Four years ago on a beautiful January day in Colorado, I attended an art destruction party. Two artists were slowing down in their production and wanted to ensure that subpar work wasn’t left for family to deal with. Nor did they want their names associated with that work. Although I’ve been imploring artists for decades to get rid of work they think isn’t of the highest quality, it was still difficult to smash that first pot and tear that first watercolor.
In this episode of The Art Biz I talk with Heather K. Powers, an artist and professional organizer. She and I wanted to start a dialogue about planning for your legacy. It’s a tough conversation because it means confronting your mortality. This conversation is especially important for artists, who make things that take up physical space. How do you categorize those things? What kind of records need to be kept? And what, if anything, should be destroyed, reworked, or donated. These are difficult questions and will vary from artist to artist, but it is such an important part of planning your art legacy. My conversation with Heather can help you get started.
First posted: artbizsuccess.com/death-powers-podcast
Normalizing conversations about your death and legacy. (2:10)
Heather’s coaching process includes getting more comfortable talking about death. (6:48)
What do you value in your legacy? How can artists better prepare their legacy for after death? (10:28)
Finding the value of clutter requires understanding and compassion. (15:27)
Destroying the artwork that you don’t want to be known for. (19:19)
Define the value of each level of your work so you can better process it. (24:55)
Tools and resources to help document your art. (32:32)
This Week’s Action
Your assignment this week is to start thinking about your legacy. Eventually you will need to prioritize the tasks necessary, but you can’t do it all at once. Take one of these steps: Sign up for Artwork Archive, update your inventory, finally recycle that work you don’t want to show up under your name, have a conversation with your family about your wishes, or declutter a space.
“Death is a normal part of life, but the more we put off thinking or talking about it the more uncomfortable it becomes.” — Heather K. Powers
“We can take into our own hands what is important to us as a generation and pass it on to the next generation.” — Heather K. Powers
“What do you value in your legacy? And what do you perceive might be of value to others? Those things are often not in alignment.” — Heather K. Powers
“Start early and keep good records. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.” — Heather K. Powers
“When we get rid of work one way or another, we make space for new work to come in.” — Heather K. Powers
About My Guest
With a BFA in Fiber from Savannah College of Art and Design, Heather Powers has had a productive career as a textile designer—collaborating on worldwide projects in various capacities.
In 2010, she launched her design and professional organizing business. Her work as an organizer places her among artists, craftspeople, and collectors, which gives her an intimate understanding of how individuals retain use and live with material culture.
In 2021, Heather graduated with an MFA in Critical Craft. She continues to research textile history, weave, and use natural dye techniques in which her work investigates memory, place, and identity themes through discarded vintage ephemera and materials.