Just as she brings creative empowerment to underserved spaces, in teaching Antioch students/artists how to thrive, Gabrielle Abbott is igniting the next generation of creatives, showing them how to leave their artistic signature on the earth without sacrificing their integrity in the process. Knowing how to sell your art and not your soul is vital because although artists and creatives may be gifted, they might not have a clear creative vision for themselves. Also, creatives can be uninformed on the “business” side of things. The undergraduate Thriving Artist course alleviates that misinformation, subverting the starving artist myth. Artists and creatives can have sustainable and profitable careers with the right tools.
Becoming Creatively Empowered
Gabrielle Abbott is an award-winning internationally touring muralist, writer (and Volkswagen enthusiast) based in Seattle. She’s been teaching fine arts at Antioch Seattle for the past six years, and this is the first time the Thriving Artist course is being offered. This arsenal of wisdom and practical tools for artists and creatives encompasses all the things Abbott wishes she had known as a 19-year-old artist living in Italy. Abbott says, “It’s everything that I’ve learned in the 15 years of my career—what I wish I had starting out. It took me like over a decade to kind of piece all this knowledge together.”
After reflecting on her own thriving, successful career, Abbott wanted others to feel that same sense of validation and fulfillment. However, the notion that students are leaving art programs lacking the business acumen to properly guide and nourish their own careers felt like injustice. “They don’t teach the business side of things in art school,” Abbott says. “I went to art school in my undergrad and then I did a grad program for fine arts, and I didn’t take a single business class in either of those programs. It’s criminal because you’re coming out of school with all this debt and all this passion with no clue how to actually make it work.”
Empowering artists and creatives is one of Abbott’s passionate pursuits. It’s important to her that artists and creatives learn how to translate their passion and art into thriving, sustainable careers, hence the motivation behind the Thriving Artist course now offered at Antioch Seattle.
Although the course is geared towards visual artists, creatives from all fields will find value in the course content. Abbott says, “If you’re pursuing an alternative path and wanting to do something creative, it might be art, but it could also be something like starting a podcast or, having an Etsy shop, or any creative gift that’s unique—this course explores how to make your own way and how to build a creative business around your unique gift.”
Brenda Grow, an Antioch student and business owner says the knowledge and resources she received from the course shifted her business to a new level. “This course gave me the discipline to dissect the values of my business and get clear in what I wanted out of having an art business. I knew I wanted to take my brand into the world of digital workshops and education.” The course gave Grow the tools to do just that.
Classes are offered virtually, one day a week for two and half hours. Students learn and develop entrepreneurial skills, explore how to market themselves, developing an online presence, and explore what to charge for their work. Importantly, students are encouraged to not be ashamed to place monetary value on their art.
“We begin the course with a deep dive into your own visions and goals for your life on the bigger macro level,” Abbott says. “We get really clear about who we want to be, what we want to offer to the world, and what makes us happy. And then we talk about building a career surrounding that and in support of that.”
Abbott also empowers students to take control of their careers by being educated on the pitfalls and scams that can derail their futures. Having the knowledge can prevent most common mistakes. Travis Wood, an Antioch student and artist says, “the Thriving Artist course should be mandatory for any aspiring artist. It’s more than just a business class, it’s a map for artists to navigate the business with a sense of confidence and purpose.”
Abbott believes that by empowering her students, she is inspired in return. There’s a collaboration that happens that makes the experience fruitful for her and her students. “It keeps me fresh,“ Abbott says. “It inspires me to keep growing. It gives me a chance to re-examine how I’m presenting myself and how I’m applying these concepts to my own career.”
Though the artist’s journey can be difficult, navigating it with other like-minded artists and creatives is key. “Gabrielle and the student artists were generously supportive of my journey and each other,” Wood says. “The lessons from Thriving Artist are ones that I return to often when I need inspiration and guidance.”
Abbott has clear objectives for the course. She says, “My hope is that students will walk away with a feeling of clear connection to their purpose and their creative passion and a roadmap for how they can make money in a way that stays in alignment with what they’re really here on earth to do.”
Grow agrees. “My experience taking the Thriving Artist Course with Gabrielle Abbott was borderline spiritual, morphing my Antioch psychology knowledge with all my previous life experiences. I birthed my first online class called Spiritual Bypassing 101.
“With all the changes in the world, for better or for worse, creative empowerment is one of the positive things that’s coming out of this new age,” Abbott says. “We’re seeing more power and autonomy in the hands of individual creative people, and I think that’s a really important narrative.”
No starving necessary.
For more information or to subscribe to Abbott’s mailing list, visit: gabrielleabbott.com
Follow her on instagram: @gabrielleabbott
Abbott also offers a non-credit version of the course that can be taken online for those who are not students but are seeking professional development. Information on how to enroll can be found on her website.
Antoinette is an MFA candidate in fiction at Antioch University Los Angeles. This movie buff and foodie based in Cleveland, Ohio, also performs as a singer, editor, writing coach, and occasional movie extra.