that -- he could have painted the people around the house, but the moment I said it, he said, 'The vets! The vets!' and he picked up the phone right there and started calling people."

What followed was Bush's mission to honor those who served him as the nation's commander in chief.

"I put a lot of emotion into it," Bush said. "As I was painting them I was thinking not only about my relationship with them, either on the golf course or mountain bikes, but I was thinking about their stories of recovery.

"These are people that don't want to be called heroes," Bush said. "They just want [others] to say thank you for doing a good job and I don't want people to feel sorry for them."

The result of the president's quest to paint, and paint what was close to him, was profound, according to his instructors.

"It was very comforting for him to do that," Huckaby said. "So now he was dealing with a subject that was so close to things that he dealt with -- that was a comfort."

He would paint for hours and hours a day. In all, 66 portraits of men and women who served after September 11, under then-Commander in Chief George W. Bush.

"It really was quite amazing and I thought, 'How is he living with this?' All of these people and all of these guys with a story, good and bad," Norfleet said. "When I saw the exhibit at the Bush Center and I walked around it, really -- tears kind of came to my eyes. I found it to be a wonderful accomplishment."

The former president's passion for painting turned into a way to honor those who served him.

"Think about it. They got a Ph.D. in life and they've learned leadership skills that are going to help us in the long run," he said. "I hope people come away thinking, 'Wow, this guy cares about them.'"

The "Portraits of Courage" display has been extended at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas and will now run through mid-October. NBCDFW


Pittsburgh sees an uptick in young artists relocating here
Affordability and arts funding are among the draws

PITTSBURGH, PA: Bowen Schmitt didn’t recognize Pittsburgh.

“I feel like I came back to a new city,” says Schmitt, who moved back to his hometown after five-and-a-half years as a student at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and founding director of the Great Far Beyond art gallery, in Philadelphia. Schmitt was impressed by the wealth returning to Pittsburgh, and by the surge in young people making art rather than “buying fancy cars.” Schmitt said he saw Pittsburgh’s smaller yet vibrant arts community as a way to be heard sooner, reaching in years levels that elsewhere would take decades.

The sculptor, 23, rented a two-bedroom house in Highland Park and used the second bedroom as a studio, for the same rent that he paid on a one-floor apartment in Philadelphia. And that place didn’t have a decent backyard.

Schmitt is not the only young artist moving to Pittsburgh. In the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s 2016 survey of artists and arts administrators, 34 percent of the 187 respondents were 20-35 years old, the largest age group. And several arts-community leaders have noticed more young artists moving to Pittsburgh for its affordability and collaborative community.

Likewise, in its 2015 American Community Survey, the U.S. Census found that 18- to 34-year-olds are the largest age group, comprising 37 percent of the city’s population.

“I think younger people are coming here or are more likely to return here because they’re seeing that this area has changed,” says GPAC CEO Mitch Swain. “I’m hearing that from my own kids that are 24, 23 and 21. They refer to Pittsburgh differently than they used to.”

Swain cites Pittsburgh’s concentration of colleges and universities for providing contacts and projects for young artists, and the prevalence of foundations that support the arts. For instance, the Heinz Endowments’ Small Arts Initiative provides grants for small professional arts organizations. In 2015, the median Small Arts Initiative grant was $14,000. A donation announced in July by the Hillman Foundation — $580,000 over two years — will further aid GPAC’s grantmaking efforts.

“There [are] certainly more funding options here than in many cities of our size and even larger,” Swain said.

Esther Michaels, 26, also recently moved to Highland Park from New York City. She had initially come to Pittsburgh to study photography at Carnegie Mellon University, but a dearth of options convinced her to return to her hometown. However, after graduate studies at New York University, she decided Pittsburgh’s affordability was worth another shot.

“It was a leap of faith for me because I did not have a job lined up, and I’m still working on a job, trying to make rent,” Michaels says.

Although she wishes there were more gallery openings here, Michaels knows others her age who share her desire to stay in Pittsburgh.

“In New York if I was going to be making art, you end up being someone’s studio assistant or manufacturing their work to get by,” she explains. “Here … [y]ou can make your own work in your spare time and still live your life comfortably as someone who’s not well known as an artist.”

GPAC artist-relations manager Christiane Leach says she knows of numerous young artists who have moved to the region in the past year. “Some people strike it rich,” Leach says. “But if you’re going to struggle, you should choose the place that’s relatively easy to struggle, where you are able to connect with the community and still make work.”

She recalls meeting several artists who moved recently to Westmoreland County. One had a 4,000-square-foot studio for a fraction of the costs elsewhere in the region.

Affordable studio space in the city is a perennial issue. Among those attempting to provide it is Ryan Lammie. Lammie is founder and executive director of Radiant Hall, a nonprofit that manages a wide selection of affordable workspaces for artists, with locations in Lawrenceville, Homestead and the North Side.

Lammie grew up in Gibsonia, Pa., and pursued his art degree at the Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn. But he describes New York as “a terrible place for making art” — too expensive, uncooperative and opaque.

