John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program
Escapism (n.) The Art Movement of Artist John Ross Palmer that is devoted to forever destroying the stereotype of the struggling artist.
The application for the 2018 Escapist Mentorship Program will go live in September 2018. To see an example of a prior application, click here.
John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program was founded in 2009 as a casual way for a motivated group of local Houston artists to meet, communicate with each other about art and business while learning by example from Artist John Ross Palmer as a group leader. In 2010, the program was elevated by the business of John Palmer Art by having a juried application process. Applicants were required to submit images and answer a series of essay questions. Applications were received from all over the United States of America–and one was received from an artist named Wavinya Ngei–a full-time resident of the country of Kenya. Since the first year of formalizing the process, the program has evolved as it gained prestige. Applications have been received from all over the United States and the world: South Africa, Indonesia, England and India.
In 2011, an in-person interview component was introduced. In 2012, the “in-person” interview was modified to occur via Skype because one of the Finalists and eventual Escapist Artists was a permanent resident of London, England. In 2012, the Escapist of the Year Award was created. The winner was decided by private voting ballot of all current and former Escapist Artists. Escapists of the Year now include Tra` Slaughter (2012), William H. Miller (2013), Sue Donaldson (2014), Stephanie Gonzalez (2015) and Hugo Perez (2016). For 2014 and 2015, the Escapist of the Year was decided by private voting ballot from all of Palmer’s 400+ VIP Collector Database. Votes were tabulated by the Houston accounting firm of Weinstein Spira. In 2016, the honor was decided by a panel of a dozen “secret” judges that visited each Escapist’s solo show and scored them on various components including ambiance, theme, pricing, lighting and artist confidence.
In 2013, Palmer launched the massive Refuse to Struggle Campaign to build an Escapist Artist Gallery & Studios adjacent to his personal gallery in the Historic Houston Heights. That Summer, he raised over $50,000 cash-on-hand from top art patrons before launching a crowd-funding experiment on Indiegogo. In just 46 days, the Refuse to Struggle online campaign earned $76,113 from over 300 contributors from all over the world. Construction of the state-of-the-art “ultimate artist training ground” took the lion’s share of 2014. Escapists Donaldson, Reinholtz and Lulu Lin were only able to “move in” for their black-tie graduation gala in October of 2014. For 2015, Gonzalez, Poteete and Tarbox had free use of their own Personal Artist Studios (“Goehausen,” “Jennings” and “Patriarca”) for the entire year plus exclusive show space in the Franklin Gallery.
In 2014, 8 Finalists were chosen from a wide range and talented group of applicants. A “speed dating” format was introduced to the interview process where Finalists rotated to three separate interview rooms and judges. This same year, all artists received a detailed report of their scoring from both the written and interview phases of the application process. Applicants appreciated this feedback on their hard work and so this element will continue in the future. The speed dating interview format continued with the selection of the 2015 and 2016 Escapist Artists.
Formality was added to the structure of the Escapist Mentorship Program in 2014 with the requirement that Escapists must complete assignments and earn badges in the following areas in order to graduate: Correspondence, Event, Fame, Finance, History, Journal, Mechanics, Sales and Philanthropy. Now, when someone “graduates” from Palmer’s Escapist Program, they will have a proven record of involvement and accomplishment. At the onset of 2014, Escapists Sue Donaldson, Lulu Lin and Joseph Reinholtz were welcomed into the program at a private initiation ceremony where they took the The Pledge of the Escapist. View the 2014 Escapist Assignments. View the 2013 Escapist Assignments.
Since the construction of the Chrysalis, a hallmark of the program has been the Escapists each hosting their own solo show in the Franklin Gallery. Unlike a traditional art gallery where an artist delivers his or her paintings to the gallery for unveiling, with the Escapist Program, the Escapist Artist is responsible for every detail of their solo show: invitations, theme, marketing, collector calls, ambiance, pricing, lighting, price negotiation, collector follow-ups and much more. It is a tremendous learning lesson for their future career as a self-sufficient artist. Each step of the way, they are coached and supported by their mentors John and Ryan.
In 2016, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Art Launch was formed to manage and operate the Escapist Mentorship Program. Now, donors can support the program and the Art Movement of Escapism through tax-deductible donations. This new element will allow the program to grow and thrive like never before. Just one addition thanks to the benefits of sponsors is the first-ever Escapist Retreat already planned for the 2017 Class in February of next year.
