On Friday, May 25th Anthony Waichulis founder of Ani Art Academy a fine art/painting atelier located in Bear Creek Township, PA, (with international locations in Anguilla, Dominicana and growing) offered a one day workshop titled “The Art of the Profession”. After about a decade of correspondence with Anthony, participating with him in multiple group Trompe L’Oeil exhibitions, following his and many of his students works and careers, and finally relocating from California to Pennsylvania myself – I finally had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Ani Academy Waichulis. Not only was I able to visit but I also was able to attend the first in their 2013 summer workshop series.
Here's the workshop description as stated on the Ani Academy Website:
The Art of the Profession is a one day clinic offered by artist Anthony Waichulis to explore basic strategies for artist brand building, promotions, and representation
Workshop Schedule: The Art of the Profession
- Goals, skill sets, and resources
- Deconstruct and analyze previous efforts
- Establish a strategy for success
- Establish a work schedule and commit
Analysis of resources
- Identifying a viable/compatible representing entity
- Protocols for approaching a representing entity
- Pricing strategies
- Building an exhibition
On top of the fact that I really wanted to visit the school, the premise for the workshop seemed to fit my immediate needs as a career artist. Artists generally want to spend the majority of their allotted "artist time" making art and it's very easy (and sometimes convenient) to forget that you must maintain and constantly progress as a business, which I am guilty of sometimes neglecting. But recently I've been searching for ideas, theories and strategies to further advance my career and a workshop taught by Anthony Waichulis, who not only has knowledge from his own career but also that of his many students, some of which have gone on to be successful artists and teachers, so this workshop seemed to be an excellent opportunity to learn from their collective experiences.
First off, I have to say that the location is gorgeous. The building is nestled within the lush bright green leaves of the close surrounding trees, on a hillside not far from the road but just far enough to give the illusion of being a rural studio hideaway. I'm still amazed by my first spring in PA, having been born and raised in Southern CA where lawns are watered and green year round and because the evergreens out-number the deciduous trees, there's little difference between seasons. Spring is gorgeous in PA and Ani Academy Waichulis is in a particularly beautiful wooded spot.
Upon arrival I was greeted at the door and led into the school where I felt like I was finally meeting some of my long time pen-pals. I've been facebook friends with some of the attendees for years, I've even been in group shows with a few, so it was nice to meet them in person. Everyone was friendly, talkative, eating the catered breakfast (graciously furnished by Ani), and fueling up on coffee.
Anthony started off the lecture by disarming everyone with a few art-market facts, stats and charts. "It's a $50,000,000,000 industry!" he said repeatedly. Yep, that's a lot of 0's. 50 billion dollars are reported to have been spent on fine art in 2008 - one of the hardest hit years in the recent recession. This is an inspiring number if you're trying to build and/or maintain a career as a fine artist. Although the "$50 billion" was a recurring theme throughout the day, he went on to tell some personal stories about his beginnings as an artist and some of the opposition and pessimism that he met along the way...which he obviously overcame. The stories hit home. We all face people who would have us believe that being an artist is not a "real job" and he set off to dispel this myth that has somehow rooted itself into social consciousness. He then pointed out that there are many who have and continue to be successful artists and that success is a byproduct of "defining clear goals", "charting your course carefully", and "dedicating yourself completely" - a solid outlook for any business. He also led every artist to ask themselves "What do I want to do? What do I want to say?" and to "analyze your previous efforts" and "always learn". Expression through mastery of materials and technique seems to be the goal of Ani Academy and it was nice to see Anthony pushing everyone to also find there own style and voice.
Before lunch he touched on all of the bullet points in the 'Introduction and Analysis of Resources' sections, with emphasis on the importance of 'web presence', 'brand image' and creating a purposeful and professional presentation.
Note: Having had a part in the product development to establish a "brand image" for some very well known artists, I can attest to the fact that these artists work very hard and carefully to craft their business, look and PR. And to prove the "$50 billion", one of the artists that I worked with had a warehouse stocked with $16 million in picture frames waiting to be filled - and this is just one of many examples from many artists. Working with them was a great learning experience and it is inspiring to know that this kind of success is currently possible.
Lunch was catered, and I had the chance to get to know few more of the artists. Also, there were paintings displayed by some of the Ani students, alumni and Anthony...all of the work was fantastic and a pleasure to see in person!!!
The second part of the day (the 'representation' segment) was presented with a quicker pace, packed full of info, and well...pretty funny. Anthony's humor and quippy comments kept everyone engaged and it felt more like a focused social gathering rather than a dry lecture. We were told what to watch out for, what to expect, and how to best conduct yourself and business when dealing with a gallery. In this segment, a few myths were shattered and seemingly illusive answers to hard to ask questions were answered with authority. For me, this was the most enlightening part of the day. "...hmmm...really?...got it!...thanks Anthony!!!" The last hour or so was reserved for Q&A and personal art/business problems were address.
It was a very informative workshop, a great group people, good food, and overall...a good time!