• Erin Wilson

The Artist and the Businessman

I started watching Halston this week on Netflix (definitely rated R FYI), created by Ryan Murphy. I love a biopic series. It’s like I get a glimpse behind the curtain and yet it’s all so neat and tidy. The scenes are scripted to perfection, the set is either perfectly designed or perfectly imperfect. The clothes, especially in Halston, are incredible. I just love it.

In Halston, Eleanor Lambert (a major fashion publicist at the time) played by Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls fans will know) leans in on Halston asking him to participate in a splashy fashion fundraiser. He doesn’t want to do it and responds, “Which is it, do you think? Am I a businessman or an artist?” Eleanor says, “Do you have to choose?” (Halston) “Yes, I probably do." (Eleanor) “Why not both?”

Truth is….in the entertainment industry you can’t choose. You HAVE to be both. You have to refine your skills AND be strategic about what material you choose. You have to let go of outside opinions/noise to be the artist you are, AND YET, like Halston, you should continue to watch the trends and industry to offer that special thing that you and only you bring to the table (it’s there...I promise).

I find those who move to a big market (NY/LA/London/etc.) and consistently work is that these artists understand it is a business.

So, the next question should naturally be….are you choosing to be both? Waiting by the phone and not actively sharpening your skills (yes...even if you were the STAR in your hometown, college, first tour decades ago, etc.) doesn’t an artist OR a business person make. But, neither does relentlessly going to audition after audition “doing some of your best work” without keeping a record of some kind on what worked and what didn’t, choosing material that serves you and the piece, or who was in the room. Quick hint: Know who the people in the room are, what kind of art they create, and how they do business.

Having your materials in constant tip-top shape, working well with others, holding up healthy boundaries, making tough choices, seeing beyond the immediate gratification, playing the long game, disciplined self-practice, taking risks, having a creative outlet, supporting the arts, seeing the world through a wide lens and also a close-up lens, being clear on your distractions (aka pinch-points), practicing mindfulness, strategy, surrounding yourself with people who catapult you instead of suffocating you, etc. These are all ways to approach artistry and business.

Spoiler alert....turns out Halston needed to be both an artist and a businessman. So much so that he actually signed his name away for life without knowing it.

So which is it then? Are you an artist or a businessperson? Or are you both?

(Disclaimer: this is not a one-and-done conversation. There is a further nuanced conversation here. This is simply to inspire you to approach a career with this sense of duality!)

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