LOOKING UP:UNDER THE WINGS PREPARES STUDENTS FOR THE BUSINESS OF BEING AN ARTIST
BY SARAH C. LANGE
While the Lakefront Festival of Art features many established artists every year, it’s nurturing young talent too. The new, aptly titled Under the Wings mentorship program teaches art students from local universities and adults early in their art careers about the business of being an artist.
Students in the program participate in the festival and its preparation over the course of two years. “In the first year, stu-dents are shadowing, apprenticing, learning,” says Milwaukee Art Museum Director of Special Events Krista Renfrew, whose duties include overseeing the festival. “In the second year, they implement what they learned and showcase and sell their work at the festival.”
To help them prepare, the program coaches young artists in marketing and branding themselves, networking, presenting themselves professionally, and transporting their work. “As a creative person it’s really easy to forget about the business end,” says Saraina Adam, a member of the inaugural class of Under the Wings who is studying 2-D mixed media at Carroll University. “I really appreciate how much focus is being placed on teaching the business aspect of being an artist.”
And while Under the Wings focuses on the festival experience and what it takes to be a gallery artist, it also connects students with local professionals working in their field of interest. “The people involved have been the best part of the program,” Adam says. “It was a little daunting, the idea of working with so many professionals in the art field, but everyone has been nothing but welcoming, energetic, and supportive.”
“I am fortunate to have met many great people in my field,” says Kaivahn Sarkaratpour, another Under the Wings student who is studying design and visual communication at UW-Milwaukee. “They have helped connect me to an even greater community of artists/designers/creatives.”
While Sarkaratpour acknowledges the importance of networking, he sees connecting with people in the community at large as having a greater purpose than simply furthering his own career. “I believe that art has the potential to break down barriers that often divide us and (to) provide a dialogue of shared experiences and common goals,” he explains. “The better we understand one another, the better we can solve issues within our community.”
Renfrew echoes the community-building aspect of the program. “It’s neat watching the advisers interact with the next generation and seeing the students respond to them,” she says. “We’re going to do a lot of good together as a team.”
After this year’s festival wraps up, Under the Wings will accept applications for its next class. Look for more information to come here.