Back in Pittsburgh, Lammie found a huge former social hall in Lawrenceville and moved in with an artist friend. Before long, he had several artists renting out studios. Several years later, Radiant Hall is a thriving part of Pittsburgh’s art ecosystem, with 69 studios, most of them rented out. Full private studios rent for $350 a month, with half studios for as little as $135.

“If you’re trying things for the first time, you can actually fail here,” says Lammie, 29. “People will understand that you’re just learning and going through a process, whereas in other cities, they’d just kick you out on the street and say, ‘You’re never going to work in this town again.’”

“Within the last year, there has been a large number of artists who have emailed us to say, ‘Hey, I’m relocating to Pittsburgh. I’m trying to scope out the arts scene and figure out what’s available in the area,’” Lammie said. “It hasn’t really been until last year that artists have really begun to consider Pittsburgh as an option.”

Pittsburgh isn’t for every artist. Take Ben Quint-Glick, who at one time was both artist-in-residence at Bunker Projects, an art gallery in Bloomfield, and an intern at Renaissance 3 Architects, on the South Side. Quint-Glick quickly built connections with the arts community and lived with artist friends. But then he approached a wall.

“I think in the arts you can find yourself always in the same circles, always doing the same thing, pretty quickly,” he said. “To really support yourself only making art in Pittsburgh can be difficult. There’s a very clear limit to how high most people can go.”

Last year, Quint-Glick left to pursue graduate studies in architecture at Parsons School of Design, in New York.

“I could see myself in the future maybe coming back to Pittsburgh, but it’s not where I am in my life right now,” says Quint-Glick.

Still, both Schmitt and Michaels say they know of emerging artists who were either moving to, or back to, Pittsburgh. Schmitt, a graduate of Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, cites “three or four” classmates who also had moved to Philadelphia but, like him, returned.

“I think a lot of it had to do with having more opportunity and room to expand an idea, in combination with the fact that you can save money while doing it,” he says.

Conversely, Michaels says some loved ones back in New York City were skeptical about Pittsburgh. “They have this vision of Pittsburgh that’s way different than what it is now, and over the past few years has become,” Michaels said. “I think that a lot of people thought that I was making a mistake.”

Schmitt and his Far Beyond Gallery associates hope to open a new venue or satellite gallery here, and he remains confident that he can push forward with his art.

“I just hope it continues in a positive way,” Schmitt said, “and we’re able to grow our community with everything else that’s growing in Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh City Paper


An Artist and “Dreamer” Discusses the Potential End of DACA
With the DACA policy being arbitrarily ended by the current administration, Correa’s entire academic pursuit has been thrown into jeopardy.

In March of this year, I had a conversation with Arleene Correa, an undocumented art student originally from Mexico, who is attending California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. We talked about the hurdles to becoming a student, maintaining the highest possible grade point average, fighting invisibility, and scratching to find the funding to meet the tuition which is upwards of $23,000 per year.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted by the Obama administration in 2012 as a way to meet the needs of those essentially held in limbo by the refusal of the US Congress to pass some version of the DREAM act. Because of this policy intervention, Correa was able to secure a Cal Grant, to cover most of the tuition, with the balance being met by the college’s diversity scholarship. With DACA being arbitrarily ended by the current administration — albeit with a six-month deferral to allow the US Congress to again attempt to pass DREAM legislation — Correa’s entire academic pursuit was thrown into jeopardy.

I reached out again to talk with her about how she has responded to this crisis, what CCA has done to make it possible for her to graduate, what her plans are, and what it means to be described as a “burden” for her husband in the eyes of the state.

* * *

Seph Rodney: Hi Arleene. We’re having this conversation because we had talked last year about your immigration status and how that affected your experience as an art student at CCA. Now we want to follow up, given what’s happened in the past week, with the president ending DACA. We had exchanged emails, and you said that you felt very precarious, very anxious about what was happening, and that you might lose the Cal Grant funding you have. Is that still the case?

Arleene Correa: I believe so, yes, because previous to having DACA I was not able to actually transfer from community college to California College of the Arts. Without DACA, I had actually applied to California College of the Arts and got accepted, but I wasn’t able to make the transition because I didn’t have the Cal Grant, so the Cal Grant plays a huge role in me being able to continue [my studies].

I should be in the last semester of my junior year, but because I don’t know what’s happening with DACA and these six months are just living in a limbo, I’m actually starting my senior year instead, and I’m forced to put all my classes into a very hectic schedule so that I can graduate Spring of 2018. My DACA expires October of 2018, which I knew was going to happen and so the best I can do is graduate before October, just to guarantee that I will finish here at CCA.

SR: Right. Because the alternative is if you’re not done, then you basically have no degree and you may be deported.

AC: Correct. Exactly. And that is one of my biggest fears right now, I’m actually doing, I think, seven classes, and the normal is five or four, no more than that, but because I can’t lose the scholarship that I have and I can’t go halfway through with my education, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get out of here next spring, just to guarantee that I won’t lose everything I’ve worked for so far.

