A year after emigrating with her husband to the U.S. from Germany, Soline Krug, a multi-disciplinary artist, is still trying to get her footing in the D.C. arts scene. She’s done OK on her own, for now, with an art show at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va., and recently exhibited at Artomatic in D.C.
But the French-born 24-year-old was looking for something bigger than art exhibitions. She tried to find it at a forum Tuesday at the Hillyer Art Space on Hillyer Court NW. “I came without knowing what I wanted to hear, but I knew it would be a very good brainstorming meeting,” Krug said of the International Arts & Artists (IA&A) Artists’ forum, an on-going dialogue between the IA&A and artists or art supporters. Last night’s forum was the third in the monthly series.
IA&A President and CEO David Furchgott and Lachelle Slade, membership director for IA&A, were there to address comments and concerns from more than 20 D.C. artists and art supporters. In addition to listening to artists’ suggestions about what the organization can do to better help them, the forum was also a way of IA&A to gauge how their membership services could better serve its members. “The membership program will serve as our access to this community in a way that we hope to build programs around this locality and region as we have international programs as well,” said Furchgott, who founded IA&A in 1995.
Since its inception, the non-profit organization has used its exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions and the public to increase cross-cultural understanding to the arts internationally. During its 14-year-history, the organization has collaborated with more than 300 museums and cultural institutions in 49 states and 30 foreign countries. The D.C.-based non-profit currently has 200 members.
Robert Bettman, chair of D.C. Advocates for the Arts, says the IA&A is one of a large number of member organizations in D.C. – which includes the D.C. Arts and Education Collaborative, D.C. Creative, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington and Cultural Development Corporation – that are trying to pool their resources to address the needs of artists. Those needs vary. “Some artists might need more technical training, some might need space to present their work, some might need grant funding to produce their work,” said Bettman, adding that artists new to the scene have difficulty connecting with resources.
But Krug’s difficulty was not only being new to the art scene; it was also starting over in a new country. In the time leading up to her migration with her spouse to the U.S. in 2008, she quit her job as Brand Event Manager for a French fragrance company in Germany. In the U.S., She took classes at the Art League School in Alexandria, Va., and decided to make art a full-time profession. Her work has been classified as Fauvism: “the use of bright colors, strong outlines, distorted reality and expressionism,” according to a bio on her Web site. Majority of her art has been described as “non-figurative…a strong tension between real and unreal, purity and chaos.”
She was fortunate enough to know about classes at the Art League School, but not enough to find an artists’ network to hone her talents – what she was looking for at the Tuesday night forum. “When I get help, it’s always about business; I have no problem with how to run my art as a business,” said Krug, who studied business in both France and Germany. “It’s all theory; you can get it from books. There’s a plethora of advice on this area, but there is no advice on how you should learn by yourself.”
“I realized it was important for artists to have sources available to them…to do their work efficiently and effectively…so that they can keep their minds on their creative tracks,” Furchgott said. Last night’s suggestions included the IA&A providing better discounts for its members at area hardware stores, and the organization helping local artists get their work into the international scene. Another suggestion was to create a pool of talented artists rejected for shows at the Hillyer, and sharing that list with other organizations who are looking for artists to showcase.
“There are arts organizations that are doing arts programming, and there are arts programs that are doing artists services that are trying to help artists do their thing,” Bettmann said. The IA&A is among the organizations taking on the duel tasks.
In keeping with their mission of enabling cross-cultural exchange, IA&A created an internationally-focused art career training program called USArts, a U.S. Department of State-approved program that allows international trainees to undertake professional training within arts and cultural-related organizations throughout the U.S.
That program has Krug considering the membership benefits. “If I’m a member of this organization, and then I go back to Germany, I would love to see that they’re so international that they could make these connections work in Europe,” she said. Of all the suggestions, Krug said, “The network is a really big priority; something that represents you in a broader sense.”