The Growth Process: Winter Mendelson on Art Business

The Growth Process

Winter Mendelson on launching a magazine, overcoming self-doubt, and embracing the business aspects of being a creative

By Siena Oristaglio on March 28th, 2018

Photograph by Maro Hagopian
Photograph by Maro Hagopian

Winter Mendelson is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Posture, a magazine and creative agency that brings women, queer, and POC creatives to the front. They launched Posture in 2014 because they did not feel there was an active digital or print platform that was dedicated to the support of queer and underrepresented creatives working in the arts and fashion industries. Winter feels that these communities are often on the forefront of innovation and cultural progress and do not get the recognition they deserve. Winter is also The Void Academy's Digital Media Specialist and, this week, I decided to sit down with them to ask some questions about their experiences.

Posture Issue 04 Cover Rose McGowan
Posture Issue 03 Cover Jillian Mercado
Recent Issues of Posture Magazine
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What's one thing you've learned from running your own art and fashion magazine?

I have learned so much over the 4+ years of running a magazine, but one thing that stands out to me is that building your own company requires learning how to let go of a lot of self-doubt. When I started Posture, I was young, fresh out of college, and really shy. I would find myself at an event that had great networking opportunities and would be too nervous or embarrassed to even tell people about Posture, or own the fact that I started something that I felt was important. It has taken a lot of personal exploration to let go of that self consciousness and to develop more confidence. I still have my moments, for sure, but I’ve come a long way and it wasn’t easy. I have also started to accept the process of growth and learned to stop being so hard on myself for making mistakes. Everything is a learning opportunity. You have to be willing to continually evolve because the balance between feeling personally satisfied with the work you’re putting out and learning what resonates with your audience and community will always shift and change, but that keeps things exciting and challenging.

What do you see as the greatest obstacles facing creators working today?

I see access to capital and resources as definitely the greatest challenge to pursuing a career in the arts. It’s certainly a privilege to be an artist or explore creative projects, and I hate that about our country. It always boils down to money. Artists have to work jobs they are often dissatisfied with to make ends meet and this leaves them tired or burnt out and unable to create the work they envision, especially because getting adequate studio space to work in New York City is also so expensive. Beyond the financial aspect, I see a lot of of talented artists struggle with the idea of selling their own work or learning to think of their artistic practice as a business. I think part of this mentality stems from the lack of business and marketing education in the art departments of universities, and therefore artists often graduate with expensive degrees, feel the burden of debt, and already embody the mentality that they’ll never be full-time artists. Luckily, these days, it is becoming more and more possible to do so.

Has your experience working with The Void Academy changed your perspective on tools and opportunities available to creators? If so, how?

Working with you all has definitely changed my perspective on tools and opportunities available to creators. Something huge that the Void has opened my eyes to is the power of crowdfunding, or, more accurately, as you teach: community funding. I was guilty of equating crowdfunding with asking for charity, which couldn’t be farther from the truth — something I wrote more in depth about for PAPER magazine in an essay titled The New Era of Independent Artists. I have learned through you all that crowdfunding creates the opportunity for a meaningful value exchange between creator and patron and enables artists to take control of their own livelihood without relying on institutions, grants, and residencies which are difficult to obtain and do not necessarily lead to a sustainable artistic practice. I have also learned why it’s critical for artists to provide ways that allow for fans and community members to support them through setting up an online store, maintaining a newsletter, creating a Patreon, posting regularly on social media, etc.

What advice would you give to folks thinking of starting their own platform for creatives?

Just like anything else, starting your own platform takes an incredible amount of planning. My advice would be to treat the platform or project like a long-form crowdfunding campaign in the sense of having a significant amount of content and activations planned out prior to launching, as well as a deep understanding of where your revenue will come from and how you will market your platform. When I started Posture, I had no prior knowledge of how a magazine or business functions — and especially an indie publication — and I was self-funding the entire thing by working a day job. Unfortunately, I was not making a lot of money and I ended up acquiring debt and quickly finding myself in a stressful situation that took me years to work through. Don’t do that. Write out a solid business model and have a clear plan as to how you’ll make money and provide unique value to your audience. A plan will help you stay focused and decide on goals and benchmarks to help monitor your progress. Don’t jump into something too quickly and hope for the best — reach out to people with more experience and find mentors to build a support system. You’ll need it, and it’s worth it!

 
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Winter Mendelson is a nonbinary editor and producer based in New York City. They are the Digital Media Strategist for The Void Academy as well as the Founder of Posture, a magazine and creative agency that brings women, queer, and POC creatives to the front. Winter has been featured in major publications such as NY Mag’s The Cut, Vice’s Creator’s Project, Huffington Post, OUT, Bust, Curve, and more.