Over the past summer I enjoyed things I never had time for during the school year – sleeping in to 6:00 a.m., sitting in the park for hours and enjoying the breeze and reality t.v.
One show in particular has sparked my interest – Project Runway. I have a passion for fiber arts and this show expands my vision. While I watch the show with the purpose of exploring a passion, my librarian brain will kick in and one thing keeps nagging at me.
Imagine the scene: Three designers exhausted, yet exhilarated after their emotional runway shows during Olympus Fashion Week stand in the spotlight of The Runway. They stand before the judges who will tell them who will win an incredible, life changing career package. The judges deliver their impressions of the collections – both the good and the bad. Here is the moment that grabs me every time. One of the jusdges asks:
“Why do you deserve to win?”
A simple question. The question should be easy to answer for someone who believes in their passion. It should be easy for someone who has spent months putting together the collections. They have certainly had time to ponder the question as they sew. They have seen the work of the other competitors. They have worked with them closely and had opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the other two on the runway. It should be a piece of cake to say a few sentences that sum up their strengths and merits.
But they can’t.
For the most part they fumble. I’ve heard their responses. They run along these lines:
“Because I’ve wanted it since I was five years old.”
“Because I’ve come this far.”
“Because I’ve come this far.”
“Because I’ll crumple up and die if I don’t.”
“Because I need the money.”
“Because this is my only chance to put out my own line.”
“Because I want it so badly I can taste it.”
These answers do not address the question. One wonders whether it is the pressure, the lack of sleep, the intense emotional punch of the experience that throws them off course. I know I couldn’t survive their schedule. Still, could it be that they are not prepared to explain themselves?
As librarians and educators preparing our students for the 21st century these answers make me feel a recommitment to teaching children skills to help them present themselves so that when they are asked “Why should you win?” the answer has more to do with assessing their achievements and little to do with desires and feelings. While feelings and desires drive us to learn, grow and develop ourselves, they are not a great persuasive argument for landing a job, an award or a prize.
Those designers who substituted their feelings for a carefully polished artist’s statement, lost the opportunity to sell themselves and make the judges see their vision.
Need ideas and resources for writing your artist statement? There are two resources I recommend. I’d rather be in the Studio!: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self Promotion by Alyson B. Stanfield is chock full of insightful, practical information about artist promotion that can be put into motion. Stanfield is active on twitter at @abstanfield and runs workshops through her blog.
Another great resource is Writing the Artist Statement by Ariane Goodwin. This is a very different book. More introspective, almost meditative, the book is a set of writing exercises designed to help the artist to understand their work before writing the statement.
Both of these books have inspired my thinking. I hope you will find them helpful as well.
So you have done a great job doing whatever you do. Why do you deserve to win?