5 reasons artists might want to brand their art practice as a “studio”
Reason 1: Freedom to embrace a diverse set of projects
Some artists spend their entire careers developing and refining a singular visual language. You can often recognize such artists by scrolling through their Instagram and seeing clear visual themes and variations that repeat and evolve over time. My good friend, and good artist, Juan Hinojosa’s Instagram feed is a great illustration.
That’s not me though–take a look at the last 10 years of my work and notice the variation in medium, style, and visual language.👇
I began my professional art career in New York City in 2009 creating site-specific video installations in the public realm, i.e., projecting into the windows of buildings. Over the next 10 years, I created 16 such artworks and participated in over 50 shows around the world. Water Will Be Here, my most traveled piece, was shown at least once per year for a decade across North America and Europe.
In 2014, I was given an opportunity to have a solo gallery show in a space without any windows. I had had the idea for Enter The Machine for years and this was the perfect time and space in which to execute it, which began a three year foray into working algorithmically and creating generative art.
Then in 2017, the election of Donald Trump propelled me hard into participatory art-activism and I spent the next four years getting nearly 200,000 tiny trumps into the hands of over 7,000 across the world.
Now, in 2022, I’m launching a new participatory art-activism movement, 450YRS, that gives participants a way to nip a corporations for not providing better packaging options.
I’ve come to realize that the traditional idea of an artist that develops and refines a singular visual language over years and years, isn’t for me. I’ll leave that discussion for another day but suffice to say that I’ve come to embrace a diverse set of art projects that have different, and not necessarily reconcilable, areas of focus.
Operating as a “studio” provides a larger umbrella under which to pursue more diverse projects than operating as an individual because it implies multiple people working together under one roof. Even if you’re only one person, this is a powerful implication because it allows your art practice to pursue different types of projects concurrently.
TL;DR: a “studio” implies multiple people working under one roof which is a more natural fit for an art practice that works on a diverse set of projects.
Reason 2: A helpful layer of abstraction
Your name is you. Your studio is what you do.
I’ve struggled for years with trying to balance my natural inclination to pursue a diverse set of projects with the idea/convention/expectation that successful artists should develop a unique, recognizable, and compelling singular visual language.
As I’ve said before, that’s not me. At least, not now.
This is more of a feeling, but I find creating art under a “studio” moniker creates a layer of abstraction between me and the work that I find refreshing and, quite honestly, liberating. I no longer feel like I need to stick to just one thing, pursue one voice, hone one visual language. Instead, my “studio” can explore whatever the fuck it wants, and that just feels great.
TL;DR: working under the umbrella of a studio can provide a valuable mental buffer between you and output of your art practice that can liberate you to pursue different kinds of projects.
Reason 3: Online marketing
Are you planning on having an online store or doing any online advertising?
Imagine someone scrolling mindlessly through their social media feed. In this context, an ad from “Eric Corriel Studios” seems instantly more reassuring than an ad from some guy you never heard of named Eric Corriel.
Similarly with the domain name for that online shop you plan on spinning up one day. Which feels more like a reliable online store to you: shop.ericcorrielstudios.com or shop.ericcorriel.com?
TL;DR: a “studio” is more legitimizing to an uninitiated audience when selling products online.
Reason 4: Communicating with the external world
To be honest, the decision to rebrand as a studio began with email.
I hired Kate, my first steady, part-time employee to run the Instagram account for tiny trump, a large scale art-activism project I has started in the wake of the 2016 election. She was also in charge of responding to participant emails, which meant she needed an email address. I started with:
That did not sound right to me. How could Kate, an individual in her own right, be electronically organized as a subset of me? The whole thing felt weird and belittling. And what about the recipient’s perspective? Wouldn’t it be weird communicating with firstname.lastname@example.org?
From what I can tell, artists in this situation have the following options:
- handle all communications themselves (not possible for large scale projects)
- have an assistant handle communications from their own gmail (messy, lose access to communications when assistant leaves)
- have assistant use the artist’s email (messy, no privacy)
- have the assistant use a generic email like email@example.com (decent but doesn’t scale beyond one assistant without getting messy)
- create an email like firstname.lastname@example.org (nope)
- rebrand your entire freakin art practice to be a studio so you and your assistant have separate email addresses that make sense (ding, ding, ding)!
TL;DR: if you think you might have more than one person communicate with the outside world on behalf of your art practice, email addresses like email@example.com are cleaner, more private, respectful, and professional than any alternative.
Reason 5: Think ahead
If you can envision your art practice becoming an umbrella under which other artists and creators can contribute, create work, and pursue projects, then creating a studio is probably your only option.
For example, if one day my studio grows to the point where someone wants to write a Medium post on how we fabricated a challenging artwork, they could post it under this Eric Corriel Studios account, with their own byline, but not so much under my personal account (if I had one).
TL;DR: Operating as a studio allows other creators to work within the structure of your art practice while maintaining their own identity.
If you’re an artist, there are five reasons you might want to consider rebranding as a studio:
- It’s a more natural fit if you plan on embracing a diverse set of projects that don’t easily relate to each other
- It’s conceptually liberating to have a layer of abstraction between you and the work
- It’s a more natural fit if you plan on having other people communicate with the outside world on your behalf
- It’s more reassuring from an online marketing perspective
- It’s more future-proof if you ever plan on being able to provide a structure under which other artists can work