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Meet Virginia Broersma of The Artist’s Office

Today we’d like to introduce you to Virginia Broersma.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Growing up I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. My first dream job memory was to be a ballerina and then for a while was to be a professional trombonist. Reality set in and I decided to pursue something much more practical and took up art lessons.

My mom is a musician, quilter, lover of the natural world and all-around curious person. My dad is a computer scientist who works in cyber security and whose area of expertise involves things that are way over my head, and probably top secret. But it is this genetic bedrock that has created in me both an artistic drive along with the desire to understand how systems work and to make new, better systems.

In terms of being an artist, this has manifested in a committed but fluid studio routine along with dedicated time focusing on all the other administrative aspects of being an artist. I have never been interested in making art just for myself – I absolutely want other people to experience my work and I want to be engaged in the art world – and so I have made it part of my practice to actively pursue opportunities to do so.

I’ve lived in a handful of cities and have interacted with many artists, arts organizations, institutions and other arts professionals and I am really interested in how it all operates. Some might think the art world is a meritocracy, but anyone involved quickly discovers that it is not. While I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories, I do think that there are things at play that go unrecognized, either deliberately or because of blind spots in a highly unregulated profession.

My interest in looking into the processes of the art world and regularly testing them out for myself as an artist has brought me to a new project that I launched this year. It’s called The Artist’s Office and is a business to help artists – specifically with applying for things such as grants, residencies, solo shows, etc. – but also to gather and disseminate information about these processes.  

Can you tell us more about The Artist’s Office?
The Artist’s Office is starting small but with a big vision. The ultimate goal is to help artists become self-determining of their own trajectory rather than waiting for some outside force to select them for success. That model has privileged a few, and I want to help spread opportunity and success around to a wider group of people.

I’ve started by developing a few pragmatic ways I can help with this. First, by letting artists know about the opportunities available to them (I offer a subscription service for deadlines). Second, by helping them get their applications in. Just by doing this regularly, artists will increase their visibility. This will slowly (or maybe quickly) build momentum and give clarity for future endeavors.

I try to keep these services at an affordable price point for artists as I know we don’t all have bottomless bank accounts to spend on consultants and application fees.

I also research statistics on grants, fellowships, jurors, awardees and am looking at what this data might tell us about certain opportunities and how the art world operates, with the goal of helping artists make strategic choices.

My plans for the future include organizing small gatherings and talks with people who have knowledge and insight to share with artists, as well as workshops, peer writing sessions, shared meals as relational networking, and more. I love talking to students and am looking forward to some things in the pipeline that will allow me share some of my experience and resources with them.

Please tell us about your art. What do you do / make / create? How? Why? What’s the message or inspiration, what do you hope people take away from it? What should we know about your artwork?
I am primarily a studio based painter, but occasionally also collaborate with artists in other disciplines. My work has focused on the way we portray the body and how this  influences how people behave and value one another. I have always loved looking backward into the archive of art history, but as I get older, I can’t help but see the ways the (traditionally recognized) canon has contributed to objectification and devaluing of certain bodies/people. This is something I actively resist in my work.

So in my paintings, I depict the body, but dodge accuracy in order to show the body while not showing it. Recently I’ve been thinking of sites where I am hyper-aware of my own body – pools, hot tubs, dressing rooms, gyms – and using these as locations in the work.

I’ve learned a lot about people through watching them react to my work over the years. Seeing how viewers respond to non-normalized bodies is really informative. I hope the confusion, discomfort, attraction and curiosity will engage viewers to consider how images of the body influence their perceptions about people.  

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I don’t think I’ve ever met an artist that isn’t concerned about money, even if they have financial advantages or are extremely successful. Being compensated in any satisfactory way for your work as an artist is incredibly rare.

The thing I am always doing myself and encouraging my artist peers to do is to apply for the opportunities available to us. The processes of writing grants and project proposals, constantly tweaking my artist statement and viewing the sequences of my images have all given me enormous insight about how to shape my work and the trajectory of my practice. And while I receive tons of rejections, I have also received a lot of opportunities including tangential benefits that I didn’t even know were available.

Feeling like I have actionable steps I can take and that I have some control over my art career makes doing the work much more hopeful, rather than becoming bogged down by the difficulty. I see it as a profession, and treating it like it’s a real job is a mentality most artists resist, but that I think can be really helpful.

Also (my last piece of advice): get used to rejection. It’s going to happen. I am so glad I’ve gotten over it and even though have a slightly masochistic delight in my ever growing stack of rejections, I know that I am advocating for my work and that something may come of it. This removes a lot of the feelings of panic over wondering if I am wasting all this time in the studio.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Instagram is a great way to stay up to date on my work in the studio and upcoming shows, as well as what’s happening with the Artist’s Office.

On The Artist’s Office instagram account, I share my own process as an artist sending out proposals and applications – some of which get accepted and a lot that get rejected. I also share the research I’m doing involving statistics of prestigious and competitive opportunities for artists. Following, sharing and engaging on social media would be a great way to show support.

As part of The Artist’s Office I also host smaller, more intimate events that aren’t always promoted on instagram.  I recommend signing up for the mailing list to keep in the loop. I’d also love to hear from artists about their needs and how I might be able to organize or facilitate ways to help. My goal is to create resources for artists and so I would love help spreading the word to those who may benefit from what I’m doing.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Images courtesy of Virginia Broersma and The Artist’s Office

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