Accountability and Community
Expanding the idea of both accountability (partners and buddies) and community building (being a part of something bigger than one's own studio practice) has been on my mind a lot these days.
I recently read: Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art By: Mary Gabriel
This is a massive book, 40 hours of audio! It contains a huge amount of art history and tales of the Abstract Expressionist era. While I do not like the way that much of the story clings to the artist as "genius" model (especially male artists of the time), I am fascinated by the tales of the artists in NY (mainly), during the range of the story, and how they built their community around one another. We could all take a "lesson" from them. I am quite sure that the idea of having "accountability partners" was not in their vocabulary, but what has struck me is that they DID hold one another accountable to continued improvement in their studio practices, in advancing the language of modern art, and in supporting one another to make the best art possible no matter what it took to do so.
My recognition of the importance of community to enhance and advance any artists career is what has led me to write this essay/blog post.
What if building community is one and the same as working with accountability buddies?
OK now for the nitty gritty.
I feel as though working with several accountability people is essential to the success of working in a creative field for the long term. I myself work with 9 "formal" accountability partners and more informally with even more. Until I wrote this, I had never counted how many artists/creators I talk to on a regular scheduled basis.
- weekly zoom accountability meeting, for keeping on track generally and keeping my focus on my current art projects, these meetings change to email when one of us cannot attend for whatever reason. we always meet every week
- one monthly group zoom of 6 people (including an international person) where we share how we are presenting ourselves via marketing and social media and using video (often other topics are discussed as well)
- one monthly zoom meeting as an art health check-in with a fellow painter, what I mean is: we ask each other: if we are working in the studio regularly, and if we are pushing ourselves to improve a skill, technique, craft, or making a pivot to a new body of work. we talk for an hour
- a newsletter accountability partner, this one is by phone (sometimes zoom)
Creating structure for how to begin to navigate these accountability meetings and how to use accountability resources to get and keep on track is essential.
I'd like to share how I work specifically with my newsletter buddy (number 4 above). We started by laying out our shared "ground rules." We decided early on that we can make these meetings work in a way that makes the most sense for our needs.
With my newsletter buddy, we meet one a month every month in the third week, typically on a Tuesday, but occasionally on a Thursday. This is how we have set up these meetings (I write this in hopes that it can help others to "write their own rules"). I will name this meeting style the: call-work-call system.
- the day before the meeting we check in via text to make sure that we are a GO, 99% of the time we are, and this little nudge, helps each other to get prepared for the following days work
- we always show up on time (this makes me so happy)
- before we end a meeting, we always schedule the next meeting
- we do these meetings in 2 regular voice phone calls (sometimes Zoom calls or FaceTime)
- our first call is 10-15 minutes, during this call we share what we plan to work on during our work session and we also ask for help or guidance on anything we feel stuck with, before we even begin. we may share resources such as other artists newsletters that impress us, and articles or Podcasts related to email marketing.
- then, we work remotely for 1 hour and 45 minutes
- during our second call we share our success, where we got stuck, what we still need to do, and ideas and suggestions for one another, again this is a 10-15 minute call. before we hang up we decide of we will ask for additional support such as editing or something else
- within the 3 days following this meeting we may or may not read each others newsletter or blog (for edits and suggestions or link checks) and we have subscribed to each others newsletter so that we see the work accomplished during our work session
Basically, we are giving each other 30-45 minutes of our time each month. In the almost 3 years that I have met with this accountability person I have never missed sending a newsletter. I feel validated that the work I am doing is important, because we are both growing and expanding or changing our businesses as necessary. We learn from one another. We have become friends in the process, and once in a while we schedule a longer chat session just because we want to, so fun! Working this way is like having an "office buddy" — something we do not have, unless we cultivate it, as artists.
I would love to hear/read how others are working with: an artist community, an accountability person(s), or a co-working group. I think we could all use support. Even more so due to the stresses of the past two years.
How you would use the call-work-call system for your art biz and/or life?
For example, I think this would work great for a weekly finance check, for weekly/monthly CEO style biz planning sessions, and even for studio sessions!
Building Community through accountability is so so important!
And, lastly, because our art matters, I present to you: Purple Lipped Confusion, 2019, mixed media and collage on cradled wood panel, 24 x 24 inches. Available, please inquire.