Advice from Members Who Are Work From Home Pros

Caitlin Berry, Washington DC
Art Advisor

Caitlin Berry, Caitlin Berry Fine Art

How do you stay inspired and motivated when at home?
My art world colleagues keep me motivated every day when working from home. A phone call just to say hi can often turn into a conversation about how to collaborate on business. A quick motivational text make all the difference when you’re an office of one!

Go to snack?
Apple slices and almond butter. Although, I secretly have a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos ready for especially stressful moments.

Do you have a morning ritual?
First thing when I wake up, I write in my “6 Minute Diary” which keeps me focused on gratitude (so important in these times!). It makes me literally write down how I’m going to make the day great and who can argue with that? Too often I look at my phone first thing which only spurs on anxiety. Writing keeps me focused on the positive.

What’s your top WFH tip? Take breaks! The natural interruptions that occur in an office setting allow you to shift gears in your mind, so it’s important to schedule in time to take a walk, do some home exercise, meditate or look at @jerrygogosian’s instagram account for some art world levity. 

How do you schedule your day? I try to do business “housekeeping” in the morning and business getting/marketing in the afternoon, but it doesn’t always work out this way. COVID-era WFH leaves a lot of creative time up for grabs that I would otherwise be using for in person meetings or travel, so it’s nice to be able to focus on projects that feel like they’ve been on the back burner. 

Anything else to add? Stay connected! Social distancing does not have to mean disconnection. Check in on your colleagues and friends and send them funny videos and memes!

Monica Espinel, New York
Independent Curator

Monica Espinel, Independent Curator

Where in your home do you work?
I have a desk in the living room (allows me to work late into the night or early mornings if needed), with a reading lamp, a large screen that I plug my laptop into, and a toy unicorn. On the wall above I have two small paintings by Paloma Bosque.

What’s your top WFH tip?
Silence your phone when you need concentration. Use a timer if you need to get a lot done. I use the pomodoro technique.

How do you schedule your day?
Hard to say, every day is different. Roughly, I work from 10-5 (whether it’s meetings, reading & writing, or studio visits, museum/gallery going). Then it’s kids time until 9. Some nights I work until midnight if I have more to do, or go to openings, dinner, etc.

What’s your favorite snack?
Gooseberries and chocolate chip cookies

Anything else to add?
There is a song I listen to on repeat when I‘m in the last stages of writing, “Shades of marble” by Trentemoller. It became a sort of ritual when I was working on a show called The Skin I Live In (it’s in the soundtrack of the film that inspired the show) and it stuck.

Donna Enad Napper, Northern California
Art Consultant

What’s your WFH Top Tip?
It’s important for me to actually take a “real” nourishment break for lunch or an afternoon snack even when I might not have much time for either one. Taking a nourishment break around the same time each day helps give me some sense of structure and I’m less likely to snack randomly several times during the day. For this, my thighs thank me. This practice means not being in front of my computer taking incremental bites while working, which has been my habit for years working outside the home. It took me a few months, but I had to learn to eat healthier while working at home and now I do.

Truth be told, there are times when my computer is nearby and within glancing distance but I try to make a habit of physically removing myself from the stationary position in front of the screen and give my eyes, brain, and body a break even if I don’t have much time for lunch. If I skip lunch and have only 5-10 minutes to put something in my stomach, I still try to practice taking a physical break. We can’t forget about taking care of our bodies which will help sustain us so that we’re able to do our jobs.

Do you have a morning ritual?
After many years of reaching for my laptop upon awakening in the morning, it took working from home to break me from that habit. I learned the hard way that by not centering myself first thing in the morning I can easily and quickly getting myself riled up, from reading the latest disheartening political news or opening a work email to a “fire” that needs to be put out that day. My reaction to the supposed fire is that it’s imperative I put it out now, with no time to even wash my face! Next thing you know, I get caught up in work, the day has gone by, and wait a minute…did I wash my face?

