Between my BFA and MFA I waited tables and worked in the floral industry to support myself. I dropped waitressing during and after MFA and worked exclusively for flower shops; I was also a TA while in school. Eventually I started working free-lance floral, getting larger wedding accounts and making decent money while starting to exhibit my art. At some point I decided that I would like to have my life be more streamlined (or so I thought) and teach so that I could be more engaged in the academic art community and have my ‘job’ have more of a specific parallel to my art (any direct income from my art has been from grants, very little has been generated selling my work). The college teaching position was engaging until it became clear that the department was more interested in keeping students than actually challenging them. I became frustrated with this, lost my enthusiasm and left; I thought about giving other schools/departments a try but then the economy tanked and nobody was hiring.
In the mean time (through a contact I made at the university) I had found other art opportunities that were far more interesting – I worked with these (less cachet and money, but more authenticity) concurrently with the larger institution until I quit and focused specifically on the more alternative things. Honestly, this new work inspired me to do more like it and highlighted the shortcomings of the previous work I had been engaged in. None of it has ever paid the bills, though. The most lucrative thing has been the floral industry- Had I been completely mercenary, I would have found a way to turn that into a real business but it would have required complete focus which I could not commit to as it would have taken away from my studio time. I get my health insurance from my partner’s employment, which has fluctuated over the years but is finally pretty good. Had I not been married, I may have felt obliged to continue in the job that I had become disenchanted with, so I am fortunate in this regard.
My expectations in the academic art world have become so low that when an opportunity arises where an institution offers (what by most normal standards) is a reasonable fee for a service (such as visiting artist, lecturer, etc.) it seems like a lot to me. To avoid feeling like a total supplicant, I would like to always have choices outside of this realm.