Esteban del Valle opens Anderson Ranch series
June 12, 2018
The practical side of the artist's life is at issue for Anderson Ranch Arts Center's opening event of its annual Summer Series.
Muralist Esteban del Valle will lead a free discussion Thursday, titled "Makin' It," aimed at artists who are looking for answers to vital — but little-discussed — questions about professional development in the arts, about how to make rent and pay student loans and afford groceries while working as an artist.
"The main thing I would hope people get out of it is that there is no one solution for how to pursue a life as an artist," del Valle said. "And there's no right and wrong way. For me there's been a lot of trial and error. I want people to feel encouraged to do it their way."
Moderated with Anderson Ranch's Elizabeth Ferrill, the free dialogue is a platform for local artists to discuss questions and concerns about how to support an art career.
Many artists teach to support their studio practice — del Valle himself is leading a drawing workshop at Anderson Ranch this week — or find day jobs to pay the bills. Del Valle, 33, has stayed independent, as he put it, by "chasing residencies, fellowships and grants as well as maintaining an ongoing practice as a professional muralist."
The artist this summer is finishing a fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center while making murals on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and at a children's hospital in Virgina.
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"I'm not someone who has cracked the code, whatsoever," del Valle said. "I've just been making my way through the world as a professional."
Like many artists, he had to figure it out on his own and disabuse himself of the myth that visual artists should expect to support themselves by selling their work in professional galleries. He's hoping to pass on some tips from his own rocky road of experiences.
"Professional development isn't even really addressed in graduate schools that much," del Valle said, noting that he had one such course in the master of fine arts program at the Rhode Island School of Design and that it focused largely on writing an artist statement.
Like many artists of his generation, he has harnessed the power of social media to connect to collectors and, more importantly, to build a network of artist colleagues in communities around the U.S. and the world.
Del Valle hopes that local artists will come with questions and concerns, and that a dialogue about the unique challenges of making an art career in Colorado can help strengthen a local community of artists.
"One thing people can get from this conversation is that they're not alone," del Valle said. "They can find community in that."
"Makin' It" opens a summer-long series of free public talks at Anderson Ranch, including visits by luminaries like Tara Donovan (July 12), Ai Weiwei (July 18), Njideka Akunyii Crosby (July 26), Vic Muniz (Aug. 2) and Robert Longo (Aug. 9). The next event is a talk by frequent Anderson Ranch visiting artist Enrique Martinez Celaya on July 3. The second critical dialog of the summer — which carries a $350 tuition — is "Rebels in Paradise," running July 9 and 10 and focusing on the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s.
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