SR: So let’s talk a little bit about possible resources you have. You mentioned that you had chatted with immigration attorneys about whether your husband, who’s a citizen, whether your status of being married to him could provide a way for you to stay, and you said that it doesn’t seem so.

AC: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve actually seen about three lawyers and we have two more appointments this month, and so far it’s been really complicated, and I’ve actually mapped this whole thing out and I’m making an art piece out of it, because it’s like playing Chutes and Ladders, you know? You think you’ve gotten so far and then something brings you back down. This last lawyer that we saw laid it out really well for us: I basically broke two huge laws. The first one was coming here illegally as a child in 1997 — I was two and a half […] Then, DACA wasn’t in place until I was 19 and a half, so for a year and a half I was a consenting adult and I lived in New York illegally, knowing that I was an adult and so that year and a half counts against me now, even though there was nothing in place for me to apply for anything. As soon as DACA came into play I applied for it, and I was approved right away, but that year and a half is really hurting me right now. So given all that, the loophole to all this is marrying an American citizen.

SR: Right.

AC: Thankfully I’m in a very loving, committed relationship with my husband. And the tenor gets really muddy after this because my entry was illegal. If it [had] been a legal entry, I would be on a path to citizenship right away, however, then we have extreme hardship on his end. They don’t care that we’ve been together for eight years. What they care about is that he’s suffering. Now we have to prove that he cannot live without me, and there’s three options for this: the first one is that he is physically or mentally ill and needs me to take care of him. And he’s not, he’s perfectly healthy. The next one is finances. Given I’m in school and he has a great job, which supports me, therefore I’m a burden to an American citizen, since I don’t provide enough financially. And the third one would be if we had kids, however we don’t. So we’re kind of at a dead end.

SR: I want to talk a bit about the language that is used to describe your situation. Did they actually use that word “burden”?

AC: Absolutely they did. I’m a burden to him because he actually has to pay to feed me and house me, which any person in a committed relationship is willing to do for their partner. However, because I’m undocumented, I’m a burden.

SR: But also, do you find that in your conversations with attorneys that certain people want to refer to you as illegal and others will refer to you as undocumented? We talked about this in our first interview — that you felt really demeaned by that term when you were in casual conversation with someone, and they referred to you as simply as “an illegal.”

AC: Yeah. Saying “You’re a burden. You’re an illegal” or “You’re an illegal alien” … it really shows that something is not right. When I saw the speech delivered when they were talking about ending DACA, he used the word. He [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] even said illegal aliens and I just felt dehumanized. I felt I was like, “wow.” When I think of an alien, I think of a little green monster with weird ears and, that’s not me. I feel like, “Is that me?” I felt so dehumanized that day. I just couldn’t even move, I was in bed, and I just cried the entire day. It was bizarre to me that this language even exists to describe a human being.

SR: So in terms of financial support, how is CCA responding to your situation?

AC: I actually wrote an email to the head of financial aid at CCA and expressed my concerns. because half of my funding comes from Cal Grants and the other part [from] the diversity scholarship at CCA. With DACA ending that means I’m no longer eligible for Cal Grant. Then they responded quickly and they said that due to my scholarship, if I was to lose my Cal Grant, they would just adjust and make up for the difference. This is a very special situation because I do have the highest scholarship that CCA offers. When I first started here, we signed a contract that they would fund my education for four years, which is great, and I feel extremely thankful, but it got me thinking about [others in a similar situation, and … ] nobody’s going to make up for the difference that they have to pay.

SR: How are you adjusting? I mean, what’s it like to know that you have to be done by next spring?

AC: The first day when DACA got canceled, I was just so sad I couldn’t move and then the next day I was like, “All right. I’m getting up. And I’m going to make this work and I don’t care what happens, but this is happening.” And I think it’s just this attitude that comes with being undocumented and knowing that you don’t have the luxury to sail smoothly. It’s an attitude of hard work and we’re going to make this work, regardless.

SR: You said in your email to me that you were thinking that if DACA does actually get rescinded that you were thinking of leaving California if none of that actually comes together.

AC: I’ve lived in this country for 22 years […] And I’ve actually written a “Wetback Life Hack” list. And you know, as funny as it may be, it’s a serious list on how to live your life like, in the shadows going unnoticed. It’s really hard and it sucks a lot and I’ve done it my entire life, and if I have to do it again, and if I’m forced into that corner, then you know, there’s no other way out. I just think it’s survival of the fittest, and I can’t imagine leaving this country and going somewhere I’ve never lived. And so my husband and I have come up with a plan of what we’re going to do if nothing happens and if we can’t figure anything out and we have to leave, then you know, we have to leave, and I’ll have to put my list to use again.

We see it in movies all the time where somebody will marry a person and they’re a citizen the next day. And it’s just not like that. The real world is not. I don’t care how much money you have or how beautiful you are, it’s not like that. It’s just not … everything is stacked against me right now. Hyperallergic