Ask The Biennial Project Answers Your Questions–Volume I by Anna Salmeron

Hi artist friends! So, The Biennial Project has launched ASK THE BIENNIAL PROJECT- the first advice column dedicated entirely to the concerns of visual artists. Shockingly, we have received actual requests for advice from lots and lots artists out there. Eric and Anna will dispense their wisdom via regular podcasts (once we figure out what a podcast is), and we plan to crowd source some of the questions at receptions as well. We will also answer the best questions in print, and because Anna and Eric are in fact very lazy (and frankly the last people that anyone serious should turn to for advice), we have reached out to some of our FABULOUS BIENNIAL PROJECT ARTISTIC COLLABORATORS* (we are legion we are so many) for their thoughts. And thoughts they have, being the FBPAC that they are. Here are their considered answers to the first batch of questions:

1) Lanjar asks: art for What?

Mitchel: Exactly. 

Marjorie: Art for Arts' Sake. Money for God's Sake.

Editors: Because you have to. That’s it.

2) Joan asks: why do I want to be just like you?

Mitchel: Because you want to be someone other than yourself, and you can be.

3) Allie asks: What is the most important to teach young art students?

Mitchel: You can learn technique, and you should, but what you're trying to say must come from within.

4) Karen asks: I'm over 60, sold my paintings in galleries all my life. For 20 years I painted theatre sets part time(12-24 weeks a year) I can't physically do that any more, and all my gallery spaces have closed. How do I find my market?

Mitchel: There's no magic bullet - get out there and talk to the market. Promote yourself on social media too.

Kelly: Art sales have changed in the age of internet and social media.  Many galleries now have an online presence and the growth of national art festivals and fairs have opened the market up to a wider audience.  Try group shows which have a strong history of sales. You can find national shows online at  Good questions to ask are: “What percentage of the show is sold?” or “Do you have a dedicated sales team at the show?”  “Do you have a  sales desk at the show?” “Do you have the ability to take major credit cards?” “What is the commission split?” “What is the process for payment?” “What is the ship in/return process?”  Once you find shows that consistently sell your work, you can begin creating work specifically for these Gallery-style art shows held around the country. 

5) Fernando asks:

Editors: Nice try Fernando, but that is not precisely a question, although we admire your spunk. We’re all about spunk really.

6) (A different) Karen asks: My question is how to get a teaching job it all require previous experience teaching? My CV got a little interrupted because I had two kids and now that I want to start again, I feel I don't know where to start.

Mitchel: You'll need to make sure you're meeting local licensing requirements, but then try substitute teaching it will introduce to classroom management and build resume for full-time work.

7) Moya asks: I have had a few commercial galleries carry my work and have shown at numerous non profits, including regional museums nationally over the last 2 decades. I can never seem to break through to making a living from art and now teach for my living. What's the problem?

Mitchel: Unfortunately the problem may be unrealistic expectations. Nearly every artist I know either works a flurry of smaller jobs, has a day job (usually teaching), or does not need the income. If you want to become one of those "name" artists, you'll have to do a *lot* of marketing, and learn how to suck up to the oligarchic class.

Kelly: Many galleries today require a partnership from the artist.  It can be a challenge to maintain a local gallery as rents continue to escalate.  The gallery must pay its staff and real estate expenses and the artist typically maintains the wall space. However, in today’s world, the 60% split to the gallery may not cover expenses, therefore many galleries are asking artists to pay for marketing or large format printing for example. Gaining a local collector base can come from networking and creating fun shows through restaurants and unusual venues (Yoga Studios) where both you and the business benefit.  This requires a large inventory work and may require the work to be specialized to the business in which it is shown.  This can be an entertaining way to make new friends which turn into collectors.  Also, you may want to partner with sharply contrasting artists or complimentary artists (think also outside the box to include sculpture/performance artists/musical artists/local artists co-ops in your city etc..)

8) Michael asks: Okay, I am a self-obsessed neurotic goofball who likes a good laugh, but I am also very serious. Is this artist helpline a joke, something serious or something in between?

Charlene: Yes.

Mitchel: Very serious. We're looking over your should right now.

9) Brandon asks: Hello, I find is SO difficult to insure that I get real credit, my name and job title,listed correctly! I work as a hard working Master Printmaker and Artist ... How can I get this to happen without it being some Issue!!!! I can't seem to get away from the fact that being a woman is making this Even more challenging!!! Thanks for this forum and I look forward to your thoughts! Warmly, Brandon

Mitchel: Urgggh. It may be you're being disrespected because of gender, but I'm not finding artists get a whole lot of respect from the non-artists world. Maybe have a handout you provide with all your correct info, along with a short description of how and why it's important to give proper credit.