I find that what I might misconstrue as requiring my urgent response can often wait until after I have a quiet morning with my daily cup of chai tea, and possibly after a little yoga and breakfast as well. If I must reach for something to set my eyes upon after waking, I reach for one of the several books I have bedside that will be soul-enriching. Even if I have only 15 minutes, getting into the habit of having a calming morning ritual before starting any work will help set a better tone for the day, and possibly the week.

Anything else?
Now that we are becoming skilled at video conferencing, here’s food for thought. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, which I am too young to be, my final tip is that I suggest making at least a minimal effort to look neat and presentable…to be interpreted as you wish. I know we are all in the same boat and it’s not necessary to dress as if we’re going on a job interview, but I think it does show a degree of respect to others. Untidiness in yourself and/or your surroundings (which we also see) can be distracting.

Appraising at a Distance:
Working from Home as an Appraiser

Linda Selvin, New York
Executive Director, Appraisers Association of America, Inc.

Can you describe your set-up? Where are you?

I am working remotely from Long Island, returning to the city every two weeks to check on mail, etc.  We had gone paperless several years ago so it was an easy transition to begin to work from home.  I hold “staff meetings” each morning to stay connected to them and set out our goals for the day.  After the initial scramble to reset our workplace, I have found that I am now able to tackle projects that I would not have been so quick to address.  

How are you keeping in touch with clients and staying updated on projects? 

My clients are my members and supporters, many who have been with the Appraisers Association since the 70’s and 80’s.  I’ve made calls to most of them; checking in to ensure that they are well and managing during this time. We also are holding ‘Coffee Hours”, which are casual web-based gatherings to share updates on appraisal practices during this time, information on available support, and just to connect.  It’s great to see and hear from each other. The casual format allows for everyone to relax and provides a sense of connection. I thoroughly enjoy them. 

Our Annual Awards Luncheon had to be cancelled, but most other in-person events are now virtual. We found that many people had not taken courses online before so we have dedicated a lot of time getting people familiar with the platform so that they too could participate.

Can you describe the aspects of your job that you can move online? 

All aspects of my work are now done remotely.   All committee meetings, board meetings, and classes, including our summer intensive course, the Comprehensive Appraisal Studies Program, which is usually held during the month of July in New York City, will now be held online.   

We will also be holding our annual conferences- Art Law Day and the National Conference- planned for November, online.  This is providing us with an opportunity to design a different and exciting format and to develop a program that would appeal to a more diverse audience.  It’s an opportunity to get creative and innovative.  

How is the appraisal process going from home? 

Many of the appraisals that are currently being conducted are on works that had been previously seen in-person or that will now be examined virtually.  Facetime is a valuable tool to an appraiser at this moment.  If the work was seen virtually, the appraisal report will need to clearly explain why it was examined using this method.  The I.R.S. was specific about the need to explain, explain, and explain. 

 Is there a moment that sticks out that you would like to share? 

There are two events during our time of PAUSE in PLACE that stand out for me.  The first was at the start, when I needed to make sure that my staff and my members were handling the vast changes that were taking place: what were their concerns, were they healthy, how I can help. The second moment that stands out for me is dealing with the grief that we are experiencing from the number of people that we have lost. 

Do you have any advice for other AT members valuing or taking care of pieces at home?

At this time, I would recommend that all collections be valued, but recognizing that the market will change in 6 months to a year, and that the appraisal should be updated.   

Sarah Ann Wilson, Philadelphia
Accredited Appraiser, Appraisers Association of America

Can you describe your set-up? Where are you? 

I am usually working from my home office in Philadelphia just two blocks away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library but with the shutdown, decided to take the long duration to quarantine in rural Pennsylvania, which is surrounded by mountains and the best medicine, nature.  

How are you keeping in touch with clients and staying updated on projects? 

