Today, I was facilitating an art talk to a crowd of students, faculty and guests at the University of Evansville when I realized the number of opportunities that have come my way as a result of building relational capital for more than ten years. Relational capital is fostering authentic relationships with like-minded individuals. Many of those relationships may give way to unique opportunities at some point or another. We all know that networking is important, particularly in the art world. Whether you live in a big city or in a rural area, you can build relational capital over the internet.
The problem is that we are so distracted with social media and everything else that scrolls in our mobile devices that fostering meaningful relationships is becoming hard to do. Trying to keep up with each of your Facebook friends is almost impossible. Why? Because building meaningful relationships takes time, effort and intentionality. Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with and get to know people. While that is great, it has also made it easier to simplify relationships to just likes and comments in someone’s post.
Relational Capital is more than casual social media interaction. It is about getting to know the other person. That is where the “capital” word comes to play. Capital is earned and is the result of investment. Maybe it is a good time to look at your hundreds or perhaps thousands of social media friends and select two or three to start investing in relationships. Don’t go at it with the “what’s in it for me” mindset. Instead, build trust and think about what you have to offer. It may be just an honest friendship. Also, don’t get discourage if that person is not interested or if the relationship just does not happen. It has to be natural for it to be authentic.
When I look back at my art career, I realize that my first international curatorial opportunity came about because a friend recommended me to the museum. That single opportunity opened many more. My first international solo show? Another friend recommended me. In turn, I have done a lot for others and have given many opportunities to many more. Not because I want something back but for the simple reason that I believe that when one of us (artists) wins, we all win and art moves forward. It’s that simple.
So, who do you need to connect with today? Get smart and make a conscious choice to start a new relationship this week. Who knows, it may be a step toward your next big thing.
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