This year was a roller coaster, to say the least! During the last interview, I mentioned that I started my career as an artist just as Covid-19 shut everything down. I was pretty optimistic despite the uncertainty, but shortly after the article was published, it was like someone hit the pause button. I found out a museum exhibition I’d been accepted into was put on hold. Opportunities were slim and I felt like I was sort of coasting along in limbo. For a short time, I did consider setting aside my work. I’m not even sure what triggered it, but one day, I made the conscious decision to go all in and made a plan.
I switched from using a print on demand service to working with a print shop in Virginia that specialized in fine art reproductions. I’m sure a lot of people thought I was nuts choosing a print shop 1000 miles away from my home in Mississippi, but as a military family, we are going to move around so local wouldn’t be local for long. Old Town Editions offered everything I needed and more so I started planning my trip and scheduled my appointment .
The week before my trip, I was told the exhibition, which was in Florida, was back on and drop offs were only a few days away! I quickly adjusted my schedule and was able to make the drop off on time before heading to Virginia. From there, it felt like someone hit fast forward. Organizations started shifting to virtual platforms and reopening in limited capacity to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions. More opportunities became available and I submitted my work as often as I could. I received a lot of rejections. but then things started looking up.
I took a job as an enumerator for the 2020 Census so I could buy some much needed art supplies and equipment. While I was doing that, my work was accepted into two national juried exhibitions. I was thrilled! I was still walking around, getting chased by dogs (which kept things in perspective haha), but I felt like I was finally getting my work out there. I was accepted into several more exhibitions across the US and did spotlight interviews with The Little Yellow Building and the Tishomingo Arts Council here in Mississippi. Both have focused on boosting artists’ visibility through exhibitions and by sharing their stories which is so important, especially right now.
In the fall, I created a small test line of 1000-piece puzzles from images of my paintings. I was really nervous about the success of the line, but it did really well so I do want to expand the line in the future.
The year ended with an amazing opportunity. I was asked to be the Mississippi artist for a 50 state endangered species conservation project. Along with being in an exhibition, each piece would be the cover of a children’s book about that specific species. I spent nearly 300 hours completing it so I wish I could share the piece, but I’ve decided to wait until the project moves forward in 2022.
It was truly an incredible and unexpected first year, but I have decided to shift my focus a little bit which means letting go of some of that momentum. It’s time to PCS again, but in true military fashion, we have no idea when or where yet making it difficult to schedule things. Because of that, I’ve decided to slow down and focus on building my portfolio. I guess it’s almost time to see how portable this career really is!
Find Melissa’s Work online at : http://www.mhedgeartstudio.com/
and on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/she.creates.it/