Some time ago, I was introduced through a mutual acquaintance to Frank Juarez of the Frank Juarez Gallery in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
I can't stress enough the importance of making connections with other creative, appreciative and like-minded folks when you're an artist. It's not even about opportunities, it's about having the option to get involved and create a sounding board for ideas and projects. You need to surround yourself with folks who are going to encourage you to create and play and take risks and occasionally make dumb mistakes (but you'll recover), and they need to be able to tell you WHEN, not if, your work is shit and you need to get back to the drawing board. It helps if they can make you chuckle a bit, too. I can't tell you how thankful I am for the many artists communities I'm involved in, here in Denver, from my hometown in Milwaukee, the online artist community that is constantly Tweeting and Liking and Commenting and Posting and Giving A Thumbs Up, and other artists I've had the pleasure of making connections with both in person and through cyber correspondence. It's pretty cool.
Yesterday I had the treat of participating in Frank's monthly "lunchtime artist talk", which he holds in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Participating was myself and another artist, Jean Tobin (who is fantastic as well), who was able to be there in person whilst I Skyped in. Technology spanked us again and again as our connection kept dropping, so Frank had to pull me up on his phone so I could speak with the group of about 10 other artists who were attending the session to talk about creating work, techniques and ideas, and artist promotion. He wasn't able to record me during the original Q&A session, but we did another recording last night while I drank a glass of wine. Here is the link, if you're interested... I start at about 3:00 and blabber on for awhile.
A bit about Frank-- he's a gem. The guy is a high school art teacher, gallery owner, working artist himself, he's currently in the midst of moving studios and re-furbishing his new gallery space, he grades papers, he coordinates the Lunchtime Art Talks, he's working on a project that features a different artist each day for 365 days, he's collaboratively putting on an exhibition with working sketchbooks from artists around the country, and he dresses like a super hero. That's right, he has this Paco Libre alter-ego, who is known throughout the Sheboygan arts community and makes appearances at special events, including a performance exhibition at Vanguard Sculpture Services in Milwaukee that included one of my pieces this past summer.
If you're from Wisconsin, and especially the Sheboygan or Milwaukee area, I think it's detrimental to get to know this fine fellow. My one complaint about Frank: you just can't bitch about being too busy to him, because the guy is ALWAYS going to be working on 10 times as many projects as you are, and still have time to show an artist around the Sheboygan art scene or put on a Mexican wrestling mask and Skype ya.