Not much has changed as far as daily communication and appraisal practice. I always communicate by phone when I can and email to exchange images and information needed to complete appraisals when I am unable to physically inspect works in person. While it is always preferred to examine works in person, most artwork and antiques can be appraised from detailed photographs and working closely with the client to gather all necessary information regarding provenance. It can be a fun learning experience for both you and the client. 

Can you describe the aspects of your job that you can move online? 

My appraisal practice started 10 years ago, when almost anything could be found online if you knew where to look. While working online is not uncommon for my practice, the most valuable resource is my network of other reliable scholars, appraisers and auction house professionals who are all eager to help one another and stay connected through these uncertain times.  

How is the appraisal process going from home?

I know this time is affording many of us the opportunity to get projects done that we may not have otherwise had the time to get to. It is also a time to reflect on the things we surround ourselves with and choose to live with. I have noticed this with my clients who are reaching out for appraisals or advice on selling and encourage others to use this time wisely. With appraisers working remotely, many are more accessible than ever, it only takes a few minutes to take and send an image for some feedback. Why not get a second opinion on your most prized family heirlooms while you have the time? 

Is there a moment that sticks out that you would like to share? 

I was one of the 16-20 some million people laid off due to Covid-19 last month and was initially anxious by all the sudden changes. Instead I chose to embrace it and immediately created a basic website to share with friends and colleagues. I contacted a local artist run print shop to have personal business cards made and to help support another small business in the process. I received my first few jobs as an independent appraiser and am using this time to slowly build my own business. 

What sorts of challenges for collectors do you predict down the line?

This moment in time is proving that many collectors are comfortable buying without physical access to the things they are collecting. Everyone has the time to skim online catalogues and source for items of interest, so you have to be a step ahead and have knowledge about the things you are looking at. Use the internet to your advantage and educate yourself on the objects you collect and know what questions to ask the vendors. 

Do you have any advice for other AT members valuing or taking care of pieces at home?

Make sure your appraisals are up to date and work with a USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) compliant appraiser. It is recommended that you update insurance appraisals every three-five years. Even if you are not interested in a formal appraisal, getting a second opinion can help you determine the best approach to keeping your valuables protected. 

ArtWire: Members With Dogs

Courtney McNeil, Savannah, GA
Chief Curator & Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Telfair Museums

Can you describe your set-up? Who’s your canine companion, what’s their name, breed?

We closed my museum to the public on March 13, so since then I’ve been sheltering in place at home with my family, which includes our two Siberian Huskies, Trot and Tessie. I live out in suburbia, so we are fortunate to have a fair amount of space to stretch out. Lately I have been taking advantage of the great weather we’re having in the Southeast and have been working outside on my porch. I typically work during normal business hours, and I have been trying to cut back on the late-night work—nobody ever likes getting emails from their boss at 11 pm, and I’m guessing even less so during the stress of a global pandemic.

How are you achieving and maintaining a routine? How do you keep peace and take calls? 

My huskies aren’t typically big barkers, but they “talk” when they’re feeling neglected, which seems to always happen when I’m in a Zoom meeting. Fortunately, I’ve gotten pretty quick with the mute button, so as long as I can keep a straight face and keep nodding along, most of the time my colleagues don’t have to be subjected to the dogs’ noise! But for a serious phone call you’ll usually find me sitting on the floor of my closet, which allows me to keep three closed doors between me and the chaos.

Do you have any advice for other AT member pet moms at home?

While I certainly don’t have it all figured out, the advice I would offer is to cut yourself and your pets some extra slack—yes, the dogs are misbehaving and crying for more attention—it’s due to the stress of this change in their routine. And yes, you probably feel more overwhelmed and irritable with them than usual—again, that’s only natural given these trying times. Just take some deep breaths, go on some extra walks, and remember that it’s OK if pet parenting feels extra hard right now. We’re all in this together, and we’re all doing our best!

Lisa Gold, New York, NY
Executive Director, Asian American Arts Alliance

Can you describe your set-up? Who’s your canine companion, what’s their name, breed?

