It Takes A Village: Intentional Network Building for LGBTQIA+ Artists

by Kim Wunner

Network /ˈnetˌwərk/ - a group or system of interconnected people or things

The people we surround ourselves with are everything to our ability to thrive.  They are the people we turn to, learn from, listen to and share with. They are who we get our feedback from. They are a resource for us to learn and grow.  

Your professional network is no different. As an emerging artist, you have a very important product (you/your talent/your art) to give the world.

There is a market and universe for you - especially as emerging artists. ESPECIALLY as LGBTQIA+ artists.

Think about your network as the relationships you are building. Relationships tend to share values, they uplift, and help you meet your goals.  They are reciprocal. They are also accepting and safe.  These are the attributes you want to keep in mind as you intentionally build your village.

Let's look at how to build a professional network:

several people stand and kneel talking animatedly

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

What is a network?

Lots of us think of a network as something that is a one way street - something that serves us. In actuality, a network is a place for reciprocity. A brilliant network is one you are able to participate in.

First and foremost to achieve that is INTENTION. A strong network is one where there is a flow of energy and resources. It's going to comprise access to the things and people you need. This may be directly or indirectly - the people in your network have their own networks you are a part of and may be happy to share with you, and vice versa.

Why is a network important?

 No person is an island. We cannot do it alone. Anything. You have a voice and perspective that the world needs to hear. Not only are you going to want to share that voice with the world but you will have goals you want to achieve-  your network is going to be the way that happens.  The benefit of these relationships include:

  1. Learning about professional opportunities
  2. Professional advocates
  3. Keeping up on industry trends
  4. If relocating, learning about the area
  5. Connecting with mentors and peers

Several people sit around a cafe writing, reading, and talking

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

How do you build a network?         

You may have heard networking used as a  verb, a thing you do. When used that way, networking is meeting people. That’s about it.

 "How do I network?" is in some aspects the same question as, "How do I talk with someone?". Start with what you’ve got- family, friends, peers and professors. Ask for them to refer you to people you can talk with on a professional basis.

 Networking simply requires authenticity. It means you know who you are, your value and are willing to share it with other people. It's knowing what and who feels good. It's knowing your goals.

 Before you ask for favors, build a rapport. These are relationships. Show up, give what you can, be your awesome self. The "law of reciprocity" is big in networking.

The more you put in, the more you'll get out of it and relationships are built over time.

The opportunity to network can happen anywhere. Here are some examples of where:

  • A actual networking event
  • Talking to someone in line at the grocery store
  • Talking to your best friends uncle about your work
  • Direct Messages on LinkedIn and Instagram
  • Attending Queerland workshops
  • Conversations at gallery and art openings

two people stand over "passion led us here" painted on the sidewalk

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

 Your Immediate Network

 As you build your professional network, think about the closer relationships you need at this stage in your career. These are your immediate circle, your closest advocates and advisors. Make a list of who you need and if the position is open, keep an eye out as you build your network. These roles may include:

  • Mentors - people who you admire in a specific area

    • Successful professional artists in your discipline
    • Successful LGBTQ professionals
  • Coaches

    • Coaches can help you achieve goals in all areas from business to goal setting
  • Advisors

    • Academic Advisors and Career Advisors can help you make decisions
  • Peers/Peer groups

    • A community of your peers is a place to exchange ideas, learn about opportunity and have like minded individuals who share the passions you do.
  • Professional supports

    • Depending on your goals this can include managers, booking agents, accountants, etc

With this information, you are ready to build your Village! Building a network takes some articulation of self and some effort. Remember people genuinely want to help, they want to be involved! Meeting people and building relationships can be wildly fun.  It is also very necessary.

Remember- be yourself. Know your value. Deliver and demand respect and have fun. The world is your village.