Sharon Louden’s publisher approached her about writing a book back in 2011. Louden wasn’t comfortable doing so herself, but instead chose to “invite 40 artists to start a conversation about how they sustain their creative lives,” she said.
Louden, who will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday June 26 in the Hultquist Center as part of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution Lecture Series, plans to discuss her work as well as what it means to her to be an artist today.
Louden has edited two books: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, and The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life. To put them together, Louden first tracked down artists, then figured out what they could contribute.
After each book was published, Louden embarked on what she called a “conversation tour.” She described the events as “an open forum for artists and people in the audience,” which usually included local artists and community members. The books served as starting points for these conversations.
“I’ve learned so much about what artists need and want to be an advocate for artists, and also how we are integral in society. We contribute not only to the economy, but we really contribute to the well-being of others.”
– Sharon Louden, Editor, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life and The Artist as Culture Producer are the first two books in a planned trilogy. The final addition, Last Artist Standing: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, is slated for a 2020 release. Another book, The Innovators: Defining Change in the Art World, which Louden co-edited with Jessica Lynne, will be published in 2020 as well.
Louden is also developing another series of 10 books, as a senior editor, that will be released from 2020 to 2030.
“I really believe that privilege has to be shared,” Louden said, “So I’m selecting editors to choose artists in the same way that I did in my books, to show what is it like today to be a musician, what is it like today to be a writer … and then showing those lives and how they sustain those lives.”
Louden first came to Chautauqua in 1992 to teach at the School of Art, and has returned several times since then. Most recently, she served as juror of the 61st Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art currently located in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. She has also taught at the Kansas City Art Institute, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Vanderbilt University and other schools since 1991.
Although she doesn’t have a favorite subject to teach, Louden said her favorite thing about teaching in general is “encouraging the ethics and values of artists.” She said she wants students to take these lessons about being an artist away from her classes.
“We can bounce back from failure like no other, we have the ability to create things from nothing, we are examples of what it really means to live freely and have a creative free expression of how we share our thoughts, our feelings, our observa- tions,” she said.
Louden is looking forward to returning to Chautauqua to kick off the VACI Lecture Series.
“I think it’s a magical place,” Louden said. “It’s a place to express thought and generate creativity, and I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”