I’ve rediscovered my desk! I try to make a point to eat at the dining room table and work from my desk. In a small apartment, demarcating space makes a difference psychologically. Maka, my Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix, loves to sit with me in my desk chair. She’s used to coming to work with me, but she has her own bed under my desk at work. At home, she never sits in her own bed.

How are you achieving and maintaining a routine? How do you keep peace and take calls? 

I have a Zoom check in call with the A4 team first thing every morning so I have to be somewhat presentable. Maka is used to walking at least three times a day and that helps me remember to get up and move. It’s actually very quiet in my apartment, which is in a small building. The sirens have slowed down quite a bit and almost 1/3 of my neighbors are quarantining elsewhere.

Any new walks, new tricks? 

Unfortunately, the only new thing Maka is doing is hiding under my bed at the 7 PM salute to essential workers. She hates the noise. But we have been walking all over the neighborhood and discovered lots of lovely places, like the waterfront mini park by Basketball City.

Do you have any advice for other AT member pet moms at home?

I think getting out and walking regularly is so important — for everyone’s health! Vitamin D and exercise are great antidotes to Zoom call marathons. I haven’t figured out how to make her wear a mask or practice social distancing, though. 🙂 I guess my idea of “Mommy and Me” masks for dogs and dog moms won’t be my ticket to an early retirement after all.

Gina Broze, Seattle, WA
Owner, smArt Rights

Can you describe your set-up? Who’s your canine companion, what’s their name, breed?

I’ve worked at home since starting my business about 5 years ago, and my dog Giovanni – a 12 year old Yorkshire Terrier (insta: @gogogiogo) – is an integral team member! After starting my home office with a laptop, dining room chair and a repurposed kitchen table, I quickly realized that having a desk, real office chair, large monitor, full keyboard, and ergonomic things like a foot rest, keyboard and mouse pad, were essential. Just skip the terrible back and neck pain, and set up a real work spot as soon as you can. I picked a bright area of my house, with windows, and things outside I don’t mind looking at. This happens to be off my kitchen, and is on view to anyone who visits me. This is ok with me, as I am the one who has to use it all-day, every-day, and if people are coming over, I’m ok with tidying it up and leaving it on view. This isn’t so much an issue at the moment, however. 

How are you achieving and maintaining a routine? How do you keep peace and take calls? 

Integral team member, Giovanni is the best at routines. He gets up at 6:30am and wants breakfast by 7am. For him a walk after breakfast is really important. He likes to walk very slowly, sniff every blade of grass, check in with his neghiborhood friends, and do some business. I call this “reading the paper”. It is impossible to be impatient with him, even if I know I have a busy day. He is stubborn and makes the walk rules. But this means I’m normally at my desk between 8 and 9am. He then happily naps at my feet until he needs to go outside again. Lunch is at 2pm – he lets me know it is time. I am not good at routines, and Giovanni is very important in this respect – he reminds me to be on-time, eat, stand-up, go outside, and take walks at regular intervals. 

How are you achieving and maintaining a routine? How do you keep peace and take calls? 

Gio is very good, and normally only interrupts if it is important to go outside immediately, or if it is almost time to eat. And everyone I’ve been on a phone call with has been very nice about any interruptions. He makes regular appearances on all video calls. It helps that he is adorable.

I’m not sure if I have gotten more inventive during this time – but I have been consciously more forgiving to myself and my feelings. There have definitely been some days I haven’t felt like working, or days I just don’t seem to be able to get anything done. Everyone is feeling similarly I think, and so far every one of my clients has been forgiving as well. It’s important that we give ourselves the space to adjust and process this weirdness.

Do you have any advice for other AT member pet moms at home?

Overall, I think the basics – setting up a nice, comfortable place to work, and having a routine – are the most important things I’ve done since I’ve started working from home. It is so easy to let work blend with the rest of your life and your space – and you should let it – but only in so far as is healthy for you, and works for you. 

Here is a trick I’ve taught Gio during quarantine!