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After Art School?

By Jordan Miller on August 12, 2016

My last blog post was about my start as an artist, my roots of how I decided to enroll in fine arts.  This is the next part of my journey.  As someone who is an artist, an art consultant, and a mentor, I believe it is important to tell my story as every artist starts in a different way with different road blocks.  Art was always in my blood, I was always ‘creating’ something.  What to do with this degree was the next step into the unknown.  I wasn’t accepted into a Masters of Fine Arts Program.  A few years ago I threw away my application and slides.  I’m over it.  At the time of application I was far too young. I wasn’t ready.  I knew it but it seemed like the easy answer and the next step. I now know that a MFA wouldn’t be for me, not now, maybe in a few more years?  Really though, what is the point? I’m doing something in my field of study and not many artists can say that.

Here is the rest of the journey to where I am today.

In May of 2002 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours from the University of Manitoba, taught by Diana Thorneycroft, Steve Higgins, Cliff Eyland, Steve Guthro, William (Bill) Pura, Jeff Funnel, Sharon Alward, Gordon Reeves, and Diane Whitehouse (sub: Derek Brueckner). Each of these instructor/Professors taught me something different about either myself or my art practice.  In some instances I was challenged on an emotional, mental, or skillful level.  For anyone who makes fun of the School of Art and my degree, I would love to challenge them to the amount of creative intelligence that each student must endure.  Critiques of not just your own work but having to speak out about how your classmates achieved or didn’t achieve a certain level of conceptual development, skill in execution etc.  Often I was called out to ‘speak up’, to ‘speak out’ but I often uttered something I felt wasn’t up to par of the ‘most intelligent’.  I was the fear of what others would think that scared me.  Since then I’ve gotten over that and now have more confidence in myself an in my own opinion.    I host professional critique sessions now.  I teach people how to analyze their work and how to help others.  Its amazing how this life experience has helped me get to where I am today with my own career.

What I am trying to say with this is that art school didn’t teach me how to be a better teacher, it taught me confidence. Self confidence, most importantly.

In July of 2002, Elaine Baril, John Roshon, Bernard Ferguson, Ray Molinski and I rented the 3rd floor of 290 Mcdermot Avenue and began renovating our first ever Gallery & Studio space.  After much discussion we named it 5 on Third Gallery. At this time I was 21, almost 22 years old.  We decided to create a board of directors, make a legal document between the 5 of us, and use the gallery and studio for our own purposes.  In 2003, there was a flood on the 3rd floor from a pipe bursting on the 6th floor.  I lost my entire portfolio from fine arts and I knew it was a sign that it was time to re-start as an artist.

Its important to note that I never went into this idea thinking that ‘administration’ or ‘operating a gallery’ was my thing.  I kind of just ‘fell into it’?  Is that bad? I have stumbled around a little and tripped….

Back to my story….

In 2003, Bernard left our collective and Brian Pollreis and then Louise Valcourt joined in. Really, at that time, it became 6 on but the name stayed the same.  In 2004, each member of the original grouping decided to leave the collective. Louise, Rahim, and I decided to find more members to split the cost.  I was mostly behind this push as I couldn’t imagine my life without a studio and a gallery.  Within two weeks 14 new artists were found, 12 committed to the space.  We renamed the gallery Outworks and began to rent out the gallery to (mostly) students and young emerging artists.  The space was rough and raw.  I became the President and the official crack the whipper.  The shy and quiet art school kid had to begin to speak her mind and stand up for what she believed in.  I heard my voice and knew then and there that the confidence I had learned in art school was translating me into the artist – administrator I never knew I could become.

At first i decided to go back to school and study Psychology.  I thought I would enjoy working as an art therapist. I had spent a few years working as a respite worker and as a special needs worker at an inner city child care facility near the Health Sciences Centre.  After that year I decided that Psychology wasn’t for me.

In 2004, I quit my day job to attend the Arts and Cultural Management Program through the University of Winnipeg.  I needed a job…but my boss at the time wouldn’t allow me to take a few days off of work here and there to take my courses.  I lucked out as a mutual friend put in a good word for me with Lydia Giles, the Executive Director at the Manitoba Arts Network.  I had my interview and I knew that she and I would get along.  I was young and I had a lot of learning to do but worked very hard.  My job was basically to assist everyone in the office with the Manitoba Showcase and the artist directories.  If anyone knows anything about me, I love organizing projects and ideas!

In the summer of 2006, I felt that I was beyond what outworks could provide for me: a career in the arts and I needed to do something bigger that was more of a job, less of a collective.  I had hoped to become an artist…however another opportunity arose.

‘cre8ery’….

I’ll save this story for my next post….

two years after cre8ery opened (2006 was when i got the keys), in 2008, i went back to finish the two courses needed for my arts and cultural management certificate….

Please feel free to comment below, I love connecting with my audience!

3 thoughts on “After Art School?

  1. Diane says:

    Great article. Nice to was your story!

  2. Connie Wawruck-Hemmett says:

    thank you for sharing your story, Jordan….. I really look forward to the next chapter. xoxo

  3. Rorie Boyce says:

    Hey Jordan, I love the way you tell a story. You paint in magnificent colors with both brush and keyboard.

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