SNOWMASS VILLAGE - The classic portrait of an "artist" is someone living the Bohemian life: drinking, smoking cigarettes, living in perpetual squalor in order to create their own distinct art whether it is painting, sculpture or another medium.
But artists can also treat their work, their professional lives and their livelihoods with the same professional reverence and respect you see in other business owners.
Jenene Nagy is the artistic director of painting and printmaking at Snowmass Village's Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Nagy has only been at the Ranch since May.
"I'm still adjusting to the altitude," said Nagy seated in her small, second-floor office. "But I'm not the new girl anymore, just newish."
According to her website, Nagy received her BFA from the University of Arizona in 1998 and her MFA from the University of Oregon in 2004. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the Portland Art Museum, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Torrance Art Museum, Takt Kunstprojektraum in Berlin, Germany, and Dam Stuhltrager in New York, among others. Recent awards include an individual artist fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission, a three-month residency at Raid Projects in Los Angeles, and, in 2011, being named as a finalist for the Contemporary NW Art Awards.
While there currently isn't a class at Anderson Ranch on being a professional artist, Nagy is teaching a class next summer that will touch upon many of these professional development issues.
"Artists and educators don't talk about the fact that you are going to have to self-fund your work at the beginning," explained Nagy. "It's rare that you are going to come out of grad school and make money doing your art. That is one reason teaching jobs like this one are so competitive."
What are three things you would tell an emerging artist?
"First thing," said Nagy, "identify your audience. Certain galleries are completely wrong for your work. Second, be nice. It's frustrating to deal with people that are hard to work with. And the third thing is meet your deadlines. You have to treat (your art) like a profession."
For Nagy, being a professional artist has allowed her to explore several roles. Before her recent appointment to the Ranch she taught in the painting department at Georgia State University for one year.
Previously she was in Portland, Ore., for 10 years teaching, creating her art and running an art gallery called Tilt.
"I came to the Ranch specifically for my job," Nagy said. "I had previously come to the Ranch for a summer workshop. I realized how incredible this place is, and I worked a long time to return. I love all the creative energy that is here."
In the summer Anderson Ranch hosts mainly one-week workshops for artists from all over the world in a wide range of artistic fields, from woodworking to painting and ceramics to printmaking.
"We have all these different mediums at the Ranch," said Nagy. "We are able to get really high-caliber artists that are the top artists in their field to come to the Ranch to give a workshop."
Currently the Ranch is hosting a 10-week residency program for artists that are more self-directed and generally at a different stage in their career compared to the workshop participants. Nagy likes these sessions because she can work with more experienced artists, give more detailed advice, and delve deeper into professional development.
Nagy continues to evolve with her own artistic work. In her earlier years, as an emerging artist, she mainly created large-scale installations.
"My (earlier) work is primarily large-scale so it is done on-site and there is a fair amount of production," explained Nagy. "It's not a solo effort, and I have been working with an assistant. The 4,500-square-foot installation took five people, so there is a managerial role."
Lately, Nagy has been creating large-scale graphics on paper in a studio rather than a large installation space. These new objects are being created to go out into the world and be sold in commercial galleries, something new for Nagy.
She is also continuing her curatorial practice with a company she co-directs, Tilt Export.
"Having a gallery and teaching both fuel my own artistic practice," explained Nagy. "Tilt Export (enables) me to work with a wider range of artists and we work in collaboration with other galleries and institutions to present our work."
In addition to her professional life as an artist, Nagy has a personal life that involves art. She and her husband, Josh Smith, grew up together in Brunswick, N.J., and they have been together for 18 years. While Smith is currently recuperating from a motorcycle accident, he is a furniture maker and a sculptor and eagerly waiting to get back into the studio to create some new work, according to Nagy.
In the future Nagy would like to combine all of her skill sets. In addition to managing a department at the Ranch and being an artist herself, Nagy is also the gallery director, and she hopes to use the Ranch's gallery as a tool to widen the Ranch's audience.
Steve Alldredge is the former associate editor/reporter for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.