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An artist himself, Andrew Simonet thinks a lot about artists. “Thank you for making your work, for doing all the hard stuff in life to bring your work into the world. Our culture needs you, even if it doesn’t always know how to show it.”

He shared his insights with fellow artists at the kickoff event for our Make.Art.Work program on November 22nd. Many heads nodded when Simonet said, “there are a lot of bad ideas out there about what artists do. . . many people think about art as a hobby.”   A dancer and choreographer, he’s had to defend the hours he spends in the studio making dances as if it is frivolous. He argued against art as entertainment. “Entertainment is there to distract our attention; art is there to focus our attention.” Acknowledging  that artists need to be taken seriously, Simonet pondered the critical role of artists in society. He proclaimed, “artists do more (per capita) to determine the future than any other profession!” Simonet views art as a profoundly serious endeavor. “Artists work on big questions of culture and perception; they ask rigorous and reckless questions… “We discover the NEW stuff. . . and  it’s a sacred responsibility.”

Andrew Simonet has made it his personal cause to advocate for artists. He founded  Artists U, a grassroots, artist-run platform for changing the working conditions of artists, and wrote Making a Life as an Artist, which he made available for free download.   Hearing him speak, it’s no wonder that more than 70,000 artists have downloaded his book.

He urges artists to define success for themselves. In his view a successful artist must build a life that is balanced, productive, and sustainable. But Simonet acknowledges that doing so isn’t easy. He suggests artists find partners, seek opportunities for learning and support.

Need some help? Make.Art.Work offers visual artists training and coaching. Check it out at makeartwork.org

Cindy Clair is the executive director at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven