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Meet Megan Koth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Koth.

Megan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve always had a desire to make art from a very young age- I was especially encouraged by my Mom to draw, paint, and do crafts. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to think seriously about pursuing art as a career.

I was really lucky to get a scholarship for a summer art program at my high school during my sophomore year, where I met local artists who became mentors. I met Cave Creek artists Judy Bruce, Marty Gibson, and Pat Cain through this program and they were kind enough to invite me into their studios to work with and learn from them. They introduced me to abstract painting, printmaking, and other new ways of working. Being around people who lead artistic lives was incredibly affirming to me, as I was able to see possibilities for a life I could build for myself around my art.

I then attended ASU’s Herberger Institute to pursue a BFA in painting. The instructors there, people like Henry Schoebel, Forrest Solis, and John Obuck were not only incredibly supportive, but they challenged me to push my work beyond what I’d been doing. Putting together my first solo show at Step Gallery was the most stressful and rewarding thing I’d ever done up to that point. I was lucky to have a semi-private studio space for my senior year, which made me feel very “legit” as an artist! Undergrad was a great experience and I grew a lot as an artist and professional there.

Since graduating in 2014, I’ve continued to paint and exhibit in the Phoenix and in Scottsdale, where I’m represented by Art One Gallery. I also have worked at a couple of gallery spaces as well for my “day jobs.” Overall, I feel fortunate to have connected with so many people in the art community here- it’s incredible how much talent there is just in the Phoenix area alone.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’m honestly incredibly lucky in that I’ve always had people around me providing mentorship and support. Even so, it’s definitely a struggle trying to make a living in the arts. I’m very lucky that I was introduced to Kraig Foote of Art One Gallery early on during my undergrad by one of my mentors (Pat Cain, who’s also represented by them.) He’s incredible and so passionate about helping young artists establish a clientele. They’ve really helped me to make sales and build a client base for my work.

However, despite that, I’m still not able to make a living through art sales, and arts-related jobs, for the most part, are not high-paying. I definitely had some moments after graduating where I wasn’t getting any shows, was working an unpaid internship, and wasn’t selling, where I thought “what did I get myself into?!” But, I’ve gradually been able to carve out a life for myself through in the last few years through working in galleries, getting to know the community, and eventually selling more of my work.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m an independent fine artist. I mostly make oil paintings, but I also dabble in other mediums, like cyanotypes (a vintage type of photography) and mixed media. My work is primarily concerned with examining beauty rituals. I’ve always been fascinated by the ugliness that is often the bedfellow of performed beauty: the smeared lipstick, the piling foundation, and/or the tear-streaked mascara.

I’m especially proud of my most recent series exploring these themes: my “Mask” series of self-portraits of me wearing a variety of skin care masks. I think the fact that they’re lit and painted in a kind of baroque way, but feature such a “trendy” product, has made them particularly appealing to viewers.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I think Phoenix is a great place for artists. The scene here is really exciting, and I feel like it may be less intimidating than other cities- there are less barriers to entry. There’s a ton of spaces here that are receptive to young, emerging artists. I feel like Phoenix is a place where, if you work hard, make strong work, and make an effort to get to know some people, your work will be noticed. People here are so supportive, especially other artists.

However, there needs to be more financial support for the arts in Arizona in general.

Phoenix especially needs more art collectors. A lot of downtown galleries really struggle because they get these big crowds for First Fridays, but people aren’t buying. In addition to more statewide financial support for the arts, there needs to be an attitude shift towards seeing the arts as something worth personally investing in, and not just free entertainment for a Friday night.

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