The Art of Connection: Building a Supportive Community for Your Creative Journey

The journey of an artist, often painted with vivid creativity and a desire for self-expression, can sometimes be a solitary one. Yet, as I ventured deeper into the world of art, I discovered the immense value of surrounding myself with like-minded individuals who shared the same artistic aspirations.

It all began with a simple yearning – a desire to find a community of artists who could serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, and support.

In today’s blog, I want to explore the importance of building a supportive network of fellow artists and the transformative power it can have on your creative journey.

Why Seek Out Like-Minded Artists?

Inspiration and Motivation: Being in the company of fellow artists can be incredibly inspiring. You feed off each other’s energy and ideas, motivating one another to push artistic boundaries and pursue new projects. I have been part of many groups over the years. Most recently I was part of a group of 5 others that all went through Julia Cameron’s book The Artist Way, together. This was a 12-15 week commitment. I have also run Photography Goal setting groups that meet once a month for 3 years. And I currently have two smaller groups with close friends who are artists and we meet every couple of weeks to check in with one another. It’s with these kinds of connections with other artists – that all of the following things have happened:

  • Skill and Knowledge Sharing: The art world is a vast landscape, and no one has all the answers. Connecting with other artists means having access to a wealth of knowledge and skills, which can significantly enhance your own. It is all about having an open mind and willingness to share.
  • Accountability and Goal Setting: Setting goals and resolutions for your art career becomes more meaningful when you have a supportive community to hold you accountable. Sharing your goals with others can motivate you to take action. I will talk about goal setting in another post as well, as there area a lot of ways to setting artistic goals for yourself.
  • Exhibition and Sales Opportunities: Collaborative projects, group exhibitions, and sales opportunities can often emerge from these connections, broadening your artistic horizons and your reach as an artist. A few years ago I got together a group of creatives and held a Holiday Studio Sales event in our studio. It was fun as well as successful. I could not have done this without my connections to my creative friends.
  • Mental and Emotional Well-Being: Creating art can be an emotionally charged process. Having a network of artists who understand the ups and downs can provide vital emotional support, reducing the risk of feeling isolated or “crazy.” I bounce my ideas off my artist friends all the time and it gives me so much insight. In fact, there are many insights and ideas I just know I could never have gotten to on my own. And these friends make me smile and laugh, which is so valuable if you work alone in a studio. This is a real boost to your mood and also your productivity. I could go on and on about this… but lets keep going.

That all sounds amazing Donna! But…how do I find a group like this?

How to Find Your People: Here is a list of places I have gone, attended or tried in order to find like minded creatives.

Art Classes and Workshops: Enroll in art classes or workshops in your area. These are excellent places to meet fellow artists who share your passion and can become part of your creative community. I love learning and these are also opportunities to try new things as well as meet others. Win-Win. I can personally say that I meet a woman names Sara Lyons at a Photo Workshop in MD over 20+ years ago and she has become one of my closets friends and the biggest supporter of my art. We meet as often as we can to chat about art – but we also attend one another’s events and openings.

Artistic Events and Exhibitions: Attend art-related events, galleries, and exhibitions. These gatherings often attract artists and art enthusiasts. Strike up conversations with people you resonate with. You really should know all the art galleries in your area. Get on their mailing lists and be in the know about show openings. Then plan on going! I encourage you to bring a friend. Or two.

Local Art Organizations: Many cities have local art organizations that host events, critique nights, and networking opportunities. Check out these organizations and consider becoming a member to tap into local art circles. Its a great way to expand your network and get to know the artists in your area. I met one of my best friends, Cindy Woehrle, at an organization’s art event. We’ve been part of one another’s lives for 15+ years from that day we meet. We meet as often as we can to chat about art and also attend one another’s events and openings.

Online Art Communities: Join online forums, social media groups, and platforms like Instagram or Pinterest that are dedicated to art. Engage in conversations, eventually share your work, and you can connect with artists from around the world not just in your back yard. Scott and I started a Photo Meet-Up Group that lived for 12 years and had 100’s of members! We are still friends with folks from those days and the experience of running that group filled a need we had to surround ourselves with photographers.

Artist Residencies: Artist residencies provide a unique opportunity to live and work with other artists. They foster deep connections and creative collaboration. Honestly I have yet to do an artist residency. It’s on my long list of things to apply to and hopeful try. I do have artist friends who have done this and have had wonderful experiences.

Once You’ve Found Your People:  I suggest meeting on a regular basis so you can:

  • Share Knowledge: Be open to sharing your skills and knowledge. Offer assistance and guidance to fellow artists who may benefit from your expertise. Ask questions of others so they can do the same.
  • Collaborate: Collaborate on projects, exhibitions, or art shows. The power of collective creativity can lead to stunning results.
  • Set Goals Together: Collaboratively set artistic and career goals, and hold each other accountable. Share progress and celebrate each other’s achievements. I find this works best if you meet often and keep asking questions about how things are going in each artists world.
  • Critique Constructively: Provide and accept constructive criticism. Honest feedback can be invaluable for artistic growth. But it has to be constructive: not mean or cruel. Be sure to think about where each person is in their journey and how to make good suggestions based on this.
  • Support and Uplift: Always be there to support and uplift your fellow artists in their endeavors, providing a safe and encouraging space for creative expression. This can not be said enough. People thrive when they feel safe. Do everything you can to make the time and space you have together to be the safest, warmest and uplifting place possible. Everyone benefits from this kind of space.

