Getting the Most Out of Artist Coaching

Peter Corr, Head Coach of the Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team, the Gliders, celebrates, 1996. Australian Paralympic Committee, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Artists, perhaps you find yourself in any one of these scenarios: 

  • You have big plans for your next project but don’t have the right connections to secure a venue.

  • The deadline for a major proposal is quickly approaching, and you find yourself stricken with writer’s block.

  • You are invited to give an artist’s talk at a major institution but have trouble speaking publicly about your art.  

  • You want to get your art into a gallery but have no clue where to even begin.

  • You experience generalized doubts about your artistic practice and need both reassurance and tips to overcome your anxieties and apprehension. 

If some of these issues or other dilemmas are stymying your creative practice, maybe you have considered the help of someone who calls themselves an artist coach.  

You’ve probably noticed an influx in advertisements for artist coaching, if you look at online classifieds and social media groups where opportunities and services are posted. 

What is an artist coach? 

The services an artist coach provides typically run the gamut from professional development to emotional and/or creative support. These individuals (or collectives) are experienced in various aspects within the arts and culture industry. Their wherewithal and flexibility makes them an intriguing option when attempting to propel your career or vision to the next level. Some coaches work or have worked in galleries, museums, and nonprofit art organizations. Others might be writers, editors, or publicists. And some might even be artists themselves. 

Why work with an artist coach? 

Circling back to the hypothetical examples listed at the beginning of this post, there are certain issues an artist faces that are easier to manage when facilitated by someone who has astute problem solving abilities and a keen perspective in the art world. 

An artist coach can provide valuable insight to help you become a more accomplished artist, whether you have professional aspirations or just want to pursue your passion for making art. Some coaches also specialize in helping artists see their work and overall wellbeing in a clear and balanced manner. 

There are certain artistic habits of mind that carry over into life outside of the studio. For example, developing and employing organizational skills is just as important to creating an archive of your art as it is to keeping your personal life in order. Being coached to speak eloquently about your art might make you a more confident and well spoken person in general. And finding joy and refreshment in making artwork could lead to fresh perspectives and happiness in other aspects of life. 

I personally find it incredibly hard to focus on work when there’s a myriad of stressful things going on in my head and the world around me. Working with a consultant is a great way to relieve stress, renew inspiration, and establish a healthy work-life equilibrium. 

Where to start your search? 

Artist coaching is not a one-size fits all profession. As previously mentioned, artist coaches are individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds. Finding the right coach for you should entail matching up their specific areas of expertise with your desired goals. Below are a few examples of coaches, each with varied strengths and focuses.     

For the artist who is seeking to be guided through several different aspects of professional development, Ninth Street Collective should fit their needs. There are seven members to choose from. Each one has experience in different areas of the art world, such as arts administration, curating, writing, and gallery management. They offer a whole list of services, including portfolio reviews, strategic planning, exhibition development, and business management. For example, they can help you prepare for upcoming studio visits and public speaking engagements, as well as work on organizing, cataloging, and promoting your artwork. 

If getting your work in museums, galleries, or private collections is your top priority, Crista Cloutier has sold millions of dollars in art to institutions and individuals around the world. She works with artists at each stage of their career (early, mid, and established), in order to bolster their visibility and marketability.   

For a more holistic approach to coaching, Auriel Majumdar’s process of mentoring artists combines pedagogy and psychology, in order to nurture both creative and personal goals. Auriel’s objective is “making safe, confidential spaces for you to think, dream, decide what you want from your life or your business and work out how you’re going to get there. Making space for possibilities and asking the right questions to inspire thinking in a different way.” 

How to get the most out of an art coaching session? 

A good coach will give you ideas, insights, and techniques for you to develop further throughout your artmaking practice. Above all else, they will provide a support system and professional scaffolding that is beneficial to growing your career and enjoying your work. When working with a coach or consultant, it is important to come prepared, be amenable to change, work on the advice they give during your time together, and practice on your own as well.