Today I met with art consultant and coach, Susan Detroy, to talk about what exactly she does. As we got settled, she asked me about my Art-Write workshops. I mentioned a snag in my travel plans, and she immediately started solving my problem. That’s what Susan does. She solves problems for the visual arts sector; whether they’re buying, selling, installing, learning, growing, collecting, deciding, starting over or simply getting started. We had a good time discussing her services, especially mentoring and coaching.
Vicki Krohn Amorose: Let’s start with how you use writing in your work.
Susan Detroy: I use writing in my artist groups, which I call Artshops. Right now I’m running a group in the classroom at Eugene Storefront Art Project. This current group is made up of women photographers. In my Artshops, I have a system. Groups work well when the members have some common ground, with no more than five people in the group. We meet for at least three months, and six months works best.
VKA: Do you ask questions to prompt the writing?
SD: Yes, and the artists spend time writing and sharing their writing with the group. Then the group can respond. This builds trust. The process of writing and then reading out loud creates learning that is exponential.
VKA: Will you give me an example of a question?
SD: Sure. List 5 ideas that you want to accomplish in the next year. Or, list 5 successes in your artistic life.
VKA: What’s been one of your creative successes?
SD: Excitement. It’s exciting to see how people begin to settle into themselves, to see the reality of who they are. I watch them realize how much they’ve done. I watch people who are highly accomplished stop diminishing themselves. The dynamic created in a group gives you something that can only be revealed in a group. That’s been my life experience as an artist and a group leader.
VKA: How did you decide to coach artists in groups?
SD: When I was structuring this part of my business, I interviewed artists and I asked them, “What do you do when you get stuck?” I was trying to figure out what service I could provide. And what I found out is that local artists are really self-reliant. They weren’t so interested in hiring one person to help! But when I said, “Group”, everyone relaxed. People said, “Yeah, I’d do a group.”
VKA: So you ask artists to set goals?
SD: Yes! Five goals. And the goals can have tasks attached to them. I use a timer, and we do it then and there. Coming from a background in project management, I’m very comfortable in that zone. These are people who are already creating. They are purposeful people.
VKA: And with individual coaching – how is that different?
SD: It’s pretty much the same. What I find is that there may be a whole area of art process or business that makes an artist feel insufficient. So we just make the tasks very specific, concentrating on moving forward.
VKA: I’m sure that art marketing is one of those areas of insecurity.
SD: For a lot of artists, yes. One of my major questions is, “Who do you want to see your art?” And that surprises them, as though they’ve never thought about it before. I mean, if you want to make art for just yourself, that’s fine. But for me, art is communication, so why would you cut yourself off?
VKA: Not all artists agree, but that’s how I look at it, too. I discuss audience in Art-Write.
SD: Yes, the writer has an audience. The dancer, the actor, and the musician have an audience. So why is the visual artist any different?
Susan Detroy has a multi-faceted art consulting business and I encourage you to explore her services at http://susandetroy.com She’s designed and installed many public exhibitions and she works with companies and private clients to assist with their collections.