Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Pickens.
Beth, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My first job out of college was at my university’s Women’s Center so I was steeped in feminism, supervising college students, giving career advice, crisis counseling, and creating interesting feminist and queer programming.
During that time I earned my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology because I thought I really ought to have one degree that leads to a job since my BA was in English – super interesting but without a clear professional direction.
After I finished my graduate degree, I left the Midwest and moved to San Francisco to be immersed in queer arts and culture because that’s what I really wanted personally and professionally. Immediately, I got a fundraising mentor and started working for LGBTQ arts non-profits on the administrative, production, and fundraising side of things. I realized I only wanted to work with artists and in the arts.
In 2009, I helped launch a queer writers/artists retreat in Akumal, Mexico. I heard firsthand from the artists and writers we brought to the retreat about all their fears, insecurities, confusion, stumbling blocks, and questions when it came to being artists, building careers, managing money while making work – all the stuff that is baffling and hard about being an artist right here, right now. It occurred to me that I could integrate my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology – I knew I could help these artists with their very specific concerns.
I then launched my consulting practice, offering career consultation and fundraising services to artists as well as strategic planning and fundraising services to arts organizations. At first, this was my side hustle and, in 2013, it became my full-time job.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There’s nothing smooth about building one’s own business! It’s often filled with unplanned happenstance.
Some of my favorite struggles include:
– facing my own fears of raising my rates periodically while I trained my clients to do the same
– learning how to manage myself; as a self-employed person, I learned quickly what a tyrannical boss I can be
– trying new things in my business and then realizing I could discard them when I didn’t like them
– dealing with demand I can never meet when I have no colleagues to which I can refer people
– empathizing my clients after the tragic 2016 election
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Beth Pickens Consulting – what should we know?
I am an art consultant. I integrate my counseling training, fundraising background, and arts management experience to provide specialized consultation to artists in every discipline, at every phase in their career. I help my clients move their careers and practices in the direction of their ambition. I focus on the internal experience of being human with the external actions of opportunity-building to create change and momentum with my artist clients.
I specialize in bringing a feminist lens to my cohort of clients, which are people of color, queer, trans, and women artists. They all face multiple systems of oppression while also living as artists under capitalism.
I also provide personal finance and grant writing workshops. Earlier in 2018, my first book was published: Your Art Will Save Your Life (Feminist Press).
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My earliest feminist mentor was my University of Missouri Women’s Center boss, Laura Hacquard. She was the best boss in the history of bossing and I grew tremendously working for her.
My fundraising mentor is Jeff Jones, who pioneered fundraising for AIDS in the 1980s and has raised millions of dollars for LGBTQ arts. My first meeting with him, he told me that in order to understand his grant writing philosophy I would first need to read Proust. (I still haven’t finished.)
Early institutional supporters include non-profits like RADAR Productions (SF), Queer Cultural Center (SF), Pieter Performance Space (LA), KCHUNG Radio (LA), and Women’s Center for Creative Work (LA). These organizations helped propel me, let me experiment with new parts of my practice, marketed my work, and provided on the ground training.
Writer/activist/legend Michelle Tea and Feminist Press made my book happen.
Artists and writers and thinkers in my life that are advocates/INSPO who I can list (my clients’ names are confidential) include: Ali Liebegott, Michelle Tea, Amanda Verwey, Aminatou Sow, Ann Friedman, Becky Smith, Chris Vargas, Jibz Cameron, Katie Spencer, Lucy Corin, Marcia Chatelain, Nicole J. Georges, Tamara Llosa-Sandor, Greg Youmans, Caitlin Doughty, Peggy Noland, Brontez Purnell, and Rocco Kayiatos.
Amos Mac, Mica Sigourney