There is no typical day in the arts.
Hello, I’m Paul Shortt, an artist, curator and educator based in Washington, DC. Currently I work part time as a New Media Curator for Arlington Cultural Affairs in Arlington County, Virginia. We don’t have a physical art space or gallery, so much of the programming I do is through partnerships around the county.
Recently I accepted a position as the part-time Interim Gallery Director for the Marymount University Ballston Gallery, which will open in Fall 2017.
Oh, and I also teach an Ideas in the Arts class for non-art majors at UMBC through the Dance Department in the Fall and Spring.
7:30 AM-9 AM Wake Up
My day typically starts when my wife wakes up. Then I take a 10-20 minute shower (depends on how much my mind wanders). Typically I bring my breakfast (granola bar, greek yogurt and a banana). If I’m working in Arlington that day I typically drop my wife off at her work on my way in and then get coffee in Arlington at Livin’ The Pie Life.
They carry Red Rooster coffee from my hometown of Floyd, VA. My father was in the military for 20 years, so I lived in tons of places before he retired to Floyd. My family has been in that part of Appalachia for the last 200 years, and I’m one of the few to move away.
Typically I listen to NPR on my morning drive, but sometimes I just want to avoid the news. Lately, I’ve been listening to On The Echoing Green by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, You Know What It’s Like by Carla Dal Forno (my favorite track of hers post the 2016 election is ‘What You Gonna Do Now?’), Dang by EOLA and Molly Nilsson Imaginations. Or when I’m in the mood for a slightly guilty pleasure, the Best of Tears for Fears.
When I arrive to work I typically check my work email for any issues or pressing emails. I like to scan the latest art news via Hyperallergic, Art News, Artsy, etc., in addition to City Lab, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Many of these sites have a national or international scope which I find helpful in thinking about the programming I do in Arlington.
9 AM – 11 AM
I’ve discovered that the mornings are often my most productive, typically spent emailing or drafting emails to artists, potential partners or my colleagues. I’m fortunate to share an office with the artist and curator Cynthia Connolly, and we often bounce ideas off each other and collaborate as curators when we can. The Cultural Affairs division sits under Arlington Economic Development, which means we are plugged into what’s happening in the county and can usually find someone to make an introduction to a potential partner for us.
Currently I don’t have any summer programs, but I’m planning a few for the fall such as an ongoing Full Dome Projection series, a How To Video Festival (5 minute or less “how to” videos from around DC, MD and VA that teach something and are entertaining), and a couple of other projects that are still in development. You can apply to the How To Festival HERE.
Over the last year I’ve commissioned two artists to create Full Dome Projections for a local planetarium in partnership with the Friends of the Planetarium. At this point I’m doing studio visits with potential artists and trying to set the next two artists for the year. The How To Video Festival will be an open call and will take place at the Arlington Public Library on December 2.
11- 12 Lunch
Typically I try to have one of my meals a day be a salad. I’ve been horrible about packing a lunch lately and more often than not eat at Sweetgreen. I recommend the Guacamole Greens salad (skip the red onions and add corn and goat cheese!). I try to walk to Sweetgreen, which helps me get out of the office and think through ideas.
1 PM – 3 PM or..
As I said earlier there is no typical day. Some days I work 7 hours for Arlington, other times less. Since I work 20 hours a week my schedule can change depending on artists availability, events and meetings.
At around 2pm I like to post on my Instagram. I’ve found that if you post too early, no one sees it, and if you post in the evening it gets a little lost. Here is a screenshot of what my Instagram is like:
I try to use Instagram to document the funny and odd things I see; my art or in progress work and the occasional major life event. Lately I’ve used the Stories feature to highlight the work of other artists, studio visits or exhibitions I attend.
On Twitter lately I’ve started to follow people who are funny, and I have been using it to test out my own art humor.
3 PM -6 PMish Post Work/ Artwork Time
After work is typically when I have time to focus on my own art. That said, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking about it all the time. Depending on the day, my life typically takes two directions post work that almost always mean going to a coffee shop. Lately I’ve been going to Colony Club in DC. My new coffee shop rule is that pourover coffee should be an option. I find it less bitter and acidic, but I’m too lazy to make it for myself at home.
If I’m working on my other gallery job then I go to Colony Club for around 2-3 hours and answer emails, schedule studio visits, work on gallery contracts, and focus on planning programming for the year.
If I’m working on my own work the evening might look similar, except that often I grab coffee and head to my studio (that is if there is currently a project I’m working on their). Coffee time is usually used to finish proposals, edit photos or video, read and generally just think through ideas.
I’m not constantly in my studio. For me the studio is a place to bring people for discussion and feedback. I’m currently working on an ongoing project about loitering and trying to figure out my next project. Often there is a bit of overlap between projects, and right now I’m planning and scouting locations for my How To Loiter project and playing with new work. This could mean driving around the city (often in the earlier morning), or trying to remember where I’ve seen No Loitering signs recently. I try to leave Reserved For Loitering signs wherever I see no loitering ones.
I almost always have dinner with my wife. Lately I’ve been making breaded zucchini tacos with caramelized onions, feta, Greek yogurt, and black beans.
7 -11 PM
I’m not going to lie, I watch a lot of TV. That said, I’m picky about what I watch. I watch most of it on either Amazon, Netflix, Hulu or HBOGO. I’ve really been enjoying the new Twin Peaks, Mr. Robot, West World, Orphan Black, Moone Boy, Occupied (about Russia occupying Norway) The Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine Nine.
While I’m watching TV, I’m sadly also working, though I try not to answer emails after 8pm. Often this time is used to process images, update my website or create Adobe Illustrator files for prints and such. A lot of last year was spent using the laser cutter at the local MLK Public Library, but since that space is being renovated, that means I don’t have access for creating new editions.
I’ve also been playing around with a Risograph machine a lot this year to work through ideas and make a few new books.
These are prints I made earlier this year inspired by small tourist towns. I find most small tourist towns often have ice cream shops and that typically the other businesses nearby don’t want you eating ice cream inside their stores. These signs are meant to poke fun at that in a playful way.
These signs will either be placed intervention style overnight at shops that have “No Food or Drink” signs or will be part of a coordinated effort to display the signs in partnership with shops and owners.
I wrap up the night with about 20 minutes of a good book. Right now I’m reading Autumn by Ali Smith, 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso a book about the work of Guy De Cointet. Then it’s lights out and a good night’s sleep for the next busy day. The end.