community service

Community Service

Community service is a good way to keep in touch with what is going on in the art world, your neighborhood, or region. You can volunteer at a nonprofit arts organization, teach classes in the arts, donate art, or simply stuff envelopes. Every bit helps, and offering your services may also provide you with a chance to further develop and perfect your professional skills, as well as provide exhibition opportunities. Volunteering your time with art-related causes will not only benefit your community but it will help you build further connections and relationships in the art world.     

There are nonprofit organizations, both arts related and not in every city in the country. One of these just might be a good opportunity to learn something new, meet new people, or get out of the studio.

Most organizations have volunteer positions, internships, and a board of directors. Contact them directly and ask if they need assistance in any way, particularly if you possess a needed skill, such as graphic design, or you are a technology wizard, or you just want to make new friends and meet other artists.

If you have been supported by nonprofit organizations, please consider giving back by volunteering, donating art, or serving on a committee. If you have not directly benefited from the organization, consider supporting them anyway, as it helps the next generation of artists to have a support system.

Consider getting involved with community organizations that support social, cultural, or political issues pertinent to your work. Also working with non profits in your community can influence your art practice and your work can, in turn, bring attention to the nonprofit.

Many artists are working this way as a part of their art practice, this often leads to a social practice. These practices focus on social and public engagement with communities of interest through art. Talk to social practice-based artists to get a better insight into their process. Working with other artists through a nonprofit or artist run space is a good way to learn about how other artists work and expand your network.

Artist-Run Organizations

Around the world, artists are running organizations, groups, projects, and spaces that often support other artists. They range from galleries to service-based organizations, services such as websites, jobs, professional practice information, and more. There is no one place to find these organizations or groups, but the Internet is a good place to start when looking for these spaces.

Most artist-run organizations actually pay artists an honorarium when they show work. This is one of the tenants that was created so that artists would get paid for their efforts, even if it did not fully cover the expenses of the show. Many organizations provide educational information and services that expand the knowledge of artists and their audiences. Volunteering at one of these organizations is a way to contribute to the well-being of artists in general and is a great way to network and find other like-minded artists.

There is a long history of artist-run organizations that began in the 60s and 70s. Many of these organizations still exist, while others have been started quite recently. As an example, in the early 90s, there were only a few artist-run spaces in Los Angeles. Today, in 2014, there are over 60. This is good news for artists, but they each need to sustain themselves to keep running, and when artists band together to get things done, amazing things can happen.

If you are interested in starting your own project, space, or organization, see the Starting a Nonprofit chapter.

GYST has a group of Pinterest Boards dedicated to listing artist-run spaces in the Greater Los Angeles area, the U.S., and the World. www.


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You can also get our popular book for artists, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist, which includes all of this information and more here.