Juliette Pelletier, founder of Juliette Solutions LLC shares her experiences with launching an arts career in NYC.
I have always been an artist yet was aware that earning a living as such would be a challenge. Over the years I have worked to maintain my passion for art while seeking contexts that would support it.
First Art Jobs in NYC
When I moved to New York from Toronto 20 years ago, I arrived with two suitcases, an art degree, experience at two nonprofits, a housesitting situation, and a job at artnet.com (data entry all day every day). For nine months I worked like a machine, squeezing in painting at night and on weekends. This double life was unsustainable. I resigned, leaving with good references, new computer skills, valuable friendships and savings that afforded me a studio in East Harlem.
After a brief search, I was hired at Arts International as Administrative Coordinator. It was a great situation and my former boss remains a mentor to this day. Alas, Arts International closed after 9/11, but that job left me with strong administrative skills and a network of extraordinary professionals.
Once again I was on the market, seeking that elusive environment that would use my skills, support my art and pay bills. I subsequently netted a role at The American Numismatic Society (ANS) as their Membership and Events Manager. Over five years there, I learned about the inner workings of a museum, from the curatorial and scholarly aspects of exhibitions to archiving and managing collections, as well as membership, programming, and museum fundraising.
Launching First Company Leads to Rewarding Opportunity
During this time, I started my first company, Reflect-Arts Inc. which spearheaded pop-up exhibitions and performance events at alternative art spaces. Eventually, I decided to pursue Reflect-arts full-time. I loved the freedom of running my own enterprise.
Reflect-Arts’ success led me to be offered the Directorship of the Merton D. Simpson Gallery of Tribal and Modern Art. This rewarding job used both my experience and skills but required me to set Reflect Arts aside. This was a position where I felt I could make a difference: Mr. Simpson was a brilliant artist and a cultural trailblazer so I was devoted to helping shape his legacy. Sadly, while we were in the process of reorganizing his collections and exhibiting his work and collection, Merton passed away at 84. The gallery went into probate, at which point it was closed permanently.
I was back on the job market again! At this point, I just wanted to make a positive contribution. Thanks to my fundraising and events experience, I was hired as the Development Director at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) East Coast Chapter. Here, I used the arts to promote an important cause—this included live music at events, silent art auctions at galas, and using galleries for events. At walkathons, I establish an art tent for families and friends, where they could create posters to support PHA walkathon participants. It was a dynamic experience and I would still be there… except for changes made to PHA fundraising strategies by a new CEO, during which all the regional fundraising teams, including mine, were dissolved.
Founding Juliette Solutions
Although disappointing, this proved the gift that led me to my current project: Juliette Solutions. First, I was accepted into and enrolled in the Department of Labor’s Self Employment Assistance Program, where I took free business courses at Baruch and Columbia, used the Small Business Administration resources, and made the most of professional consultations and networking events.
During this period, I kept applying for positions in the arts and non-profit sectors–countless resumes were sent, many interviews were had. I kept coming close, but it was not aligning. I recognized that I needed to follow my true calling as a creative entrepreneur. This was confirmed when an offer was rescinded because a donor gifted the organization double the amount I had been hired to raise. That week, I started Juliette Solutions, and, within days, I finalized the name of the company, its mission, the branding, the website, and LLC paperwork. I reached out to contacts I’d made over the years and now I provide services for inspiring arts organizations such as Micro Museum, May Kids Transform, Metipso Portal, and other small non-profits.
Throughout all of this, I have continued to paint, exhibit and sell my art but having my own venture allows me to pursue my true passion with greater focus. In retrospect, my diverse experiences have given me the tools to run a small company. Maintaining meaningful relationships has led to fruitful collaborations and opportunities for all involved. I have learned that while overall goals matter, change does too, and one must be open to flow with it. In difficult moments, I remember that the moment is not forever, it is just a moment, and getting through that is a success in of itself. Something new is always right around the corner.
by Juliette Pelletier
Founder & Executive Director, Juliette Solutions LLC