10) Victor asks: Why do I cry in the face of pain of pain or beauty? It makes it hard to carry on a conversation. Someone mentioned Frieda Kahlo the other day. Gulp. Someone showed me his scars from being shot in war. Gulp. I guess I am learning to suck it up and wipe my eyes and stay. How do you do it? Do you say, excuse me, I am emotional. Time again for dopamine reuptake inhibitors?

Mitchel: Probably, but is it art?

Editors: Victor, you are clearly our kind of fellow. We’ve been known to take to our beds in sorrow over the plight of a dead sparrow. The drug question is a tough one though – on the one hand we are appalled by the mercenary pharmaceutical industry’s response to the widespread sadness and despair that is a logical response to the conditions of late stage capitalism – change the person, not the world. On the other hand, of course we are on meds. Isn’t everyone?

11) KJ asks: Is it bad of me to not want to spend the money on going out for dinner? Because the whole time I'm thinking of what kind of Art supplies I could be buying with that money. I mean come on! Your joy on that dinner only last one night, the artwork you could make with that money could last forever.

Mitchel: Yep, you're an artist. You're not making art because you want to, but because you have to. Carry on.

Editors: What he said.

12) Meg asks: I'm 64 - so looking at retirement in the near future. Any tips people have found using senior status? Also, is this question thing new? Or do you have a list of FAQ somewhere?

Mitchel: Soon come for me, but not yet.

Editors: This question thing is indeed new, but we will soon have a Ask The Biennial Project FAQ page up on our website.

13) Mike asks: How can I be less famous and less successful as an artist? I am a contrarian and find it offensive that no one is vying to "own" the opposite pole of success...

Mitchel: Always attend opening naked. No. Wait. That would probably accomplish the other thing.

14) Marjorie asks: How is it that you are so goshdarned awesome????
You make it easier to cope with the freaking asspain of having to do something other than making art just by existing.  And I mean that.  This is STELLAR!!!!!

Mitchel: Hah! Is that a question? Or are you sucking up? Either way: we like.

Editors: Your are obviously an exceptionally good judge of contemporary performative artistic practice.

15) Alec asks: OK, dudes, I know you are famous now and everything, but why won't Eric return my texts?

Mitchel: Check your spam folder.

Kelly: Stand in Line!  Eric is not only famous but HOT.

Editors: He is busy watching Teen Mom but will get back to you soon Alec. Message him on Grinder for the most timely response.

16) Jonathon asks: You guys have suggested "sucking up" to curators to get ahead. How literally am I to take this?

Mitchel: You already know the answer to that.



Mitchel Ahern is a marketing consultant, letterpress operator, performance artist and general annoyance. His websiteis out of date, his YouTube channel is cryptic and his Instagram feed seems narcissistic.


Kelly Stevens - Director of Nude Nite, the largest art show dedicated to exhibiting figurative works in the world. Orlando Downtown Arts District Board, Board of Trustees – Mennello Museum of American Art, Associates Board – Orlando Museum of Art.


Charlene Liska is a video artist, painter and a photographer. She is founding member of both The Biennial Project and Atlantic Works Gallery .


Marjorie Kaye - a sculptor, painter, and runs the artist-managed                             Galatea Fine Art in the SOWA Arts and Design District Boston.



         XXOO, The Editors


Ask The Biennial Project answers question from artist Karen Dana



Ask The Biennial Project–the Advice Line for the Visual Artist by Anna Salmeron

Life can be so hard, especially for us artistic types. No one outside of our fellow artists really "gets" us.

How many times have you had the experience of attempting in vain to explain to one court-ordered therapist or another just why we insist on living this way? Always broke, just barely hanging on to jobs we could do in our sleep if we were actually paying even a little bit of attention, continually disappointing the parents who saw such promise in us before our proclivities became known, limiting the pool of potential partners to fellow nut-jobs who could tolerate such a life.

How to explain ourselves to people who were busy listening to the teacher while we lost ourselves in the patterns the rain was making on the window?

Who are we to go to when we need answers to important life questions in an atmosphere free of the shaming so common in the straight word?

Until now the bartenders and dealers of the world were really our only good options in this area, but they weren't always available when we most needed them.

And anyway, only other artists completely understand how we are wired. That's why there is such a profound need for an artist-run advice column - organized by artists for artists.

And who better to answer your questions on important life issues than the internationally renowned artists of The Biennial Project, who have consistently demonstrated such a respectful and sensitive approach to complex cultural questions?

What a fantastic example of this bright new sharing economy - you need opinions, we have more than we need, so we share with you!

Welcome to Ask The Biennial Project, a unique opportunity for today's working artists to solicit advice on matter of the head, heart, and other organs.

So send us those questions now!