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From 2005 to 2017, Paddy Johnson ran a respected art-world blog, Art F City. “Fiercely Independent,” began its tagline. But art criticism is a precarious business. She tried teaching as an adjunct, but that wasn’t much better.

Gradually, Johnson shifted to providing career counseling to artists, and helping them workshop their statements of purpose and grant applications. She realized it could be a business. In February 2021, she invited her mailing list to a webinar on the value — or not — of a fine arts degree, titled “Is It Time to Kill the M.F.A.?” A follow-up email included a link to “Book a free consult with our coaches.”

In May of that year, Johnson founded Netvvrk, an app-based resource for artists, with message boards, how-to guides and frequent Zoom seminars. It now has more than 900 members, most of whom pay between $49 and $87 a month.

Welcome to the vast, thorny wilderness of online artist mentoring.

With ever more artists vying for limited galleries and grants, there has been a recent flush of subscription-based, web-powered coaching and marketing programs offering advice, encouragement and feedback to creative types. This is partly a symptom of Covid, which encouraged people to embrace video calls and group chats at the same time it intensified isolation. It also reflects the growing number of midcareer artists looking for peers beyond art schools, and yearning to profit from their talents.


These groups aim to pick up where traditional art education leaves off: Artists want to know not just how to make paint, but how to sustain a long and satisfying career.


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