Sharon Louden Gives Atlanta Talk on “Living and Sustaining a Creative Life”

Cover of The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life
Sharon Louden’s upcoming book The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, is published by Intellect Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

The indefatigable artist Sharon Louden will visit Atlanta on November 5 to speak about her 2013 sleeper literary hit Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, as well as the follow-up volume The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, which will be released on March 2 at New York’s Strand Books.

Organized by independent curator Hope Cohn, the talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Saturday, November 5, from 2pm to 4pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

The impetus for the new book came about because Louden wanted to address the perception by non-creatives that artists just paint, isolated in a studio, and don’t contribute to society in larger ways. Her mission is to demonstrate how integrated artists are in a range of industries, including corporate, educational, governmental, and private.

Sharon Louden
Sharon Louden will speak on Saturday, November 5, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia in Atlanta.

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life features essays by artists who share the myriad ways they balance their live/work needs, in many cases maintaining a studio practice while holding down one or more day jobs. [Read our interview, and listen to our podcast.] At 404 pages, The Artist as Culture Producer is about twice as long as the first book, but similarly formatted. With a foreword by Hyperallergic’s Hrag Vartanian, it also includes contributions from 40 artists who discuss how they extend their practice beyond the studio. Among the 40 artists (and their projects) are Alec Soth (Little Brown Mushroom), Cara Ober (BMoreArt), Carrie Moyer (Dyke Action Machine), Matthew Deleget (Minus Space), Shinique Smith, and Andrea Zittel.

The main criteria Louden considered when selecting the artist contributors is: “How are you helping other artists?” According to Louden, a longtime New York artist who moved to Minneapolis a few years ago, “all of these contributors have impactful, artistic activities and act as agents of change in their communities.” However, this doesn’t mean they’re social practice artists. Instead, readers will learn about such artists as Sharon Butler, well-known for her incisive art blogazine Two Coats of Paint, and Duncan MacKenzie, who cofounded Bad at Sports, which produces a blog, podcasts, and more.

While on her extensive 62-stop book tour to promote Living and Sustaining, Louden encountered many artists who felt that they couldn’t have both a studio practice and be active in other ways. She eagerly debunks this misconception. Louden just had her second solo show at Morgan Lehman Gallery in New York, and an animated abstraction will debut at the National Gallery of Art on May 6, the third time she has been included in the museum’s Ciné-Concerts series. (And she’s a fierce competitor on the tennis court.)

With relatively little time in the studio, she travels with markers and papers and says she made most of the work in the exhibition while on her book tour. She plans accordingly and has “very concentrated studio time” when not on the road. She says that the nonstop travel and interaction with other artists actually feeds her practice.

As with her first book, Louden will divide the royalties from her new book, minus expenses, among the contributing artists. Louden is also insistent that her tours be “sustainable,” meaning that the artists who appear with her at each book event are compensated and that all their expenses are paid, “just as scientists or business professionals would be,” she says. The events adhere to the guidelines set forth by W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy). The Ford Foundation has been a key funder for her work (“and that was the result of a cold call,” she says). She also receives assistance from the partner venues, as well as individual donations ( Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, Minneapolis is the fiscal sponsor, so all donations are tax-deductible), and in-kind support from various sources, such as the Joan Mitchell Foundation, United States Artists, Creative Capital, and others.

Her Atlanta appearance is supported by Georgia State University, Fulton County Arts & Culture, and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Louden is already at work on her third book, titled Last Artist Standing, which will focus on practicing artists over 50, most of whom are women. She anticipates a 2019-20 publication date.

Last year, Louden spent 229 days on the road, and she has already booked most of the 80 stops for her upcoming book tour in 2017-18. After Atlanta, she won’t be back in the South until summer 2017, when she makes appearances at Vanderbilt University, Elsewhere in Greensboro, North Carolina, and 21c Museum Hotels in Nashville, Durham, Louisville, and Lexington. (Click here for the complete list.)

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