Today, Tara Thurber sat down with guest Colleen Gutwein O’Neal to discuss her, “Top5 Tips for Embracing the Journey in Academia & the Real World.” Listen as they review strategies for overcoming obstacles throughout the pandemic.
Special thanks to Tara for inviting me to do the Top 5 Defined Talent podcast! Catch this episode and a whole bunch more at the iHeart podcast feed.
20 years (1999 – 2019) of photographic works by Colleen Gutwein. At the age of 5, Colleen developed her first image in a basement darkroom at her Grandparents house in Metuchen NJ. Years later she earned a degree in photography at Montclair State University with her Grandfather’s old Canon FT-b camera. This #miniretro shows Gutwein’s early use of 4×5 film (polaroid type-55) from her first solo exhibition, and the evolution of her work through both digital and traditional photographic formats and printing techniques, up through 2019 with a digital portrait of the medium format Jem. Jr. film camera used for The Newark Artists Photo Documentary Project.
Art & Artifacts of Newark: 233 Washington St Newark, NJ
May 5th was an incredibly grand opening of Express Newark. As a community partner at SHINE portrait studio, I offered black and white portraits to visitors, collaborators, and staff. Check out some of the featured images, and take some time to explore all that SHINE is involved in Here: https://www.shineportrait.com/opening
I am super excited to be a mentor in the NYFA 2017 Immigrant Mentor Program: Newark, with support from the Ford Foundation.
“The program’s goal is to foster a local community of immigrant artists through entrepreneurial training, access to other artists, arts professionals, and organizations. It will offer 18 immigrant artists the opportunity to focus on their creative practice and gain support and exposure for their work while upholding their distinct cultural identities by combining two of NYFA’s professional development programs” – NYFA
Join the celebration this Friday, May 5, 2017 for the grand opening of Express Newark and Shine Portrait Studio in Newark, NJ. I will be shooting complimentary black & white portraits in the Shine Studio from 5-8pm, as part of a happening. See the Small Forest contact page for directions to the studio. Click HERE for information about the Express Newark grand opening celebration. (accessible by train, bus, and car: parking deck available under the Hahne building, closes at 10pm)
I am very excited to be working with Matthew Gosser. He will be providing set pieces for the photoshoot from his current curatorial programming: “Art & Artifacts of Newark”.
My partner and I had the opportunity to take some time off of our regular lives this summer and move to a quiet little town in his home state of North Carolina, I have never spent long periods of time in the South, and with our upcoming marriage this seemed like an ideal situation to learn more about his family and culture. The chance to get back to nature and slow down my life was promising. I would also have plenty of time to dedicate to my ongoing documentary developing negatives and contact sheets in the nearby community darkroom.
This sabbatical, if you will, happens to coincide with my participation in the three month long Creative Capital professional development program. It was only necessary for me to be physically present in NJ for two meetings, an ideal situation for me. The rest of the work in the program is done remotely through webinars, online courses, Skype, and good old fashioned book learning. This program coupled perfectly with my time in North Carolina and has been eye opening. I have been able to think clearly without the distractions of daily life that usually surround me. I have taken a step back and given myself the opportunity to consider how I want to reorganize my home, office, and studio to make them more efficient. By decluttering my life and living simply for a few months in North Carolina, I have gained amazing perspective into what is and isn’t working for me. Being able remove all the things and ideas that are not propelling me forward has created more time for the people and activities I truly enjoy.
I am no stranger to traveling for extended periods of time. After college I spent a year teaching English in Japan with the JET Program. As a teacher in Japan, I saw a distinction between the way Japanese and American high school students prioritize and engage in activities. In Japan, schoolwork comes first. After schoolwork, students are expected pick one activity: a sport, hobby, or school club, and become the best they possibly can at that one thing. My upbringing in the American school system was a stark contrast. I was encouraged to be “well rounded” by having decent grades, play different sports all year round, and have hobbies all while working a part time job. Somewhere along the way this became overwhelming and the idea of striving for perfection with keen concentration was lost. Both high school experiences had a profound affect on my future self, as I now search for the balance between being well rounded and an expert in my field.
The Creative Capital program is helping me find this balance by showing me the tools necessary to stay on track with my artwork and finances at the same time. As an artist in today’s world I need to be well rounded enough to manage and run a small business, network, grant write, pitch ideas, and manage finances all while staying focused and becoming an expert in my field of photography. The guidance of Creative Capital has proven to be the missing link to pulling all of these aspects of my life together in harmony.
