Practice Management

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Making Good, Important Work

By Marlene Gebauer posted 04-07-2020 09:21


A friend of my directed me to the Houston Art Interview Project, where oral histories of artists who have made significant contributions to Houston art are complied.  I watched Malinda Beeman’s interview and was struck by how she found needs and opportunities in her environment and applied her creativity to address them.  Her move to Marfa, TX (if you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it) showcases her innovative capabilities. 

Malinda was an established artist in watercolor, printing and ceramics when she moved to Marfa.  And while it is an art hub now, it was nothing like that in the 1990s. She had little in common with the locals at the time.  And while she had connections with the Houston art community, she knew this would not sustain her financially.  She saw her need, then saw needs in the community and just made applicable art and non-art projects as part of her life.  She taught art lessons. She started a garden since vegetables were “one step above dumpster diving” and sold them at a farmer’s market. 

When Malinda was given some goats, she taught herself how to make cheese.  And while she wasn’t licensed to sell it, she had customers buy something she needed, and they traded.  Eventually, she expanded her business and Marfa Maid Dairy was born.  And while the dairy takes up much of her time, she still paints in the few months the dairy business is slow.  She “paints what is available,” just like many of the Impressionists, and can still make good, important work.

I think there are lessons in Malinda Beeman’s story that can be applied to innovation in legal while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.  Adaptation and flexibility come to mind.  Malinda moved from place to place and job to job as opportunities came. She started in watercolors, moved to printmaking, ceramics and back to painting because it suited the need. She expanded into new areas like gardening and goat cheese and minimized artistic endeavors when she needed to adapt to a foreign environment where her norms of income were not to be found.  

Similarly, COVID-19 may have put many prior projects on hold, but as the needs of clients change, so do the opportunities.  Tracking changing court orders, news about business impact of COVID-19 and contract review for force majeure clauses are examples of what has suddenly become the critical need.    And there are many more examples.  And you will find them.   And I hope you will share them.  So be flexible, know what to let go and where to focus.  You will head in the right direction.

Next post, we will explore some of those examples, with a little help from my friends.  😊