Being an artist and working in arts admin require very different skill sets, which is why it takes a unique person who can do both. Mina and I had the immense pleasure of speaking Estrella Payton, a creative hat-juggling pro!
In this interview, she shares how she found herself on an administrative career track and what it’s like balancing non-stop community engagement with her own creative practice. We also discuss the importance of sharing opportunities and how she uses her personal and professional experiences to uplift other artists with marginalized identities.
Check out this episode to hear Estrella’s story, get inspired, and gain some excellent advice on how we can all create more equitable and inclusive spaces in the arts.
Estrella Payton is an interdisciplinary artist and the Communications and Community Engagement Manager for the City of Phoenix's office of Arts and Culture.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Kansas City Art Institute in 2007 and received her MFA from Arizona State University in 2015. Formally trained as a printmaker, her artwork explores the use of building materials, constructed spaces, movement, abstracted and appropriated blueprints, map-making, text, collage, and place-centering experiences.
She is interested in power and privilege, cultural conditioning, and systemic inequity. That, combined with her lived experience as a Stateside Puerto Rican, drives her motivation to complicate physical spaces to reorient a viewer’s experience and perspective in institutional and organized environments.
Estrella has exhibited and produced collaborative projects in the U.S. and Mexico. She has been the recipient of artist residencies in Guadalajara, New York, Puerto Rico, and New Mexico.
What you’ll learn:
How Estrella developed the skills necessary to work in an arts admin career
Why it’s important to show up and say yes
How technology has enabled artists to represent themselves more easily in current years
Why Estrella advocated to have social security numbers removed from the Kansas City Art Institute college application while she was an admissions counselor
Why Estrella considered herself a “bad admissions counselor” in order to give the best advice to young people who wanted to pursue the arts
The difficulty of balancing a full-time job in the arts with other gigs and a creative practice
Why a holding Bachelor of Fine Art and a Masters of Fine Art doesn’t entitle you to a career in the arts
The importance of having a network and a support system if you’re pursuing a creative career
Why Estrella’s aspirations to teach changed once she got into her MFA program at Arizona State University
What you have to put in place if you’re interested in pursuing an academic art career
The immense challenges of working with a community as vast and complex as Phoenix
How Estrellas Role as the Communications and Community Engagement Manager informs her creative practice
When to say no to opportunities (and how to pass them on to other artists to uplift and support your community)
Why you have to set both short-term and long-term goals in order to prioritize where you put your energy
How feelings of scarcity and relevancy affect artists
Why strategy is key if you want to become a full-time artist
Estrella’s experience as a woman of color making work about systemic inequity, and confronting artistic spaces that resist engaging in the conversations she wants to have with her work
The disconnect between the demographic makeup of decision makers in arts and culture and the community at-large
How Phoenix is creating spaces to have conversations about equity and inclusion
How art can address systemic inequity and communicate
The importance of being intentional about how we think about inclusion and invite people outside of the arts into art spaces
The value of informal peer mentorships
Connect with Estrella
Links, Opportunities & Resources
Click here to apply to Color Balance, an online exhibition that elevates the work of female photographers of color. This call is not limited to images about identity, although work with personal or cultural themes are certainly welcome. Rather, we ask that you send in your strongest work from any photographic genre to highlight the diverse talents and interests of this underrepresented subsect of photographers.
Announcements from Estrella: “ My next exhibition will be in November at Cochise College in Douglas, AZ. However, if you're a creative person of color and interested in racial equity in the arts, plug in to Artists of Color Organizing for Racial Equity. If that's not your scene, simply support upcoming work produced dope creatives of color like La Phnkra Music Fest, The Whole Story, the visual art of Merryn Alaka at the Shipping Containers on Roosevelt Row.”
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