Something that I think is often thought of as insignificant or annoying, but which I think actually holds great power and possibility is the artist resume. It is standard that artists follow existing examples of what goes into a resume, often that approach is also taught in professional practice classes in art departments and schools too. I have largely followed that process myself (though some day I hope to tackle my resume as a “project” and make it more reflective of what I’m going to suggest here.)

Conventional resumes reinforce the idea that some activities are valid and others aren’t. Usually the standards are education, exhibitions, grants, awards, and lectures, the more curated (or in academic terms, “refereed”) the better. Art students and emerging artists start with the few examples they have that conform to those categories and attempt to develop from there by pursuing more opportunities that fulfill the expectations (that of course also determines the type of work they make.)

This is what I advocate instead–start with the status quo structure, but go through the categories and see which actually applies to your practice (or your hoped for practice) and which don’t, leave the ones that do, and eliminate or alter the others, and then add in any categories that are missing. One simple example of this that I actually did on my resume was to add “projects” to the place that would normally only say “exhibitions.” By doing that a whole set of work that I’ve done that wasn’t an exhibition has a validated place to go. You could just add a separate “project” area, but by including that with exhibitions or replacing that heading all together you are asserting that non-exhibition work is just as valuable as work that happened in the form of a gallery-style show.

Of course that’s just scratching the surface, I often have students write a “social practice” CV that includes anything that they have done or experienced that they see as applicable to their ability to do social practice work. Self-initiated zines, videos, and event planning are obvious, but odd jobs, volunteer work, sports, choirs, etc. can be validated too. Working one summer at the (no longer existing) Strand Theater on Market Street in San Francisco probably prepared me more for the socially engaged work I do now as an artist than most of my formal education and gallery exhibition history combined.

Once you have liberated yourself from the conventions of traditional resumes you can also realize that “non-refereed” projects can happen anywhere and at anytime (no more waiting for a gallery or curator to confirm that your work is worthwhile enough for a public presentation). You could do projects at a school, in a park, outside of a museum, in a city hall, etc. and even if it was totally self-organized, if there was a public component (at least that’s my requirement) then you can list it on your resume, and include all of the standard points—the year, place, title, etc. So instead of following a set path to resume building, you can use your own agency to do the kind of work you want to do, when and where you want to do it, and then credit yourself (and potentially anyone who takes part) in the form of a resume. By doing that you will be asserting your own values while reshaping the possibilities of how an artist can function in society for everyone else as well.