As the blended learning program winds down and ends next week, my time in small town North Carolina is coming to an end as well. When I move back up north to New Jersey I will be flung into the anxiety driven, fast paced lifestyle of a working artist. I get tense thinking about the transition. I used to work numerous jobs to support my art and budding photography business (www.smallforestphotography.com). When I return to New Jersey it will not only be a physical jump back into my old home, but I will metaphorically be taking one of the biggest leaps of my life. My only job will be self-employment with Small Forest Photography. It will truly be the time that I have to sink or swim. I will put the knowledge and tools acquired from the Creative Capital program into action not only with funding and completing my documentary, but in running my own freelance photography business.
I began my photography business as a way to support my artwork while I was working an office job that I despised. When I quit my day job my business wasn’t fully operational so I took on assisting jobs and retail work to make ends meet. Now the company is looking towards its 5th anniversary this March and I have to make the leap. Understanding the cost of living with the Real Cost Budgeting Tool has been invaluable in the effort to make my life work for me. It is one of the greatest pieces of paper that anyone has ever handed me. I was able to rework my entire business structure based on that tool and now feel very confident in my pricing. I have a been able to build a more sustainable business plan to implement upon my return to New Jersey. The most basic part of the plan is to march forward without fear. I still have some time left in North Carolina, and if I use my time wisely I will be able to meet my goals of working for myself while sustaining my art practice.
I find myself working in the darkroom, that cool dark place, where I am locked away in the basement of an old mechanical building, totally oblivious to the world passing by. I find myself deep in thought with the ventilation humming away, joined by sounds of jazz and bluegrass penetrating the air. I find myself constantly working on this documentary. I spend time in the darkroom with all of my friends, new and old, who are artists in Newark. I spend so much time in this one-sided relationship while working on their images, that when I see them in person after months, sometimes years, I feel like no time has passed at all. I want to pick up the conversation right where I left it, under the enlarger, in the drying rack, or muddled under the soft ripples of developer cascading over their faces. I live in a world of fantastic imagination with my friends. Within that world of the darkroom, I find myself thinking that this may be the most important moment of my life. After all of my hard work, years of education, after hardships, friendships, and worldly travel, after I am dead and gone, what I create in this one moment may be the only physical thing that survives. This one little piece of a negative, or that one print. Who will find it? Will anyone be able to connect these puzzle pieces to the vibrant Newark community which is now full of life, and love, and artistic power? How will we be remembered? Would anybody even care?
Leaving the darkroom, sunglasses sheltering my eyes, I climb up three sets of concrete stairs with heavy legs. I am leaving the darkroom with more proof of my existence, and the existence of my peers, than I had before I entered. I sit in the steamy car and review negatives and contact sheets. Reality begins seeping back into my mind as I make the drive home.
How can I sustain my work? What if I don’t get funding to continue this? How will I pay my rent? I roll down the driveway, say hello to my partner, and shower off the small of chemical. I sit at the computer, follow up on emails, try to find ways to restructure my freelance business, and scour the internet for grants and fellowships. I applied for three grants last month. Is that enough? How many more can I find to apply for this month? My partner meets with a reputable gallery and sends emails and letters to collectors. We are making work, important work. But how do we move forward? The uncertainty will surely lead to insanity if we don’t get a break soon.
I crack open that Creative Capital workbook and sign on for classes. I review my notes from the webinars and contemplate my peer group support meetings. I review my newest artists statement, bio, and CV. I have followed the Creative Capital writing program and am so thankful to be on task, and much more diligent in finding ways to secure my future. It dawns on me that if I made it this far in my career with none of these tools, I will be ahead of the game when I finish this workshop.
While reviewing my life goals in the workbook I see that I have left graduate school off of my list yet again. I have wanted to go to graduate school for over a decade now, but its off the list. Where would I find the money anyway? I don’t want a mortgage sized loan with no house to live in. How could I ever afford it? This program has made me realize that it is still ok to have these goals. It’s ok to dream without having money, because life changes abruptly.
In the evening when I should be slowing down my mind, little voices start creeping into my head… Oh my I don’t know how you do it…. Thats incredible you don’t have to work a real job…. How do you think you will be able to have a family as an artist?… It’s so cool you get to do what you want. … Could you donate to this?… I just want a really small photoshoot…. When are you going to finish the project?… I soon realize that I am battling other peoples fear of living this life as my own, and drift to sleep.
As the days march on, the workshop shifts. In the beginning of the program more things are assigned with clear deadlines. At this point in the program, less than one month away from completion, we are keeping tabs on ourselves and being held responsible by self-regulation and peer group meetings. We have completed the webinars and are given the option to take three online courses at our own pace.
