What do alumni need in order to make their way as artists after leaving the mdw? This question was central to the concept behind the mdw_HUB programme, which presented an opportunity to realise offerings for young artists and alumni beyond everyday university activities under the aegis of Knowledge Transfer Centre East (WTZ Ost).

“A new focus and space to contemplate and reflect on which I actually want, on what drives me.” – Damaris Richerts, trumpeter

Job descriptions in the arts world have changed massively, and few people still have the option of pursuing traditional, straightforward career paths such as permanent employment with an orchestra. So how to get one’s bearings in a fragmented professional world where you have to piece together your living from lots of different building blocks? And where to find the know-how needed to do so?

“On the HUB weekends, we encountered various approaches—approaches you’d otherwise have to spend lots of time and money putting together—bundled in a compact way. It’s extremely important knowledge that you just plain need in order to work in this profession—wholly apart from any artistic curriculum content.” – Iris Blauensteiner, filmmaker and author

In three two-day sessions, mdw_HUB provided its ten participants with essential resources for easing their entry into careers that would hopefully be determined more by artistic parameters than by economic necessities. Graduates of all Vienna’s arts universities had been invited to participate, and it ended up being the case that women applied in far greater numbers than men. Alongside mdw alumni, the participants included graduates of the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, fully in keeping with the fact that interdisciplinarity and a trans-university perspective are fundamental elements of the programme.

“Engaging in exchange with students from widely varied fields and backgrounds on very similar problems and difficulties associated with independent artistic work is extremely enriching and helpful.” Nora Pierer, scenographer

mdw_HUB took a resource-oriented approach. The first order of business was to take stock: what resources, competencies, and networks do I already have at my disposal? What visions do I have for my artistic work, and what goals am I pursuing with this work? And finally, what am I still missing that I need to achieve them? The participants developed personal career roadmaps, defined their “next bold steps”, and also implemented some of these steps between the various course modules. Being able to come up with concrete answers to such questions has a direct effect on one’s self-confidence.

“I noticed that something’s changed about the attitude with which I approach people. I’ve became more open and self-confident when introducing my concerns or projects, without thinking to myself that what I’m doing is irrelevant.” Sarah Bildstein, fine artist

“Hard skills” (which artists often aren’t so fond of dealing with) were the next emphasis: making a living as a freelancer, social insurance, taxes, public funding—as soon as one’s dealt with these topics more closely, they become far less intimidating. A “Business Model Canvas” shed light on the many different areas to which people who intend to make a living in the arts need to pay attention. And there, as well: the important thing is to define the next major steps towards one’s goal.

“For me, it’s very difficult to reconcile marketing, business model development, and things like that with my mode of working as an artist and my interests. But the (gentle) pressure of having to give a presentation at the end, combined with the supportive and esteeming atmosphere, gave me a certain focus that let me see clearly what’s possible (and what isn’t) in a concrete situation, and now—seemingly like magic—I’ve got a plan! – Astrid Edlinger, fine artist

Online follows offline was the credo with regard to self-marketing: those who don’t have all that good an idea of just what they want to achieve with their art also doesn’t really have anything to convey via social media. What’s far more essential is to come up with an authentic concept that can be realised over the long term and will thus be sustainable—rendering both websites and social media presences consistent, credible, and reflective of one’s own personal approach and concerns. From this perspective, crowdfunding is also a wonderful marketing instrument.

The concluding coaching session on self-presentation with actor Michaela Rosen was devoted to conveying one’s own artistic ideas in real life: the participants practiced using their breath correctly and learned to find their own vocal registers—not just for their art as such, but also to make it easier to leave their comfort zones when giving presentations before a professional audience. And finally, an interesting and colourful final evening at the arts location Brick-5 showed the outside world, as well, just what effects such a compact course filled with essential resources can have.

“It was also very good to see that the questions I sometimes ask myself—as a woman, as an artist, and as a human being—aren’t questions that only I have … and that there are answers to them. The mdw_HUB programme was singularly important to me in terms of gaining a better understanding of both my own career and what my next steps should be. And even when I don’t know just what those are, I at least know the questions that I need to ask!” Vitória Monteiro, interdisciplinary artist specialised in film and performance

Over the next few months, experienced mentors will be providing the participating artists with further support. And this autumn, the participants will meet once again to reflect on these experiences and the effects of mdw_HUB.

But that’s not all…

…a new installation of the programme “mdw_HUB: Make a Living in Music and the Arts … und als Künstler_in meinen Weg gehen…” is planned for next year!

“From mdw_HUB, I’m taking along with me clarity, a strategy, support, a good feeling about my future, tools, contacts, joy, good food, and great friendships! And above all, I feel stronger thanks to the many layers of knowledge I’ve gained!” Jiaran Wang, pianist

mdw_HUB took place from January to April 2018 as a programme of WTZ Ost and was coordinated by Anna Zethner (Office of Research Promotion, mdw) and Veronika Leiner.


Participants in mdw_HUB 2018:

Nika Bauman, flutist, mdw
Current project: The Synesthetic Project

Sarah Bildstein, fine artist, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna,

Iris Blauensteiner, filmmaker and author, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Current project: her first feature film, working title: Raspberries and Yellow Leaves

Astrid Edlinger, fine artist, University of Applied Arts Vienna
Current project: “The Spivak Comic Reader”

Veronika Kopjova, (collaborative) pianist, accompanist, mdw

Vitória Monteiro, interdisciplinary artist specialised in film and performance
Current project: “Ohne Zucker” (with the musician Gabriel Gruber a.k.a. “Perfect Squeeze”)

Nora Pierer, scenographer, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Damaris Richerts, trumpeter, mdw
Current projects: the women’s wind ensembles le2dam (www.le2dam.at) and quinTTTonic – austrian female brass quintet (www.quinTTTonic.com)

Vivian Stürzenhofecker, singer, rhythmist, mdw
Current project: the CD NAOMI

Jiaran Wang, Pianistin, mdw
Current project: “Üben im Flow” (Practising in Flow)


Lecturers and workshop leaders:

Dagmar Abfalter, IKM
Aliette Dörflinger
Christoph Gruber, mica
Christian Henner-Fehr
Helge Hinteregger, mica
Michaela Rosen

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