Shop talk, answers to your FAQs, and a peek behind the scenes of an artist-run fine art gallery in Park Slope
While speaking recently to the Arts Department at East Carolina University, Amy Williams got to meet the students and talk about what it is like to have a career as a working artist. This is reprinted by permission from The East Carolinian @2019 The East Carolinian
By Macie Tano, March 14, 2019
A multi-media Brooklyn photographer visited the East Carolina University Arts Department last night to discuss her life, career and the challenges she faced in becoming an artist. (Photograph: Ashley Lewis)
Guest speaker and photographer Amy Williams is the director of 440 Gallery and deputy director of Arts Gowanus in New York City. She has worked in multiple galleries in NYC and has been a part of solo and group exhibitions since 1999. Her work has been published in two copies of Frog Magazine and The Deeply Flawed Human by Nicole Callihan. Williams has also produced four collections, including one for Saks Fifth Avenue, where she used to work on seasonal window displays.
Williams said the summer before her junior and senior year of undergrad at the University of Texas, she moved to Venice, California for the summer to pursue her interest in art, something she wasn’t able to pursue in her Texas community. She said she got a job at a small gallery in 1998 and it allowed her to meet and work with other artists, which kicked off her career in the art world.
“I walked in and I convinced the guy to give me a job on the spot, and he did, and he was kind of the beginning for it all for me,” Williams said. “Through him, I started working with Enrique Martinez Celaya. I worked as his studio assistant. Working with him, I helped edit an art catalog for him and I actually got credited in the book. I also met Liza Ryan, who was a photographer. I just felt like I found my people.”
After moving to NYC and getting an unsatisfying advertising job, Williams said she applied to every gallery she could find, all while practicing her photography techniques and developing her photos in a dark room. Williams held different positions in various galleries, worked as a freelancer and did work for name brands such as PINK and Louis Vuitton.
By 2015, she landed the position of a director at 440 Gallery, where she got the opportunity to work and organize works of other artists.
“I get to do these great artist talks where I get to pick the minds of every artist, and I get to help them talk about their process and talk about their ideas, and talk about it in a public forum [sic] where they can connect with the community. It makes it all so worthwhile,” Williams said.
“Building relationships with people is important. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I think one of the things that is a thread throughout my life is this idea of having a village, and creating and building your community because that’s who really will support you in your life,” Williams said.
At the end of her speech, Williams and the event’s director, Angel Bellaran, held an open Q&A discussion. Bellaran, who is the director at the Gray Gallery at ECU’s School of Art and Design, met Williams while living in Brooklyn, and invited her to come speak at ECU.“As Amy was mentioning, the network that she created for work that she was doing is often how I was. When she would find herself in between job positions, that is what would maintain her,” Bellaran said. “I’d be working with all kinds of different artists at the same time, but I’d never wanted for work. And for me, I’d rather be doing seven jobs in the arts and be able to do and live, rather than have one job.”
Williams recommended a couple different websites and organizations that can be beneficial to new artists, such as Cue Art Foundation and New York Foundations for the Arts. Williams also recommended speaking with people working at an exhibit or a space that is interesting.