Look the truth is building a community of like-minded artists can be a transformative step in your artistic journey. Why not give it a try?

It’s not just about sharing a passion for art but about empowering each other to create a life worth living in the art world.

I believe that all of this will help artists break free from the stereotypes of the “starving artist” or the “crazy artist” and rewrite the narrative into one of collaboration, growth, and success. Or at least make us all a little less lonely, more connected and more challenged to create more for ourselves.


The Jelly Thieves

The Jelly Thieves: An Artist Collective with Cynthia Woehrle, Sara K Lyons and Donna Dufault:  We enjoy adventures together as well as art dates. We discuss our art goals, get help on projects, and share our artwork on a regular basis.

Rumination on the Subtleties: A Journey of Self-Acceptance Through Art

Fine art photography has always held a certain allure. Within all my creative endeavors, a peculiar yearning emerges—a longing to craft something exquisitely beautiful. When I work at creating a photograph, I love including vibrant pleasing colors and placing items very carefully next to one another to imply conversations between them.

In the course of seeking this beauty, I unwittingly stumbled upon something more profound: the reflection of my own path to self-acceptance. How is this possible? I often ponder this as I gaze upon this collection of images created over the years.

Much like the objects I capture through my lens, I too bear the marks of my journey – some visible, others concealed. A life filled with diverse experiences, each leaving its unique imprint upon me. Although this journey is far from its final chapter, a quiet compulsion impels me to honor these imperfections, to unearth the elegance and beauty within the scars.

My work does not speak with grandeur; it’s the blemishes on everyday objects that seem to signify a life lived, lessons learned, and moments cherished. It’s a subtle whisper, a small invitation to find delight in the overlooked, to trace stories within the commonplace.

With every photograph I create, I strive to unveil the vibrancy of life embedded in well-loved objects. It serves as a quiet reminder to seek that vibrancy within ourselves.

It appears to me that the journey of self-acceptance is not a destination; it’s an ongoing exploration. So, you will continue to see me delve into these ideas and concepts as I keep placing weathered , tarnished, scarred objects in front of my lens.

How Spoons Inspired My Fine Art Photography

I’m frequently asked, “Why spoons?” when people explore the subject matter of my fine art photo series. It’s not as apparent as the black and white Tool images I crafted from the tools in my Dad’s garage after he passed away, or the series I dedicated to my mom, called the Faith Collection. So, let me take you back to the origins of this spoon fascination.

As a professional food photographer, I work with an array of props. I find myself in numerous kitchens, conversing with chefs and owners while awaiting dishes to be cooked, plated, and prepped for photography. During these moments of observation, I witness the authentic behind-the-scenes action without the embellishment of editing and retakes. What I see are individuals who have their favorites: a cherished spot in the kitchen, well-worn pots, and, of course, cherished knives. All these tools have been shaped by countless hours of use, likely in a multitude of ways. As a quiet observer in these scenarios, I’m drawn to the unique motions and rhythms of work in progress. Every person is distinctive, and every gesture is meaningful. This isn’t a delicate dance with delicate objects; it’s a vigorous, hands-on engagement with battered and well-used tools, both the person creating in the kitchen and the objects within it.

It was during these moments that my curiosity was piqued, and I developed a deep fascination with what these items looked like after years of wear and tear. I realized that I was witnessing the history of these objects in a way that words couldn’t possibly capture. But a photograph – a photograph could convey the essence of this wear and tear, the enduring story of their use. Photos can immortalize the scars, dents, and the aging process that occurs in items with a long history. From these long days spent in the kitchens of talented chefs, the Culinary Imaginings Series was born…

And then, there came a moment of decision.

I chose to play favorites. Yes, as an artist, I have that privilege. So, what’s my favorite kitchen item? Spoons. Why? For one, they are the perfect companions for ice cream, not to mention their role in preparing a soothing cup of tea, gently stirring in hot pots of water. And what about those thick soups like clam chowder or my mom’s French onion soup, which provide warmth and comfort on chilly days? Life without a spoon would indeed be challenging. The truth is, there are countless “Forgotten Spoons” out there, and I seem to spot them everywhere I go. This led to my obsession with collecting them, and the more battered they are, the more I cherish them. I’ve become enamored with the Wabi-Sabi of the spoon – the beautiful, colorful array of tarnish.


