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  • Itemizing Your Art Career

    How to Write Your Artist Resume or CV





    In many ways, being an artist is no different from any other profession. You start at the beginning, advance in your career, and accumulate a progressively more extensive track record of accomplishments along the way. And there's no better way to document those accomplishments than by itemizing them in a CV or resume.

    The words CV and resume are used pretty much interchangeably in the art world, but if you want to get technical about it, a CV is a comprehensive list of everything you've done while a resume is an abbreviated list usually summarizing the most significant achievements in your career. When you're just starting out or don't have that many accomplishments, a comprehensive CV makes more sense, but the further along you get and the more you accomplish, a resume of you most notable achievements usually does the trick. For simplicity's sake, we'll stick to resumes here.

    If you are at all serious about being successful as an artist, creating and maintaining a resume is required. It also has to be easily accessible to anyone who wants to know more about you and your art, whether they are fans, followers, potential buyers, galleries, institutions, art writers, or related professionals. These days, pretty much anyone with interest will first search you online and check out your resume before they make contact. The best place by far to post your resume is on your website. Those of you who have let your websites languish in favor of social media take note. Social media platforms are not conducive to posting resumes, and even more problematic, resumes are difficult to locate through searches if they're only on social media.

    A professional resume includes not only your most important accomplishments, but it's also up to date. Keeping things current shows people that you're managing your career like a pro. It without a doubt the best way for any artist to provide up-to-date information on what's happening in their career. Posting your moments on social media is also good but their staying power is temporary. Unfortunately, they're not in the headlines for long and soon vanish forever into the vast black hole morass of yesterday's news.

    A word of caution before we get going. Never fudge on your resume. Pros who read resumes as part of their job descriptions know how to spot possible problems and can figure out pretty fast whether an artist is being truthful or not. An important part of telling your truth is the details. The more specifics you provide (like those you'll see mentioned below), the easier it is for people to verify your accomplishments. Any art business professional will tell you that resumes lacking in specifics often raise more suspicions and questions than they answer. But enough about that.

    Artist resumes are traditionally divided into categories and organized according to standard protocols and formats. Depending on an artist's career, those categories may include Education, Solo Shows, Group Shows, Awards, Distinctions, Reviews, Publications, Collections that own their art, Commissions, Residencies, and Teaching Experience. With some artists, additional categories may also be necessary.

    Whatever your categories of accomplishments are, list them in the order shown below. Within each category, organize all entries chronologically by year, starting with the current year and working your way back, not the other way around. The first thing readers want to see is what's happening now, not what happened yesterday.

    Perhaps the one thing that's changed the most with respect to traditional resumes is the amount of significant career events that now take place entirely online. These include online shows, online competitions, being represented by "galleries" or platforms that exist entirely online, social media accomplishments or distinctions, and more. Now you can either include these items in their traditional categories or you can add an entirely new category dedicated exclusively to your online achievements.

    In addition to the order of your categories, the following tips and pointers will help you write your resume right:

    1. SOLO SHOWS These are the most important part of any resume. They are high points in your art career where you're the star and no one else. Each entry should include the name of the gallery or institution or venue, the title of the show, and the location of the venue. Or if they take place entirely online, the name of the website or online gallery and the title of the show.

    2. GROUP SHOWS When you're just starting out, list everything show you're in, no matter how many artists are in that show with you. Even when shows are minor, the more you have, the better you look in terms of how serious and committed you are to getting your art out in front of the public. As you advance in your career, you can thin this section out as necessary, keeping only the more significant shows. At that point, you can rename the category, "Select Group Shows." As with solo shows, include the name of each gallery or venue, the title of the show, and the location of the venue. As above, document online group shows by the name of the website and title of the show.

    3. AWARDS These may include prizes, honors, grants, organizational memberships, honorariums, and related forms of recognition.

    4. REVIEWS Include critical reviews of your shows, interviews, features, articles you are mentioned in, and so on. Each entry should contain the name of the publication or website, the title of the article or review, the author, and the date published.

    5. PUBLICATIONS Here you list books, catalogs or surveys that are only about you as well as those that you are mentioned or included in. For each publication, include the title, author, publisher, place where published, and the copyright date.

    6. COLLECTIONS Depending how many collections your work is in, you can either group everything together under the single heading of Collections or divide them by category. These categories might include Museum Collections, Corporate Collections, Private Collections, Commissions, or Institutional Collections. Provide the titles or names of individual artworks in certain collections if necessary.

    7. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES When relevant, round out your resume with art-related experiences like residencies or sabbaticals, and educational work like teaching positions, courses, seminars, lectures, and so on. Be a bit careful here. You want these to reflect favorably on your art career rather than on what you have to do instead of your art career.

    8. EDUCATION Regarding your education, if you've recently graduated from art school or are just starting out and don't have many accomplishments, put your education up top. For those of you who study independently, resist the temptation to list every course you've ever taken or every teacher you've ever had. The further along you are in your career, the less your education matters. At some point, you might want to move it to the bottom instead of leaving it on top because it's overshadowed by everything else you've done. Lastly, don't worry if you have no formal training. Tons of great artists are self-taught. No matter how few or many degrees you have, your art is ultimately all that matters.

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    Need professional help organizing or writing your resume? Has your art career followed a non-traditional path? Have significant gaps in your resume? No matter what your situation is or how your art career has evolved, I can help you create a resume that works. You may make an appointment at anytime. Call me at 415.931.7875 or email alanbamberger@me.com

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    artist art

    (art by Cornelius Völker)

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