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Helping the next generation

Updated: Mar 13

Last Friday I got to give a talk to the kids at Baxter Academy, a charter high school here in Portland Maine. I was talking about what it's like to be a self-employed artist and run my own business. This was an excellent exercise in reflecting on how I got to where I am.

My dad is a self-employed artist. He's been making ship models and working in fine art and conservation since 1979.

Growing up, I didn't realize the example this gave me: being a self-employed artist was an option. And a liveable one. He's been doing it full time as his only source of income for over 40 years. Most people don't get that kind of role model.

I often think about how we shift the world towards one we would much rather live in. And not having agency over my time was not an option. Since covid, I think more people have woken up to the fact that they don't need accept the status quo. I always chose the less-traveled path, probably more out of rebellion at the time. But I'm always asking "why" - why do we work a 9-5? Why does it have to be 40 hours a week? Why is the world set up the way it is?

My own journey started when I took a gap year after high school when most of my classmates went straight to college. I spent three months in Vanuatu doing a community-run sea turtle conservation project.

I went to a small, alternative, liberal arts school that encouraged self-designed study where I did a documentary film in Malaysian Borneo about eco-tourism and conservation.

I spent two years living in Paris, France, to learn my mother's language, while many of my classmates were beginning their careers. I worked in a cafe and met international artists, worked on short films and collaborated on art projects. It was the classic bohemian life and although I was making 7 Euros an hour I had an amazing time.

When I came back to the US it was knowing that I wanted to create my own existence. I bought the cheapest camera I could afford (the first Sony a7!), built my own website and started building my portfolio doing videos for friends. Then I found paying clients, while also doing catering gigs just to make sure I could pay all my bills.

Ten years in, I'm still learning, and that's what I love about running my own business. Not all artists are business people, and not everyone wants to do that. But I genuinely enjoy it as a part of what I do aside from producing and making films, and I think it's what has helped with my success doing this professionally.

Sharing my story with others is, I hope, inspirational and gives people a sense that there are other options in this world. But we have to create them. It is possible.

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