Kiki Somerville: How to Actually Get Paid for Your Art

October 25 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: The Starving Artist

If you think about it, our lives are like spiderwebs and we are, well, the spiders. OK, hear me out. Apart from the obviously alluring fact that spiders have been known to eat their mates, they’re also rockstars at building something out of almost nothing. As each year passes, we add a little more to our web: friends and frenemies, jobs and goals. So while someone might not be your call-up-at-3-am-bawling kind of friend, they’re still on your web and they serve a purpose. They might be the tag-you-on-a-meme friend or make-fun-of-the-real-housewives friend. Your crappy part-time retail gig is part of your web, too, even if your dream of being a boss graphic designer is right alongside it. Each thread in your life has meaning, whether you can see it or not.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: Three-quarters

My favorite Instagram accounts happen to be those of artists. Their Instagram photos are little squares of creativity that spruce up an otherwise lame day. While I know I can’t draw a stick figure that’d get even one “like,” there are some mega-talented folks on social media sharing their stuff. In case you forgot, these people aren’t making much money for their creations: A 2017 study found that three-quarters of artists in the United States make $10,000 a year or less. (Let’s not forget that many-an-artist have been victims of copyright theft from companies and corporations alike.)

WOMAN TO WATCH: Kiki Somerville, Founder & CEO of Fearless Artist Media

One way artists can feel empowered is by fostering a community of like-minded folks. Today’s Woman to Watch, Kiki Somerville, has seized this concept with her company Fearless Artist Media, where she helps promote new artists because, y’all, making art can be a lonely job.

When Kiki landed in New York City to pursue entertainment law, she felt inspired by the city that never sleeps; so much so, that she wrote a book and had the idea to get other artists’ voices out there. Kiki’s idea began to flourish after a well-known artist asked for her help on an art exhibit, and from there emerged a platform showcasing both green and seasoned artists.

Kiki recognizes that many artists aren’t fortunate enough to have the “pedigree” from an art school, where maybe you’d learn how to market your work and fight off copyright infringement. Through Fearless Art Media, creators are represented at pop-up art installations, from Miami to DC. Kiki has broad and deep connections with collectors, art galleries and so on—all of which helps put an artist’s work on display.

There’s a level of respect that Kiki provides, setting her apart from what many feel can be a pretentious scene. The first pop-up gallery Kiki hosted took place at America’s largest art fair, AKA Art Basel, with a couple dozen artists. TFA’s pop-up fair has nearly tripled in size since then and is sure to impress, as it marks its fifth anniversary in early December.

The curated theme this year? Empathy, Compassion and Respect. Kiki believes art can be used as a catalyst, creating a dialogue that wouldn’t otherwise happen, as well as building up a community or promoting self-worth.

If you’re looking to sell your own work or help out a fellow artist, Kiki gives you five reasons why your bank account might be in the single digits. Oftentimes, creatives undercharge or overcharge for their work—missing that sweet spot—and they also don’t look for opportunities to show off their work. They might feel awkward networking, putting themselves and their art out there and making contacts. Most artists do what they do well, but don’t have an education or experience in operating a business, making it difficult to procure buyers.

The key takeaway from Kiki’s point of view is stand proud next to your work. Show it off. Talk to people. Celebrate everything that you’ve made, both big and small.

Follow Kiki on Instagram @kiki_somerville.


Making or seeing a creative piece can stir up poignant emotions. If you haven’t visited a gallery or museum lately, go. As theologian Thomas Merton said:

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."

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