Francisco Donoso is a transnational artist based in NYC. He was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Miami, FL. He is a recipient of DACA and a fierce advocate for immigrants. After attending New World School of the Arts, he received his BFA from Purchase College in 2011. He has participated in fellowships and residencies at Wave Hill, Stony Brook University and The Bronx Museum among others and will be the AIR at Kates-Ferri Projects in Oct. 2021. Francisco has exhibited throughout NYC, Las Vegas and Berlin. His first major solo exhibition opens at Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, VA in 2022. His work has been covered in The Financial Times, The Village Voice, Art Zealous and El Diario among others. He is the founder and owner of the online shop and brand, Donoso Studio, an immigrant-powered shop for archival prints, merch and unique art objects. He is also the host of the monthly IG live talk series ”Cafecito”.
What was your first job in the Arts?
I started working professionally in the arts as an artist assistant. Betsabee Romero was the first artist I ever worked for while I was still in undergrad at Purchase College and she was preparing for a major retrospective at the Neuberger Museum, on campus. I also had to work closely with the curator of her exhibition, Patrice Giasson, and it was my first time working with a curator.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
I learned a ton in that short span of time. I learned how to get into another artists’ head- to help realize their vision. This taught me the power of humility and communication. I connected very deeply to Betsabee and her work and it pushed me to listen, watch and repeat with care and gratitude.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I don’t believe I’ve ever had any other option but to be an artist. Nothing else would simply do. I had a career in arts administration and arts non-profit for years in NYC. I got to the director level and quit my job, mid-pandemic, to pursue my full-time studio practice. I think every time I’ve tried to convince myself to supplement my work life with other endeavors the universe brings me back to my studio. I grew up in magnet art schools from 3rd grade to high school in Miami and studied art in college. It’s in my DNA.
What do you do now?
I work in my south Bronx studio full time! Between art fairs, exhibitions and commissions, I also run “Donoso Studio”, my immigrant-powered online shop and brand for unique art objects and archival prints. My practice as an artist is multi-dimensional and anything but traditional. I’m also working with the New York State Youth Leadership Council to build out a small business grant for undocumented folks in NY state, and my long-term goal is develop a small business incubator in my studio for undocumented creatives.
Where are you from?
I was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Miami, Florida.
What is the arts community like there?
I left Ecuador at the age of 5, so the only arts community I know there is through friends and Instagram…and it’s hot! Miami has forever been an arts and cultural hub with more than you could ever experience at once. Like New York, it nurtures a creative energy that is unmatched, but with a beach. I attended New World School of the Arts for high school in Miami and it propelled me into my career. Belonging to a rich and unique artistic community at such an early age allowed me to envision a life as an artist, despite many limitations. While New York is my home, Miami is where it all came from.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Absolutely. I come from a very creative and supportive family of immigrants, artists, designers and business owners that have shaped my world views. In many ways I am a product of an arts education pipeline experiment that worked. Miami welcomed me and nurtured me to be an artist. I am spoiled in that I come from a very diverse and multi-cultural place that promoted artistic expression and artistic excellence. My migration history from Ecuador to the US and from Miami to NYC has also heavily shaped my practice. Questions around belonging, home, dislocation and the psycho-social journeys taken throughout migration are constantly in my work.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Find your people! Not everyone is for you, and you are not for everyone- and that’s a good thing! The clearer you are on your values and your gifts, the easier it will be to attract and find the right people and opportunities. Forget competition- there is enough for everyone.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I recently opened a solo booth presentation of my work at Affordable Art Fair in May 2021 in collaboration with Domingo Comms. It was also my first art fair. That felt really good!
What has been a challenge for you?
My greatest challenge has been figuring out how to make my art practice a sustainable business and not just a side hustle or alternate identity.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
I engage with my community on Instagram daily, drink a pot of coffee (daily) and write in my studio journals (daily).
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Not many weird things going on in the studio or “on the job”.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
I regularly hire studio assistants to work with me on specific projects and I’ve learned a lot in the past year about myself as a business owner and boss. I’ve learned that being a good boss to my employees also means being a good friend and mentor. Working in an artist studio is not a traditional job and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s a special physical, social and emotional space that requires care and intentionality. A good employee in the studio is teachable, flexible and willing to leave their ego at the door. The studio is a classroom as much as it is a workplace- both for the employer and the employee.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
I make it a priority in my business and studio to bring on young artists of color that also identify with being immigrants or undocumented, like myself. I want the employment and mentorship opportunity to benefit someone that is historically excluded from those positions. Working in an artist studio can have a huge impact on a young artist’s career and I want to see more undocumented artists thrive in the field.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
If you can’t be your fullest, most authentic self while interviewing or at work, then consider whether the compromise is truly worth the experience. Do not diminish yourself for the comfort of others, dignity has no price.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
If you are entering as an artist: all you actually need to be an artist is to make art. The rest is a good business practice and a willingness to invite people into your vision. Your worth is not determined by your output, your output comes from your beliefs about yourself.
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
Working in the art world as a BIPOC, immigrant or undocumented person may feel isolating and painful at times. Remembering that there are many entry points, and exit points, in the artworld has saved me. Taking a step back to view the art world as part of a much larger ecosystem allows me to find my place and role within it.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
This is essentially impossible to answer. The best shows were Melissa Misla at Praxis New York, Julie Mehretu at The Whitney and Jeffrey Gibson at Sikkema Jenkins.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
- Justin Favela
- Denyse Thomasos
- Amir H. Fallah
- Robert Rauschenberg
- Betsabee Romero