We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Luna and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lauren, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Until October 2019, I was working full time as a teacher, and still producing art and showing. My time was ridiculously constrained, and my day job wore me out so bad, that most days I didn’t even want to make art. During the summers and breaks, life would open up to huge artistic opportunities, and I new my days were coming to a close working the day job. Now that I no longer have the restraint (re. stress) of that job, I am able to focus one hundred percent of my attention to being a professional artist. Even with the pandemic, I have seen success in terms of attaining a studio at Sawyer Yards, commissions, getting my logo trademarked, essentially just the ability to finally submerge into something that has been my life’s goal. 

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Being an artist isn’t an easy career choice. Unlike many professions, there is no cut and dry path to take. During my path of being an artist, I’ve heard that I “must be rich”, because I was “throwing away” money being a studio art major. Judged that I must be a ‘starving” artist, and then offended to find out the cost of my paintings, as if I should accept what ever someone is willing to pay for my work. My earliest memories of art involve my mother and her garden. In Ohio, where I’m from, the soil is heavy with clay. My mom would landscape our yard, and in doing so, would dig up clumps of clay, which I would then sculpt into different things. Thankfully my parents were very supportive in my artistic inclinations, and signed me up for art classes, camps, etc, and by the age of nine, I knew I wanted to be a professional artist. I won an art scholarship to attend the private high school I graduated from, and another to attend my first year of college, ultimately graduating from Kent State University with a major in Fine Arts, focusing on painting. Shortly after graduation, I moved to New York City with stars in my eyes, set on being a famous artist. Reality quickly set in, and being a freshly hatched adult in the big city, life lessons were quickly learned. I lived in New York for almost three years, and only painted once. But when I was there, I learned so much valuable information; I volunteered at a gallery started by major artists from the Harlem Renaissance and had conversations with the director who knew some of the artists personally. I more so consider this time there, as a time that was shaping me as a person and artist. Though I wasn’t painting, creativity was pouring out in different ways, in the form of poetry, song writing, etc. It was also during this time that I started my career as a teacher, also receiving a Masters degree in Science, specializing in Special Education and became a mom. Though I’d gotten this degree, I was more interested in teaching art, and changed my certification. But when I moved back to my hometown, the certification didn’t carry, and I was back at Special Education. My life took a different direction while I raised my son, but again, creativity was never far behind. Painting murals on his walls, scrapbooking, teaching art classes. I feel that as an artist, one can never really remove ones self, it’s like breathing. As my son grew and became more independent, enabling me to start producing art again, and then I entered into the Academy of Art University where I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts, focusing on painting. This program varied from most graduate programs in the aspect that though I was full-time, it took me four years to finish. A Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree, and I felt that attaining the degree would finally make people understand how serious I was about being a professional artist. Also, the Masters program finally introduced the business side, which is usually lacking in most studio majors. Being a professional artist is the same as being an entrepreneur, and most art schools only focus on the creating and fine tuning a focus, but rarely are the business aspects introduced or even addressed. There was a class that I took called Professional Practices that taught us the necessary components to introduce ourselves to a gallery. While I was in school I started a custom sneaker line, and this caught the attention of the local news, as well as some celebrities. I won several awards, and was making quite a bit of headway in my quest of being a full time artist. After a few years, I felt that I had reached the ceiling in my hometown, and debated where would be my next location. After some consideration, I settled on Houston. The price of living was low in comparison to other major cities; there was no (very little) snow; the major industries here allowed people expendable income that allowed for the purchasing of luxuries like art, and finally, there was a huge art scene. Unfortunately, what I forgot to calculate in that decision to move was the fact that I would have to completely rebuild my reputation. So even though my goal was to move here and not teach, I ended up needing to do so in order to make a living. Slowly, I started to venture out into Houston’s art world; one show at a time. Some better than others. During a very uneventful art market, I was speaking with an older couple who told me, just keep showing up. Eventually, people start to look for you. I took that advice to heart, and started to up the frequency of my shows. First Saturday Art Market, was one of my earliest markets and one of the deciding factors to even move here. This monthly market has enabled me to grow and stretch my presence here in Houston, as well as enabling me to be plugged into the art scene, that eventually enabled me to be a repeat invited artist the to Bayou City Art Festival. One of the most awesome experiences about the Bayou City Art Festival, is that the very first time I went to the festival I was still in school for my MFA, and I was finishing up preparing for my thesis. One of the assignments that we had was to find a contemporary artist, who’s style was similar to our own. It was there at the festival that I found that artist. Researched and wrote about him. Also at the festival, I saw many artists who I’d recognized from Professional Artist Magazine, and totally fan girled out seeing them! Fast forward five years, I was so excited that I had finally reached the point of my career to be juried into the Bayou City Art Festival, thinking, “This is the big time!”. As I was walking to my booth, the first day of the festival, I passed that same artist, who I had written about in my master’s thesis, also showing at the festival. This was a surreal moment for me, because this artist was now my equal! I keep this mindset when I’m speaking with kids and other people at the festivals, because one never knows whom one is influencing. This past year, the city of Houston declared July 11th, as Lauren Luna Day, because “she has devoted herself to improving the quality of life for Houstonians through art. She is an art instructor for middle, high school, and college students with the mission to train, inspire and cultivate creativity. Additionally, she is actively engaged in the community. Over the yeas, Lauren has devoted herself to raising awareness of the need for more trained artist of color thorough the creation of the D.R.E.A.M. Affect Foundation. This foundation has raised thousands of dollars to support young artists of color in their pursuit of a college degree in Fine Arts.” -Proclamation of Lauren Luna Day None of my accomplishments have come easy. Everything that I am reaping now, comes as a result of dedicating my entire life to the pursuit of a dream I had as a young girl.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Assuming we’re speaking of non-pandemic times: A former collogue and I came up with a check off list of restaurants in Houston that we’d like to try. So I would definitely be picking places from this list. My favorite burger place is Burger Joint; pizza is Gotham Pizza, fancy-pants restaurant is Vic & Anthony’s. I would also take them past my mural at KHOU’s Avenida Studios, and the graffiti building in Eado. We would hit up as many patio places as possible. I like Buffalo Brew’s patio, it’s a great view of the city. I would also take them to Smither Park, so that they could see the mosaic art that was there, and hopefully catch a concert at Hermann Park. We would also have to go visit the beach down in Galveston.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have several folks that I want to thank; the staff of Bayou City Art Festival; Carla Bisong, owner of Bisong Art gallery; Mitch Cohen, owner of First Saturday Art Market and the wonderful people of Houston. All of these are examples of how even with a pandemic, there is support for artists by those who believe in them.

Website: www.artistaluna.com
Instagram: instagram.com/laurenlunaltd
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurenluna/
Twitter: twitter.com/laurenlunaltd
Facebook: facebook.com/laurenlunaltd
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/lauren-luna-artist-houston
Youtube: youtube.com/laurenlunaltd

Image Credits
All images property of Lauren Luna

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