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(L to R) Dr. Susan Cahan, Deborah Freedman, Gordon Skinner, Adele Meyers and Colin Benn at The Bourse in New Haven.

Is the “starving artist” a myth? This question was one of several pondered at the Arts Council’s Artists at Work panel discussion Monday evening. Dr. Susan Cahan, Associate Dean for the Arts at Yale College moderated a thoughtful conversation by a panel of artists: violist Colin Benn, author/illustrator Deborah Freedman, dancer Adele Meyers, and painter Gordon Skinner. Cahan launched the discussion by citing an NEA study that found the majority of US artists are not as poverty stricken as the stereotype implies. In response, our artist panelists were quick to comment that “making a living” as an artist is no easy matter. Adele Meyers, who has her own dance company, has the good fortune of being the resident dance company at Choate Rosemary Hall, a paid gig that comes with free rehearsal space. She seeks grants to fund development of new work, and most importantly, pay her dancers. Colin Benn commented how unusual it is to have health insurance, a benefit he has as the resident violist with Music Haven. Gordon Skinner who recently started his own gallery at Erector Square, works a day job in the human service field. Deborah Freedman, a successful author, who has published several children’s books, admitted that she could never live off the advances paid by publishers.  She too acknowledged that school workshops and presentations are important sources of income. From supportive spouses to multiple jobs, these artists are driven by the passion for their work. Through determination, will, and resilience, they are creating successful careers.

Join the conversation:
Do you identify yourself as a starving artist? Why or why not? 

If you’re an artist, at what point do you realize being an artist is the commitment you want to make?

What are the most important traits do you believe an artist needs to make it as an artist?

The Artists at Work panel discussion and accompanying photo exhibit by Chris Randall (on Audubon St. through March 16) was made possible by CT Humanities. Learn more.

Article by Cindy Clair, Executive Director at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven