Kickin' It with Jenny Hutchinson
Meet Jenny! By day Jenny works at The Hyde Collection as their Curator of Museum Education & Programming, and by night, weekend, morning, and every other moment, Jenny is a super-talented fine artist specializing in painting and drawing. We’ve always ooh’d and ahhh’d over her beautiful artwork and admire how she balances art-making with a career in arts administration. We talked to her to find out how she balances all of her creative endeavors and how she stays inspired:
Sidekick: You're a fine artist who has also made a career in the world of museums, galleries and art education. Has that unique perspective shaped you as a creative?
Jenny: Whether in the classroom, gallery, or museum, the root of my profession is educating others about art. It is a unique perspective because by teaching others you are forced to place context and interpretation to an otherwise abstract thought process. This has helped me analyze my artworks with a more subjective viewpoint. I can place aside some of the inherently emotional parts of art-making and look at my work as both an educator and as an art administrator. It is definitely a more diplomatic approach.
Can you tell us about one particular challenge you've faced in your career in the arts?
The most challenging part of my career has been managing my own expectations and balancing my artistic aspirations with everyday responsibilities. I’ve been working hard to be successful as both an artist and an arts administrator, but balancing my professional career with my personal life can feel daunting sometimes. You have to find a way to keep going despite all your anxieties and participate in these challenges against the odds. As a freshman in college, a guest artist spoke with my class about being a creative professional. She spoke about how each of us have been recognized for our artistic skills, which drove us to attend art school. As we progress through years of study, fewer of us will continue to graduation. Even fewer will find a creative profession, and fewer still will choose to remain in the creative field. Eventually, success comes through the determination to continue and a willingness to go further. I have never forgotten that.
What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
One of my greatest passions is helping others to discover their own appreciation for art. It is a powerful moment for me when I influence a moment of awe or a revelation about art or a concept. When I get past these obstacles, it motivates me in a similar way to how I felt competing as a track athlete. When everything was clicking and I was running well, I would get the surge of endorphins that people call a runner's high. Making a breakthrough with a group, or an individual about a work of art gives me the same sensation, a kind of artist’s high, where the finish line itself is a shared connection, or experience to the audience.
As far as making art, I really need an outlet for my creativity to feel grounded, and balanced. My requirements for life are food, shelter, water, and art. I get a sense of fulfillment through the creation of a piece, and expressing myself and my vision through the work.
Your art seems to have a strong connection to nature. Is that your main source of inspiration? Where else do you turn for that creative spark?
It took me a long time to realize what role nature had within my art. I only started creating the current body of work about three years ago. I remember as a kid, I spent a lot of time playing outside, or looking out the window when I wasn't. I was not an outdoorsy kid per se, but I was always infinitely curious about nature, and how the world changes and moves. In particular, plants, the sky, and water have always captivated me in how they shift and fluctuate through the seasons. What I did not realize then, is that as I watched all these things around me as a kid, I was essentially meditating as I absorbed the things around me. As an adult I am able to more fully recognize how I interact with nature, and encourage myself to investigate what I find fascinating about it.
I’ve also learned that within the art making process you have to take the risks. My recent artworks are direct results of curiosity and discovery. The ways that I explore and discover new perspectives influence how I’m actually creating the resulting artwork. Wonder is a powerful art-making tool, and I’ve learned to embrace it as both a source of inspiration and as an art-making method.
Did you ever see yourself working in a different creative discipline? Or on a different career path altogether?
When I first applied to college, I checked the graphic design box. I had a family member recommend I pursue that field of study in order to have any kind of a career in arts. At the time, it was a new field, and I really didn’t know what it was to be perfectly honest. When I saw how many classes were so digitally focused using computers, I immediately knew it was not going to be right for me and the type of artist I wanted to be, so back to the drawing and painting classrooms I went.
I had also been an athlete for a large part of my life, and through college I was on the track and field team. I developed a lot of interest in exercise science and personal training. Actually, If I didn’t get into graduate school my plan was to possibly pursue a path in coaching or personal training.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to build a career in the arts?
My number one piece of advice is to get out there and experience things. Actively participate and try anything that informs your experience of art in someway. Volunteer, take classes, go to art openings, go to coffee and talk about art, anything you can. Try something even if you think you’ll hate it. You never know what you’ll learn, who you will meet, or what you may discover. The more equipped you are with possibilities the more opportunities you will have. It is also really important to be willing to change directions and follow a different path than you initially expected, you might find that a new form or medium is actually really enjoyable and inspiring to work in.
What's one thing about being a full-time creative that you wish you knew five years ago?
Five years ago, I knew it was time for a change in my life. Navigating this process was uncomfortable and things evolved slowly. I now realize these phases in life are normal. While it does not make it easier, it’s at least more comfortable to consider that change is normal. Ultimately I resolved to try and believe in myself and what I was creating. I found a quote that simply says, “If you haven’t felt like quitting than your dreams are not big enough.” I took this to heart — it’s human nature to have doubt, but nothing will ever happen to you if you do not aspire to allow opportunities in. I was determined and found support along the way, so you can never underestimate what you are capable of and who is willing to help you.
What’s in store for 2019?
As an artist, 2019 will likely be a bit quiet in terms of art openings and more devoted to art making. My three exhibitions in 2018 were successful and by selling pieces, I fortunately (and in a way, unfortunately) have few works left. As a result, I have many projects going on including some commission work, investigating new processes trying to make some parts less intensive, and I have plans to create a coloring book of my ink works.
At The Hyde Collection we always have something new going on, I’m one of many people behind the scenes trying to create all these great opportunities to experience art. We try to provide opportunities for all ages and experience levels. It’s a huge task and we are a small staff but we’re also up for the challenge — it really helps that The Hyde Collection itself is such an amazing resource. At our core, we’re really just a bunch of art do-gooders — trying to engage with the public in the best ways possible, and share our passion and the mission of the Hyde Collection.
How do you stay creative?
Pencil or Paintbrush? Paintbrush, I even like to sketch in paint over pencil. I like the challenge of not being able to erase.
Early Mornings or Late Nights? Early mornings and not because I am alert, coffee is my bribe to get out of bed, I just tend to do my better work in the morning. At night I fall asleep pretty much the second I sit down, I usually cannot even make it through a movie.
Desktop or Mountain Top? Mountain top, anything outside.
Gallery Grazing or Guided Tour? Surprisingly gallery grazing, I am that person who wanders away from the tour and stops listening. I need the space to let my mind wander and would rather listen to music as I graze.
Scheduled Studio Time or Waiting for Inspiration to Strike? Scheduled studio time otherwise I remain distracted and will preoccupy my mind with work or just look out the windows for hours taking everything in.
How can we find out more about your work?
You can also regularly find me at The Hyde Collection. There I have a blended position of behind-the-scenes and in-the-museum teaching about the collection. Check out our museum, you will be shocked to see names like Rembrandt, Picasso, and Rubens, additionally Glens Falls is worth the visit!