I started my first online course with the blended learning program last week. I decided to take the Grants and Applications course since this is where I am with my project right now. I followed the first half of the seminars reviewing strategies on how look for funding. What struck me was the idea that anyone who partners with me and my documentary is not giving me a handout, they are partners because they share the same values that I do, and find my work to be important to the community.
The Creative Capital program is teaching me a variety ways to get the end result I need to sustain my work as an artist. The main thing, as I talked about in my last entry, is to just keep doing it. The cornerstone of writing better proposals is based on the amount of time I am spending writing them. Writing helps to articulate the goals of my project, and gives me a clear direction for the future Writing was something I used to shy away from. By forcing myself to do these journal entries, and rewriting my thesis for my current project over and over, I have been able to translate my work from photographs to words. This only makes me more confident in talking about the work and my processes. Without this program I definitely would not have pushed myself so hard. I am in training right now and I feel the growing pains. The most encouraging aspect of this training program is that I believe I am getting back what I am putting in.
One of the unexpected results from participating in the blended learning program is the emotional connection to other artists around me, more so than I already had with the documentary project. The peer groups create a platform for us to share our struggles, and has highlighted the importance of working together as a community. We can easily unify in our passion as culture bearers. We can start with that common bond and work forward towards a system for our children, and their children, to truly be free in the way they contribute to culture and society.
“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
— Muhammad Ali
It’s 39 days after the initial Creative Capital Professional Development meeting, and this is by far the hardest entry I have written. I find myself thinking about so many other things that I would like to get done, but “CC Essay Due” is sitting right there in the middle of my calendar, highlighted in red, for today. I start the laundry, I do everything else on the calendar, I get a snack, I complete email responses that don’t need to be completed until much, much later, but still, “CC Essay Due” is right there in the middle of my day today.
I can’t push it off another day. If I procrastinate any more I will never find the time to get it done. I can already hear the very mean little internal dialogue to myself when I don’t get the article to Ana on time, who’s main goal is to give us a voice and let other people know about our progress in this blended learning program. The charm of the workshop has worn off as I kick my own ass into high gear and complete my task list everyday. The program is really helping me with discipline, and organization. It would be an emotional blow to my schedule if I didn’t get this essay done.The charm has worn off all right, and now it feels as though I am fully committed to running the marathon of my life as an artist.
In marathon running there is something called “The Wall”. This “Wall” it is a very real, physical, mental, and emotional breakdown which can take down any runner, and usually occurs somewhere around the 20th mile. The “Wall“ goes something like this: you start to feel a creepy foreboding sensation come upon you… slight at first, and then your legs are filled with lead, your stomach disowns you, you lose the ability to think about anything else except for the agony you have intentionally brought upon yourself when you decided to run this marathon. The strongest athlete can be in the fetal position on the side of the race track. If you pass someone who has hit their “Wall,” don’t look back. You want to help, but you trained and dedicated everything you had to this race, so you look forward and continue.
I believe there is a metaphorical “Wall” for anyone who has chosen to follow their heart and soul and do what they want with their life, especially in the arts. Right now Creative Capital has gifted me this inspirational tool of running shoes. I have to push myself to lace up and go for a run I don’t have to be the best, but I do have to be honorable to myself, my work, and to all the people who have believed in me and supported me in my decision to live my dreams. I am the connector to the other godly world of art. It is my responsibility to myself and all those around me to make the connection, to reach my potential, and to continue far beyond that potential.
I am now giving myself time to think, breathe, read, regroup, reorganize (thank you helpful organization webinar by Byron Au Yong) and reconsider what is important to me. I am aware I have only a finite amount of time to be able to obtain my dreams and to create the work that is burning inside of me. I am radically redeveloping my life to be more committed to myself, and learning how to say no. It really is a beautiful word.
So maybe this blog post was just an internal inspirational talk to myself, but I think if I am feeling this way, there is a very low likelihood that I am alone in these feelings. As we wade through the murky waters of trying to make a living as artists, its easy to get down on your art practice, yourself, your peers. It is hard to stay upbeat when you are drowning with work and cradled in debt. But really, we have the ability to create culture, influence society, and cultivate relevant communication through our lives and work. We have both a voice, and an obligation.
—Colleen Gutwein is a documentary photographer working in Newark, NJ. and currently developing “The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project” (www.newarkartsphotodoc.com)
The transformative process of the Creative Capital Professional Development Program for artists is real. This program has been working for me as much as I have been working the program. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. I started this 4 month workshop just less than a month ago and my eyes have been opened to the reality of my situation as an artist and how to move forward in a sustainable manner.
Last week as part of the Creative Capital workshop, I participated in a webinar “Real Life Budgeting” with Andrew Simonet. One of the main topics was how to create multiple revenue streams. As Andrew explained his success with real estate, many of us were thinking that was out of reach. Most of us are trying to meet our monthly bills and not considering saving for a downpayment on a house. Andrew explained the longterm tax benefits of owning your own home, as well as perks of renting out an apartment within your home. He advised us that there were resources we could access to make this possible like FHA Loans set up by the government, as well as ArtHome which aids artists in buying or preparing to buy a home. He then listed a few things we could do immediately to address our financial situations.
1. Pull your credit report and see where you are standing financially.
2. Contact a realtor and get an understanding of what you would need to do to consider purchasing a home.
3. Track your expenses for the week to see exactly how you are spending money.
4. Figure out what your time costs per hour, per day, and per week.
I followed Andrew’s guidelines, except for tracking my expenses. I realized that itemizing everything I bought for the week just sounded horrible. Instead I took out the maximum amount of money I wanted to spend on miscellaneous items for the next two weeks in cash, put it in my wallet, and that was it. I could spend it on whatever I needed, but the cash was my limit. Somehow I still have $16.00 left and I feel great not using a debit or credit card and trying to work it out later.
Figuring out what my time costs was probably the most important suggestion on the list. I feel more confident in the way I am pricing my time because I have a clear understanding of the amount of money I need to make to survive. I might want to give someone a deal on my work, but that is not necessarily sustainable. I am hurting myself by trying to make other people happy, when in fact we will all be much happier in the long run if I am able to continue my practice as an artist and the work purchased from me increases in value over time.
Only one month go I felt guilty about making my art, embarrassed that I needed to include an artists fee in my budget for my documentary. At this point I am feeling empowered by my work and realizing that no one in their right mind would consider trying to pay all the expenses and donate over 10,000 hours to a project unless, possibly, they were independently wealthy, which I am not. I have to make this work. It isn’t a choice, it’s a responsibility to myself, my future self, to the community around me, and to the legacy of the culture my community has created.
—Colleen Gutwein is a documentary photographer working in Newark, NJ. She is currently developing “The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project” a photographic documentary cataloging contemporary artists working within the Newark arts community. Gutwein uses both digital and traditional photographic processes to create a range of viewpoints into the community and each artist as an individual.
I am a documentary photographer working in Newark, NJ where I am currently developing “The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project,” a photographic documentary cataloging contemporary artists working within the Newark arts community. I am using both digital and traditional photographic processes to create a range of viewpoints into the community and each artist as an individual.
I applied to the Creative Capital Professional Development Program to learn how to navigate the financial world of art. I often struggle with my finances and pay out of pocket for my work. Making little income as an artist, my practice is extremely difficult to maintain.
The first day of the workshop came with an overwhelming amount of information, but it was accompanied by a neatly packaged handbook and workbook. The handbook made a more thorough review of the information at home easy. The workbook is split into manageable sections. The first workbook exercise directed me to record my goals for the next year as well as a basic action plan to achieve these goals. Writing down all of this information in detail is helping me develop a daily and weekly schedule, thus pushing me closer toward my goals. I am now scheduling time to work creatively as well as working on the back end of my art which includes budgeting for my project, looking for funding, writing more comprehensively about my work, and researching new opportunities.
This workshop got me excited to thrive as an artist. Many of the topics discussed included action points that we could put into practice immediately. One suggestion that I easily implemented in the first few days was recommended by Dread Scott during his Time Management discussion. He mentioned that he uses a time tracking app to keep track of the amount of time he spends on various activities during his day. After the workshop I checked out a few apps and another woman from the workshop recommended Toggl Timer. I have been training myself to use the Toggl app. It has been beneficial in tracking my time and using this information to schedule for the next week, as well as logging the hours I spend on my documentary. Time tracking allows me to see when I am spending time on things that aren’t a priority, and keep them to a minimum. I have found that the time tracking also makes me less likely to check my email or social media while I am working on a specific project, creating a greater ability to focus on the task at hand.
Since starting this workshop two weeks ago, my vision for achieving my goals has been much clearer. Instead of looking at where I want to be and feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to complete to get there, I now see my goals as attainable through a clear path of small daily tasks and routines. I hope to be able to use this focus and the resources provided by Creative Capital to obtain funding for the completion of my current documentary, as well as create a more financially stable life so I can continue my work as a photographer. —Colleen Gutwein
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