Monika Proffitt is an installation artist, writer and entrepreneur. In her former life she worked in arts administration as a grant maker and in social services as a counselor to mentally ill homeless people.
Proffitt’s installations have been exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest, New York and New Mexico. She has received awards and commissions from Washington State, the Cities of Seattle and Tacoma, King County, and Pilchuck School of Glass, among others. Her work has been reviewed throughout the Northwest and has been featured on the cover of Lighting Magazine. She has spoken on topics ranging from responsible, creative entrepreneurship to the artist’s process in life, career and connection.
Proffitt is also the Founding Executive Director of Starry Night Programs, which offers artist residencies in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, as well as exhibition opportunities, Artist Resources and Tools as well as free artist resources. She is a lover of life.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Monika, when did you first discover your love of the arts?
Like many, I have loved art since I was a kid. As Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Carrie: How would you describe your art to readers?
I make non-object oriented installation, which means I like to make the point of my work the connecting place between the things – between the objects I use, and/or between the viewer and the object. My background is in painting, which I really return to when working out issues of light and emotion, but in the end, the main properties that I work with now are light, space, field recordings and a social practice, all of which explores intimacy.
Carrie: You’ve created something called Starry Night Programs, please tell us about it.
Starry Night Programs is a unique organization that I founded in 2011. Dedicated to nurturing emerging artists without exclusive representation, Starry Night’s aim is to lower the traditional barriers artists face when trying to establish themselves, and with that, help fortify our collective cultural voice. If you’d like to see our unique, hybrid non-profit and for-profit model, you can watch a presentation that I gave about it to the Alliance of Artist Communities here.
We are dedicated to supporting and nurturing artists and their careers through our Residency, Exposure, and Online Training Programs (linked above in introduction).
The Artist In Residence program is nestled in the historic hot springs district of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Located halfway between Albuquerque, NM and El Paso, TX, Starry Night provides a nourishing environment for artists, writers, and researchers of all disciplines to accomplish new work.
The Exposure Program provides visual artists with the opportunity to show their work during Art Basel Miami Weekend in Miami Beach and the Frieze Art Fair Week in New York City. The Exposure program brings visual artists onto the international stage to participate in these contemporary, high traffic art fairs in order to launch their careers to the next level.
Artist Resources & Tools (aka ART School) is our online training program. It is a virtual classroom for visual artists where we provide them with the tools they need to achieve the professional success they deserve as culture creators and critical voices.
Carrie: How do you balance working on your own art with Starry Night?
Very carefully. My own practice is always something I not only want to do, but NEED to do. So I try to keep my evenings open for studio time, and business hours are typically for running Starry Night. When I’m lucky.
Carrie: What’s one piece of advice or practice from your Starry Night experience that you find indispensable for your own artist practice?
Start wherever you are, and just work with what you’ve got. Nothing is going to be perfect right out of the gate, and you just have to roll with it and keep trying, keep perfecting.
Oh, and done is better than perfect. I love that saying.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
Well, I know that doctors face criticism when their work isn’t to the liking of their patients, and patients’ families. I mean, we are not saving lives like they are, so vulnerability really plays a deep role in many professions. That said, just because we are not saving lives doesn’t mean that we don’t put everything about our own lives on the line when we put our work out there. The criticism is bound to come, but the courage to be vulnerable is the key to doing good work, whether you are an artist or a doctor.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
I wrote a whole section on that in the Best Year Ever Workbook – what to do when everything sucks. For me, I go for a run or I take a long shower to clear my head and shake it off. Impromptu dance parties are high on my list as well.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
Social Justice. You can see how many causes I contribute to on our web site here.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
For me it is all about time management. Sometimes that has manifested as needing to take on a project that takes me away from the studio more than I’d like. Sometimes it is about not using the time I do spend in the studio well – like just puttering around rather than really executing on the next big, important piece that I feel inside of me. It is hard to focus when there are too many things pulling for your attention, so time management is key for me.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Really smart people, really brave people, and really vulnerable people who have determination.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is something that shows up as a need to “produce” rather than to just “consume”. Creativity is the named place where an amorphous combination of curiosity, courage and urgency propel us in hopes of dispelling our own dissatisfaction with a world that does not yet possess a thing that we have inside.
Creativity is vulnerable urgency incarnate.
“Courage to be vulnerable is the key to doing good work.” (Click to Tweet)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How is time management important to you as a creative? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
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I enjoyed this interview, but think the article needed some proofreading as there were a couple of typing errors. Otherwise, very nice!
Thanks you Claire for your thoughts and feedback. I’m glad to have you here on Artist Think.