Since its inception, being selected as an Escapist Artist in John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program is entirely free. Besides a nominal cost to apply, there is no fee whatsoever for the hours and hours Palmer and his husband Ryan Lindsay pour into the program. The “heart” of the Escapist Mentorship Program is the individualized coaching and mentoring that Palmer and Lindsay give to each Escapist–outside of the assignments. Escapists call for personal meetings…and they get them. Palmer and Lindsay don’t “force” an Escapist to meet–the artist gets from the program exactly what they put into it.
To become an Escapist Artist, the individual must complete-in-full the written application that’s release on this page in the Spring of each year. For all timely-submitted and complete applications, a four or five-person jury then scores the applications on a point system. (Artist John Ross Palmer is therefore only a fraction of the voting power and he retains no personal selection or veto power.) A separate jury scores the Finalists for the interivew phase without a review of the written applications. The highest combined scores from the written and interview phases determine the next Escapist class. For the first time in the history of the program, the application for the 2017 Escapist Mentorship Program is entirely online via Submittable.
John coaches the artists not only on evolving their art technique–but also on how to promote their art, retain exclusivity, have savvy business salesmanship and overall personal and professional confidence. John Palmer’s business partner and husband, attorney Ryan Lindsay, is highly involved too–meeting with the Escapists at their discretion to coach them on effective marketing, running a small business, the advantages of sharing your art online and how to improve their website design. Unlike many other artists that are concerned with the competition, John Ross Palmer sees the inherent benefit of elevating all artists to add power to the profession.
Honors and Accolades
Every year since 2010, the Escapists have been celebrated and honored at a casual Afternoon of Escapism and black-tie Evening of Escapism at Palmer’s Historic Houston Heights Art Gallery. Palmer invites all of his top collectors to support the hardworking artists…and he features them and their artwork in an annual high-quality Escapism Catalogue. For the Afternoon & Evening of Escapism, the Escapist Artists are involved in all stages of the planning process to learn how to throw future events on their own terms. They are responsible for hanging their own works as well as negotiating price and selling their works once the art collectors arrive.
Palmer has been highly influential in launching the careers of the Escapist Artists on the international stage. He has showcased their artwork at major global art fairs including Art Chicago and the Los Angeles Art Show.
Justin E. Garcia
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2010 Escapist Artists, please click here.
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2011 Escapist Artists, please click here.
Leigh Armstrong (Armstrong was the youngest Escapist in history at age 18)
Tra Slaughter (Escapist of the Year)
Lauren Jay Wondra Smyth (Smyth was the first “international” Escapist as a full-time resident of London, England)
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2012 Escapist Artists, please click here.
William H. Miller (Escapist of the Year)
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2013 Escapist Artists, please click here.
Sue Donaldson (Escapist of the Year. Donaldson is the most “mature” Escapist in history. She has grandchildren that are the age of her Escapist comrades).
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2014 Escapist Artists, please click here.
Stephanie Gonzalez (Escapist of the Year)
Michelle Sendy (Millikin Escapist)
If you would like to view a Photo Album that documents the year of mentorship for the 2015 Escapist Artists, please click here.
Hugo Perez (Escapist of the Year)
The Millikin Escapist
In 2012, John Palmer Art collector Patrick Evans endowed the John Ross Palmer Escapism Scholarship at his beloved alma mater, Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. For many years, Evans has been captivated by Palmer’s wise business acumen and passion for coaching artists and so it was his desire to give back to his school and make this opportunity available for a young, emerging artist at the onset of his or her career. After a year of campus-wide promotion, a handful of talented artists were nominated by the faculty with two Finalists submitting written applications and appearing via Skype for an interview. The inaugural Millikin Escapist, Mr. Michael Schultz, worked with Palmer and Lindsay diligently in 2014–mainly focusing on making the trip to Houston from St. Louis to appear and show to Palmer’s plethora of collectors at his annual Escapism Weekend. Shultz launched an Indiegogo Campaign asking for assistance to get him to Houston to make this dream come true. Shultz set a time-frame of 23 days to earn $1,500. His campaign was 122% Funded within 8 hours of its launch.
Click this link to read Escapist Testimonials from the Escapist Artist Classes 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Why Should I Apply?
Artists of all career stages that have a vested interest in improving themselves and their business are highly encouraged to apply. Every year, scores and scores of Artists tell Palmer that they intend to apply. Only a fraction do. Those that apply, whether accepted or not, always tell Palmer that they are proud to have gone through the application process that ended up teaching them a great deal about themselves. So, the question is not really, “Why should I apply?,” but, rather, “Why not?”