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Fractured Atlas Book Club: Making Your Life as an Artist

It's with great pleasure that I share this latest title with you and there are several reasons why. For the first time in book club history, we're recommending a book that you can access right now for absolutely FREE. Making Your Life as an Artist by Andrew Simonet is available for free download from Artists U, in their own words "a grassroots planning and professional development program run by and for artists" and a great resource that you should check out immediately. If you've got the bucks to spare, you might want to buy a physical copy of the book like I did to support their great work, but again, they welcome to you to obtain a free digital copy of the book from their website. cover

If you've been following my own personal preferences for book club selections, you'll know that I value brevity and readability (but especially brevity). This handy little book is less than 200 pages long and I read it in a single, pleasant two-hour visit to Washington Square Park. So it won't take you long to breeze through and be motivated by this one. It's also handsomely designed. Without a single picture to be found in its pages, Making Your Life as an Artist is one of the prettiest "business" books I've read in a long time - maybe ever! It's reassuring to know that the arts-entrepreneurship advice you're getting comes from someone who also has good taste in typography and layout.

Andrew Simonetti, founder and director of Artists U, is a successful artist, educator, and businessperson in his own right, as are all the wonderful folks at Artists U, so the wisdom in the book comes from a very real, lived experience. He founded Headlong Dance Theater in Philadelphia in 1993 and served as co-director until 2013. The love for not only the craft of artistic creation but also the business of being a working artist, in spite of all the obstacles, shines through bright and clear over the brief 190 pages.

One of the major takeaways from this book for me is actually that it's a false dichotomy to consider your practice as artist to be separate from your work as a businessperson. While they may require different skill sets, being an artist and being a businessperson are so closely intertwine as to be really one and the same. Shirk one at the expense of the other; they both require all of you - your full time and attention - so give them both their full due.

In my survey of arts-business books, I've found that you can organize most titles into two categories. The first are the "new-age-feel-goodery" sort that are about inspiring you to reach further and do better work. The worst of these sorts of books are merely packed with platitudes that you could come up with on your own with some common sense. On the other end of the spectrum are books with practical business information. These can often get pretty deep into the weeds and you suddenly realize that you've learned more about C corps than you ever wanted to know before. Making Your Life as an Artist is really the best of both worlds. Without becoming overly simplistic, there are some great motivational gems to help you get out of bed in the morning. And there's solid, hands-on advice to help you get your shit together without getting lost in business-speak. We're often asked "how do I figure out how much to pay myself?" or "how do I establish my going rate?" My previous answer was usually some form of "use your best judgment," but now I can refer people to pages 148-149 of this book (page 76 of the PDF) for some of the best guidance on how to do so.

Making Your Life as an Artist is my favorite book club selection yet. I will admit that it motivated me to start working again on a long-dormant artistic project of my own, so I'm excited to pass it along to all of you. I hope you will take advantage of this amazingly generous offer to access this wealth of knowledge through Artists U for free.

If you’ve got a suggestion for a book that has provided you invaluable help in your arts business, don’t keep it a secret! We’d love to hear from you with your recommendations. Tweet us, Facebook us, or email your favorite arts-business book title to