Ekaterina Popova is an artist, founder of Create! Magazine, coach, co-author of The Complete Smartist Guide and podcaster. Her mission is to empower artists and give them the tools to take responsibility for their own career and find validation and success from within. Ekaterina Popova was born in Vladimir, Russia. After moving to the United States, she fell in love with painting and received a BFA from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. Her work has been exhibited nationally, including The Painting Center in New York, The Trenton City Museum, Delaware Contemporary, The Boxheart Gallery, A.I.R. Gallery, and many more.
Ekaterina has been featured in multiple blogs and publications, including Aesthetica, The Jealous Curator, DPI Magazine, Friend of The Artist, Iceview, and The Philadelphia Inquirer; and she has attended several residencies, including at Centre Pompadour in Abbeville, France, NES Residency in Iceland, the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts in Greece. Katerina currently lives in Delaware with her longtime partner Sean and Pomeranian Kolibri.
What was your first job in the Arts?
My first job was working as a student director at Eckhaus Gallery at Kutztown University. Ironically, it was also the last job I had in the arts until I became self-employed and created my own. It was an incredible opportunity to manage exhibitions, volunteers, host events, and more. I even met my friend and co-author of our book, The Complete Smartist Guide, Alicia Puig!
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
The most exciting aspect of this experience was interacting with real artists, creating schedules, practicing public speaking, and taking responsibility for the organization’s success.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
During my last years in college, I realized how much I loved being surrounded by other artists. I thought I wanted just to paint and work in the studio at the beginning of my college days, but I realized that wasn’t the path for me. I always craved more. When I was growing up in Russia, I didn’t have a role model of anyone working in the arts, so it took a few years for me to realize this was even an option.
What do you do now?
I am a visual artist, founder of Create! Magazine, coach, podcaster, and dog mama.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Vladimir, Russia. When my mom and I moved to America, we moved to a town in rural Pennsylvania. These days I have a studio in Philadelphia and live in Delaware.
What is the arts community like there?
We have a supportive, small arts community. I felt welcome when I first started to get to know the local art scene. These days, we have an incredible online art community in my membership, The Art Queens, and I am so grateful I get to connect with artists from almost every continent.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
For sure. My humble upbringing and experience as an immigrant have prioritized my need for people to feel welcome. I love creating communities and opportunities for artists to feel supported. I also love making artists feel like anything is possible for them.
What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I am most proud of the community we’ve built over the years. I love that I can go to any city and probably run into someone I know at an art event.
What has been a challenge for you?
Especially in the beginning, funding was difficult. I tried many ways to make the Magazine profitable, and it’s still a work in progress, but as our audience grows, we get lots of feedback and ideas. The main lesson has been not to be afraid to charge for your time and services and offer value to our audience as much as possible.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
Light luxury candles (I love woodfire scents), journal, do my morning pages, and drink tons of coffee when I start my day.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
I don’t do this anymore, thanks to growth and being able to outsource shipping, but in the early days of the Magazine, I would use shopping carts to transport shipments to our car to drop them off at the post office. My boyfriend would help me load the packages at night, so we don’t draw attention. We would always get a great workout. Magazines are super heavy!
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
A good employee respects the company’s vision, even if it’s not exactly their own. A good boss does not micromanage and trusts their employees to make good decisions and bring valuable ideas to the mix.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
For me, it is a passion and a faith in the organization. Professionalism helps as well, but I think the person has to care.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities. There is more than enough room to niche down and fill in the blank. Please pay attention to what’s missing in your world and create it.
What artwork is in your home office?
I love being surrounded by art from our community. I have a small sculpture by Dan Lam, a painting by Erika Lee Sears, a popsicle by Betsy Enzensberger, a piece by Michael Kalmbach, Kestin Cornwall, Shawna Gilmore, and others.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
I already struggled with this as an artist and artpreneur, but it’s hard for me to rest when I work from home. Everything blurs together. There need to be boundaries. I learned that some of those coffee meetings could be Zoom calls in the future, and I will be more efficient with my time going forward.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery from Covid19?
I believe art does drive the economy. After being at home for a year, we have a greater appreciation of how important it is to have beauty and art surrounding them. Art can be an essential part of emotional healing for the world, whether we experience it online or have the ability to collect work.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
I think the stigma of buying art online should no longer exist, but I personally am looking forward to having an in-person experience as well as the ability to support artists virtually.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better, if anything?
Create! Magazine has been virtual for some time, except for partnerships with art fairs and galleries. I am always looking for ways to improve, and in the future, I would love to have more in-person events and connect with our community on a deeper level.
What is your go to snack these days? And your go to soundtrack?
Snack: seaweed snacks. Music: Phoebe Bridgers.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Peter Doig, Mickalene Thomas, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Vuillard…So many!
Since we have been exploring more exhibitions, galleries, and museums online, when you start making plans for your next trip – what will be your first art filled destination? Art destination bucket list?
I would love to go to Venice Biennale. Traveling to Italy and to experience history and art is the only thing on my mind these days. I can’t wait!
It can be argued that the art world has finally been forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?
I see more and more transparency and improvement over the past year, but I certainly think there is room to grow.