In 2019, frazzled teacher-and-mom Allison Belolan dedicated herself to working on her art full time. She quickly found that producing her abstract mixed-media landscapes was fulfilling and began to show her work in exhibitions. A few years in, her work is now featured in a number of shows in the greater New York area and is also available through her online shop. The Mamaroneck, New York-based artist tries to concentrate her work time to when her children are at school and always makes time for movement and exercise to keep those creative conduits flowing.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
You spent many years in art education, but tell us about starting up as a professional artist
I began making my own artwork again a few summers ago, after arm and wrist surgery. While I was recovering, I realized that my decade-long job as an art teacher in New York public schools and parenting two elementary school-aged children had left me completely burnt out. I needed to change something. So I decided to leave teaching and focus on making, showing and selling my own art. Now I am pursuing a career that I am passionate about, but also one that fills me up.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
My mixed-media abstract landscapes evoke strong emotional responses and appeal to a wide range of people. I make my artwork accessible and affordable by creating works in a variety of sizes and offering prints.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
I am very excited to be having my first solo exhibition this fall at the Heart Art Creations Gallery in Larchmont, New York (outside of New York City). I also have a few other shows coming up this October in Connecticut and November in Brooklyn that I’m really excited about.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I tend to give whatever I am doing my all, even if it doesn’t deserve my all. Which leads to burnout. I have learned to set boundaries and routines, and stick to them. For example, a majority of my creative time is done during the week while the kids are at school, so that the weekends can be for family and relaxing. I also make sure to take time for movement each day. Moving and exercising helps me feel strong and healthy, but it can easily be ignored. I schedule in three walk/movement breaks each day. Two times a week I go for longer walks, but this is something I still struggle with sticking to! Even though I know I am happier, calmer, more creative, and more productive when I take the time to exercise, there is still a part of me that often feels like any time spent not working is wasted time.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Having two elementary school-aged children can be challenging in creating balance between work, self-care and family.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
To remember that your voice deserves to be heard.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Being out in nature, or going for a walk, is my go-to for when I am feeling uninspired. Seeing art at a museum or a gallery is also a great pick-me-up.
Who is your most important role model?
It’s hard to pick just one! Growing up, my parents always encouraged my creativity and interest in art, which I am extremely grateful for. I was able to go to a fine art college and have been in a creative career since then. As I got older I found role models in the owner of the jewelry design company where I had my first job out of college, Traci Maceroni. She showed me what a strong, capable and confident woman could do with something she was passionate about. Most recently, my business coach, Terri Frohman, was an important role model in that she showed me that I can find my way in the art world the way I want to, that I can make my own path and not have to follow what other people consider the way to do it. ◼