ART LIVES HERE

Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District

Sean Hennessey

Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

Sean Hennessey works in glass relief sculpture, mixed media, and painting. He is 43, single and has worked in the Gateway Arts District for 16 years.

I’ve been lucky to have achieved the goals I’ve set for myself, and there are so many tiny steps that lead to any accomplishment. High points in my career include having my work included in the Howard Theatre Restoration, working on the new glass doors for the Library of Congress, being named a Star of Tomorrow at the Renwick Gallery, being in the Amazon Corporate collection, and having Artists, Gallerists, Critics, Curators, and Collectors I look up to see me as a peer.

Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

I first started working in the Arts District when I was the painter/sculptor for the prop shop of the Shakespeare Theatre. Then, I started renting a studio space nearby. This was before the Arts District formed. Artists were already finding themselves in Mount Rainier, and there was inexpensive industrial space to work and inexpensive housing to live. What makes me stay is the network of artists that live and work here. The Arts District has attracted other artists to the area, and it also attracts clients. People used to be bewildered as to our location or think we were way out-of-the-way. But as there are more artists, a greater recognition of the Arts District and the vibrancy here, people are more and more willing to show up to events or just come out and visit us in our natural habitat.

I’ve been able to sustain my career as an artist by a combination of stubbornness, stupidity, fierce determination, working far too many hours, and facing my fears head on. It’s an insane career choice and to actually make a living is super difficult. There is an incredibly large amount of failure that artists, especially full-time artists, experience. It is very easy to feel like giving up. But as artists often say, “there’s no bad mood a few sales won’t cure.”

The pros:

  • Mostly being able to make my own schedule. Sure there are deadlines that can’t be avoided, meetings and events. Sometimes things that are scheduled a few years in advance, but there’s a freedom for much of the time.
  • Making things that inspire people. For me, there really is nothing greater. It’s the best part of living.
  • My days are always different. Its challenging, but never boring.
  • I have the freedom to make anything I want. sure there are the realities, that I still need to sell work to survive. But my options are all my choice.
  • Meeting new people.  I love people. I love talking with people with different outlooks, backgrounds, and experiences. Being an artist, hosting open studios, having shows, traveling to events, being a part of arts organizations puts you face to face with lots of people. It’s a wonderful and rewarding experience.
  • Running my own business.  I like that my successes and my failures are all my own.

The cons:

  • There is an incredibly large amount of failure that artists, especially full-time artists, experience.  Experiments that don’t work, works that don’t come out the way you hoped, As a glass artist sometimes things break, Series of works are commercially unsuccessful and you lose money (that you don’t even have), rejection letter after rejection letter.  It is very easy to feel like giving up. But as artists often say, “there’s no bad mood a few sales won’t cure”.
  • Income. Even when sales are good, the economics of art are tough.
Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

Sean Hennessey photographed by Krista Schlyer

Nearly all days are work days in some capacity, and much of my personal life revolves around art. Before 9:00 am, meditation and copious amounts of coffee plus emails, to-do lists, reading the news. Beyond that, absolutely no day is a typical day. Some days are spent on the computer all day. Organizing images, sharing images, applying for shows, blogging, writing proposals, ordering materials, research, paying bills. Basically running the business of Art. That in itself is a full-time job.

There are days I’m on a location somewhere. Either delivering artwork, hanging a show, seeing a show, doing an installation, meeting with a client, meeting with a curator, meeting with a collector, meeting with other artists, painting a mural, or working on an activity for one of the arts groups i’m a member of.

Then, of course, there are days actually making artwork. As a mixed media artists, there are many facets to the way i create work. I make molds, I cut glass, I cast glass, I weld, I paint, I draw, I use photography, video, found objects and i cast concrete. Every day is a different project. Unless I have plans in the evening,  I work till I’m tired or the stages of my process mean I can’t do more that day. Evenings are all over the place too. I spend it with friends, go to openings, sit at home and sketch, or watch movies. Really all depends.  Except for my morning rituals, not many consistencies to my days.

The Arts District has attracted other artists to the area, and it also attracts clients. This has been the best part. People used to be bewildered as to our location or think we were “way out of the way”. But as there are more artists, and a greater recognition of the Arts District and the vibrancy here, people are more and more willing to show up to events or just come out and visit us in our natural habitat. I sometimes make sales from open studios or other events.


140726_4533Interview prepared by Michelle Lee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Tweet Tweet

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Most Clicked

  • None
%d bloggers like this: