NORTH ADAMS — For over a decade, Michelle Daly has lived a dual life as an artist and an arts administrator. She balanced her time painting in the studio with her time working as public programs director at The Mount, in Lenox, and director of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.
Three months ago, Daly decided to combine her two passions and created her own arts consulting business, Daly Arts Consulting. She now spends her time developing projects with artists who need someone that can see the big picture and break down abstract ideas.
Daly recently took the time to answer a few of our questions.
1. You define your approach to consulting as “artist-forward.” Could you explain what this means and how you came up with that approach?
For me, ‘artist-forward’ means centering the work of the artist and the creative process in an engaged project. Specifically thinking about the projects that I thought were most successful, those were the ones that were achieved in deep collaboration with an artist, versus a project where you have an idea and sort of develop the whole thing and then start to think of artists who might align with it.
2 . What is the most exciting project you have worked on as an arts consultant?
What I’m working on right now is the Artist Impact Coalition’s artist directory, which I’m really excited for. It is being organized by the [North Adams] Artist Impact Coalition, who were awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the artist community in North Adams. And, as a companion to that, I’m creating a business directory, which looks at all the businesses and services in the region through the lens of how a creative would access those services.
Artists are small business owners. They have certain tax needs and legal needs, and also they might need to access an architect or an engineer. So the idea [is] just supporting an even more robust local creative culture and helping those folks collaborate with one another.
3 You served as public programs director at The Mount and director of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. How has this work influenced and inspired your arts consulting?
First and foremost, it’s given me really deep connections to the Berkshire creative community. At both of those organizations, I had the opportunity to develop a lot of programs and work directly with a lot of artists. I realized both my enjoyment of doing that and my passion for advocating for artists. Also, it’s just something that I’m really good at. I can conceive a big-picture project and break all the steps down and find funding and find collaborators. I wanted to take that skill set, which I’ve honed throughout my career, and be able to offer it as a direct service, both locally and nationally, and to artists who are at a point in their career and could use someone who understands that institutional lens and that creative lens and can help them further their careers.
4. It sounds like your work is very inter personal. How were you able to work during the pandemic when everyone was online?
I have really missed the ability to work in person in the same room with someone, but we’ve all adapted, and I think that’s the beauty of technology. We’re able to find ways to still collaborate using all these virtual tools. I think it’s also had this unexpected positive for me, which is, I can think about my work outside of a hyperlocal context.
I think a lot of organizations are going to be doing some really interesting things going out of the pandemic. I think you’re going to see virtual programming continue to exist in many ways. I think you’re going to see a lot of hybrid collaborations, projects and performances happening.
5 . What personal projects do you have in store for the future that you’re passionate about?
I am also an artist, and the pandemic really gave me time to be back in my studio again. I’ve been working on my own artwork a lot more, and I’m really excited to see where that goes. I’ve been starting some conversations with artists about ways I can support them and their projects, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to work more directly with those artists in the future. I see both of these things, my consulting business and my studio practice, as my creative practice, and I’m excited to see how both of those things expand and start to intertwine.