Being an artist without starving is topic of forum

Today’s technology allows modern artists to create and publish on a larger and cheaper scale than at

Categories: Schenectady County

Today’s technology allows modern artists to create and publish on a larger and cheaper scale than at any time in human history, and it also causes major financial problems for them, according to speakers at a college forum Saturday.

“Everyone can make a record now, but not everyone really should,” said musician Sara Milonovich.

Milonovich, an Amsterdam native who attended FMCC before transferring to Cornell University, spoke at Fulton Montgomery Community College’s third annual fall arts seminar. The seminar’s theme, “Marketing the Arts”, focused on how to make an artistic career financially viable.

Milonovich is a professional musician who toured the United States and Ireland from 1999 to 2002 as a member of the Mckrells, the Celtic and bluegrass band. She said modern artists have a love-hate relationship with new technology that allows them to produce songs and distribute them instantly to millions of people. But, she added, this ability also promotes the “culture of free,” where the public expects to be entertained without a price.

“That’s when we starve,” Milonovich said.

Joel Chapin, FMCC’s professor of the fine arts and the director of the Perrella Gallery, said the seminar’s goal was to offer practical solutions to artists who want to make money doing what they love. “If you’re interested in the arts and you have a passion, there are viable careers in the arts.”

Panelist Harry Wirtz said he’s had numerous jobs in the visual arts fields. He’s been a cinematographer, a 16mm film editor, a newspaper photographer, a graphic artist and commercial photographer. He is now an adjunct college professor.

Wirtz said the secret to his career is a willingness to reincarnate himself constantly. “I have a degree in English from SUNY Albany, but I always stuck primarily with visual media,” he said. “You have to reinvent yourself. At one time I thought I was flitting back and forth between too many different careers, but I realize now it was pretty much all focused on visual media of one type or another.”

Anne Cushing, a fifth-semester student at FMCC and the president of the college’s Student Art Guild, said she’s studying fine arts and believes in diversifying her skills as Wirtz has. “It helps to pick up a lot of skills. I’m a fine arts major, but I’ll learn graphic arts as well,” she said.

Milonovich said when she was younger she saw brochures in school that promoted careers in the arts with the phrase, “So, you want to be an artist.” The brochures, however, never explained the importance of learning business skills in being a professional artist, she added.

“When you’re an artist, you not only need to be in charge of being a creative entity, but you also have to be a small business owner,” Milonovich said.

“The glamorous bit is being part of the creative community, being an artist, getting your show, your performance, your gallery opening. Those are the hours of glory. No one tells you what goes on behind the scenes, like when you’re working for yourself you’re in charge of things like income taxes, health insurance, all of your bills,” Milonovich said.

FMCC Freshman Sarah Best, who wants to pursue a career in graphic arts, said the seminar’s speakers provided valuable tips. “I think I’d like to own my own business someday doing something with the arts,” she said.

The seminar was sponsored by the Montgomery County Educational and Cultural Council on the Arts, known as MECCA. More information about the group is available at

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