August 27, 2018

Do Artists Need Resumes?

As artists, many of us would like to think that our work speaks for itself in terms of experience and expertise. Why would we need to write out our education, awards, show history? Plus, who wants to brag about all of that when the real focus is making more work? There are plenty of situations in which your art alone will be the deciding factor on whether or not you are included in a show or event, but as with any other career, professional artists will have use for a resume and / or CV. But what’s the difference? What should be included in each? Let’s chat about best practices for documenting your artistic track record and giving yourself credit for work well done!

What is the Difference Between a Resume and a CV?
If you’re like me, you most commonly think of a resume as a tool for getting a job. It documents your education and past work experience to give employers a quick overview of your qualifications. The industry ideal for resumes is one page in length. Think concise with high points, often customized to show off different strengths based on the position you are applying for. A CV (Curriculum Vitæ) on the other hand, does not have to be limited to one page, and it should be a thorough list of education, experience and achievements. In the art world, you are more likely to be ask for a CV because it is a better reference of all shows, awards, publications and more in chronological order to show your activity and acclaim. When to use each type of document varies by country and industry. When applying for art shows or gallery exhibitions, pay attention to what they ask for, both the terminology and information to include. They may say resume, but want to know all past show history for example, which will likely be more of a CV. Either way, there are key details to keep in mind for putting together or polishing the professional documents.

1. Name & Contact Information
First and foremost, your audience needs to know who you are and how to get in touch with you. This includes email, phone and website at the very least. You may also want to include a physical address if there is a main gallery where your art is housed or you have a studio open to visitors. Social media is also a positive for showing that you are keeping up with modern marketing options.

2. Education
How did you learn your technique? Do you have an art degree or certification? What about significant workshops, apprenticeships, residencies, etc? If you didn’t study art in college, you can include that for background or focus only on what directly led to your art career. These listings should include:
  • Where you studied (Institution & Location)
  • Format (Degree program, Residency, etc.)
  • Year of Completion
  • Resulting Honors

3. Professional Experience
This is more fitting in a resume and should detail jobs you’ve held that are related to your art career. If you are a self employed artist or you’ve done freelancing, that may be what focus on. If you’ve worked under other artists or for art organizations, etc. that is also fitting. No need to detail work that isn’t relevant or that might give the wrong impression of your professionalism as an artist. Again, you may not include this on a CV, but should in a resume. What to list:
  • Company or Organization (or Self Employed)
  • Your Position(s)
  • Location & Years Worked
  • Highlights of your Role

4. Exhibitions & Events
Here is where you can share when and where you’ve had the chance to show your artwork. Since most of the opportunities required being selected, you are documenting these as both accomplishments and activity as a serious artist. On a resume, you might just list the biggest exhibitions or solo shows as they relate to what you’re applying for. CVs on the other hand, can include everything, listed in chronological order with the most recent at the top. Some people like to break out Solo Shows, Group Shows, Festivals and Events, etc. This is up to you and how much you have to list. Either way, be sure to note:
  • Year of the Event
  • Type of Show
  • Location (Gallery or Organization)
  • Title of the Exhibition (if Applicable)
  • Medium (If not Clear in Type or Title)

5. Awards & Honors
Some artists will group these under the related show or event, while others prefer a separate section to call out these honors. Similar details apply as above to document the accomplishment. The most important detail is what award and what work it is related to.

6. Collections
If your work has been purchased by prestigious organizations or individuals, this section is your chance to list that. You may not have anything to say here early in your career, so no need to include until later. For some of you, this may be where you note any public artworks or commissions. If you have a large number of these, you may want a separate section for Commissions or Collaborations.

7. Bibliography / Publications
Another element of documenting your activity and professionalism is press. If you have written anything or had your artwork published, you want to highlight these. Ideally these should be significant mentions, not just social media. These can range for books to newspaper articles to blog posts. Some recommend separating what you’ve written and published from what has been written about you. This will vary by how much you have in both categories. In either case, you’ll want to list:
  • Author (You or Someone Else)
  • Title of Article, Book, Work Included, etc.
  • Name of Publication
  • Date Published
  • URL (if online)

8. Teaching / Workshops
For those of you who spend time sharing your expertise with other artists, either through lectures, workshops or formal classes, this is part of your professional experience. List these with year, position, where your taught and what was covered. These may be simply an artist talk related to an exhibition or a hands on art class.

9. References
Depending on who you are producing this document for, you may want to include a list of individuals that have agreed to speak on your behalf about your work and any experiences working together. These may be colleagues, galleries, mentors, collectors, etc. Just be sure you have gotten their permission to include their name and contact information because you are more likely to get a good reference in this case.

The first step to creating a resume or CV as an artist is listing out everything you could include. Then as you formalize the document, you can edit through, reorganize and revise based on the end goal. I typically recommend that every artist have a CV on their website along with an Artist Statement or Bio to further detail your expertise. You deserve credit for all that you've accomplished. If you'd like to see examples, I recommend looking at what some of your favorite artists have put together. Format may vary, but the key information is always the same. Never forget, you are a rock star!