Artfields 23 – Can I Handle This?

A lot of what I’ve been learning through this grant period with Creative Pinellas is understanding how much I can manage, and how much I can (or should) commit to. As much as we don’t know what we are capable of until we have sufficient experience to make that assessment, the only way to gain that experience is to take on new challenges that force us to grow and test the limits of what we think we can handle.

Complicating that idea for me is the fact that I am often applying to various competitive or juried opportunities at the same time, or in overlapping timeframes. I can’t predict what I might be selected for, so I scatter the eggs around, hoping that even one thing comes through, but also knowing that if I have the rare fortune of getting everything I applied for, it could be hard to manage, or I may have to decline something.

This past year I was fortunate to be selected for several things (not all) that I applied for, which overlapped with the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist grant period. Each opportunity presented unique and unfamiliar challenges that I was wary of taking on, but all felt like valuable creative and professional experiences I did not want to decline.

Me with my installation “Blind Mind Contours” at TRAX Visual Art Center in Lake City SC after I finished installing the work.

One of those experiences was participating in Artfields 23 in Lake City, SC. In short, it’s a southern arts competition, open only to artists living in 12 southern states, in which about 400 artists (one artwork each) are juried into the competition, a 10-day event that takes place at the end of April each year (2023 was its 11th year). The entire town is effectively converted into an art gallery including several outstanding full-time gallery spaces that can exhibit large-scale installation work. They have substantial monetary awards for the Grand Prize ($50,000), 2nd Place ($25,000), People’s Choice 2D&3D ($12,500 ea), and five merit awards ($2000 ea), as well as awards in the form of solo shows and other opportunities.

It was my first time applying for anything with one of my installations. I was delighted my work was selected but had to decide it was worth putting immense pressure on myself to find time and money to hand deliver and install the work (and then retrieve it a few weeks later) right at crunch time for the Creative Pinellas show deadline. That also meant eliminating this strong piece, which had not been shown yet, from being in the Creative Pinellas emerging artist exhibit so it could be in another show that I knew little about except what I had read.

My instinct that participating in this show was worth the effort turned out to be correct. The experience with Artfields Collective was exceptional from top to bottom. I cannot say enough good things about the organization, communication, and professionalism of Artfields, especially considering they are a non-profit with a fairly small paid staff (and many volunteers) dealing with 400 artists from 12 states. I felt incredibly taken care of from day one; they are truly artist-focused and operate seamlessly.

I was fortunate to have my wall installation “Blind Mind Contours” curated in the TRAX Visual Arts Center, on its own floating wall in a beautiful gallery space. Because of other obligations, I could not be at the actual event, but I got to see a lot of the other art as it was going up around town when I was there to install. I was so impressed with the caliber of art/artists that participated and I felt honored to have my work amongst the talent in this massive exhibition.

In the end it was as hectic, exhausting, and expensive to pull this off as I had predicted, but completely worth the experience. I would encourage anyone in the twelve applicable southern states to peruse the Artfields website and consider applying for 2024.

Additionally, after I applied, I came across this podcast interview with Artfields fine art manager, Kyle Coleman, on the Studio Noize Podcast (Episode 155 – Southern Pride w/ fine art manager Kyle Coleman) where he does a wonderful job of explaining the Artfields history and mission in a genuine, thoughtful way. This podcast gave me confidence in what Artfields is doing to elevate Southern artists and high art in the South, and for rural southern communities. It’s a very cool concept and event.

Artfields fine art director, Kyle Coleman, passing through as I was installing my work at TRAX Visual Art Center

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