Can tarnish be my favorite color? I believe it is…


Galaxies: A fine art photograph from the worn spoon project by Donna Dufault


CULINARY IMAGININGS exhibit presents first solo show of Photographer Donna Dufault

Media Release

Worcester Center for the Crafts, Krikorian Gallery 

25 Sagamore Rd, Worcester, MA 01605 (Click for directions.)

Contact:  Honee Hess, 508-579-8564 (cell)

Link to downloadable photos for Media Use

For Immediate Release


CULINARY IMAGININGS exhibit presents first solo show of Photographer Donna Dufault

Worcester, MA–Privileged to enter the inner sanctum (the kitchen) of chefs all over the East Coast, photographer Donna Dufault lets us discover the places where the chefs’ and the restaurateurs’ tools momentarily sit as they wait to be put into service.  Over 30 photographs, some in groups and representing two series from her work, CULINARY IMAGININGS is the first major solo show of Dufault’s work.  The show opens January 20 in the Center’s Krikorian Gallery with an opening reception on January 25, 2016 from 5:30-7:30 pm, a Monday evening so that those in the hospitality industry can help celebrate this remarkable work and photographer.

The exhibit is the culmination of many years photographing behind the scenes during breaks from the commercial photography work she does with photographer husband, Scott Erb through their business Erb Photography.  The show is on view through February 27.  Media sponsor is Mass Foodies, an online publication debuting this winter.

“I’m fascinated by the art of preparing food and the tools used to create it,” said Ms. Dufault. “The dents, scratches, cracks and patina all create beauty in their imperfections. I truly enjoy tracking down the tools, and documenting their vulnerability from human treatment.” The resulting images which are included in the show are sometimes very abstract imaginings, while others are more clearly about the objects themselves.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a program of culinary storytelling entitled “HUNGRY MINDS” will be held on Monday, February 1 at 5:30 pm.  In addition to Ms. Dufault, local culinary greats from different backgrounds and experiences will tell engaging and entertaining stories from their own culinary imaginings: Chef Chris Rovezzi (Rovezzi’s of Sturbridge, MA), Brendyn Schneider (professional storyteller), Domenic Mercurio (publisher, Foodies of New England Magazine), and Chef Alina Eisenhauer (chef and owner, Sweet Bar and Kitchen).  Mr. Mercurio will also provide a mini-wine tasting courtesy Mercury Media & Entertainment.

On February 27 to close the show, the public is invited to a Pasta Dinner where you eat the food and take your hand-crafted ceramic plate home with you.  A reimagined event from the annals of Craft Center history, the Pasta Dinner is sure to get you collecting plates!  Tickets ($40 per adult; children under 12, $10 paper plate) will go on sale for the Pasta Dinner in late January.

“Having Donna’s work here on view is a coup for the Crafts Center,” says Candace Casey, Krikorian Gallery Director.  “Photography is one of our craft mediums and creating beautiful things to serve food on and with is one of our passions.  It’s a natural.”

Ms. Dufault has over 20 years of experience working in the photography industry. She has a BFA degree in Fine Art Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has worked at some of the best photographic printing labs in the country and with some of the top art photographers in the world. This experience coupled with years of gallery experience, running art marketing groups, curating shows, and co-coordinating photo workshops has given her a unique perspective into the fine art photography world.

In addition to being fascinated by the tools of the chef, Ms. Dufault seeks out the food industry soldiers—tableware and vessels for storage.  “I am drawn to photograph the glass versions I find in my travels. Stacked, arrayed, or layered, the line and repetition of glass creates playful patterns of light and color,” says Dufault.  “Light, reflections and distortions revealed through the glass create beautiful, painterly abstractions. It’s a wonderful challenge to compose and capture an image before the light changes and the enchantment of color and luminosity is lost.”

Currently, Ms. Dufault collaborates with her husband, Scott Erb of Erb Photography, who has been a successful commercial photographer for over 17 years. Together they have been jet setting all over the U.S. taking photos for companies who use them on web sites, ads, brochures and in magazines. Their specialty is the hospitality industry working with restaurants, hotels, chefs, and others in the food art industry. Worcester Living Magazine voted their studio “The Best Photo Studio” several years in a row.

Together they also the founded the Worcester Alliance of Photographers, which has grown over the last 10 years into a wonderful care-free group of over 800 photographers. Both are founding partners in their latest endeavor, Foodies of New England Magazine, which was started in Oct 2012. The magazine is now in over 2200+ locations for sale all over New England.


About the Worcester Center for Crafts:

The Worcester Center for Crafts (WCC) is one of the oldest non-profit institutions for craft study in the United States.  Founded in 1856 as the Worcester Employment Society to help immigrant women produce and sell hand-crafted wares to support their families, the Center evolved over the past 155 years into New England’s leading center for craft education, exhibition and entrepreneurship.  In 2004, the organization expanded and opened the New Street Glass Studio – an off-campus, 8,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, multi-studio glass facility.  The WCC offers the only comprehensive glass studio program in New England available to the public.  Through an affiliation begun in 2009, the WCC is home to the Worcester State University visual arts studios and partners in community outreach.

The Craft Center’s mission is “to sustain craft as a vital part of our community” by providing high-quality craft education and training, by supporting craft artists in their professions, and through

advocacy and public education initiatives including adult education classes and workshops, youth education and outreach programs, exhibitions showcasing the work of established and emerging artists, artist residencies, lectures, family events, studio rentals, Gallery Store, and major events.  The WCC is a member of the Worcester Cultural Coalition and its WOO Pass program, and receives funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Foodies of New England Magazine

Mercury Media & Entertainment


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