Not Every Artist Went to School to Be an Artist

by Autumn Pippenburg


Art was always my favorite subject in school, and I’m not talking about college.  Although I went to college for almost 6 years in total, I never graduated with a degree and it wouldn’t have been an art degree if I did.  My advisor told me, “There’s no money in art, you should stick to the medical field.”  And so I did, I went to school in hopes of becoming a Dentist.  Fast forward to now, I’m a working artist that makes money doing what I love. Wait, what?

I am a college dropout

I dropped out of college to start a production company called Triple Threat Productions.  We did shows at colleges that consisted of everything in the arts; music, singing, dancing, acting, etc.  After some time, I had met so many performers I was getting asked by local businesses to supply them with talent.  That’s when I started my second business, Showgirlz Entertainment, which was a promotional modeling agency.  We booked talent at just about every trade show there was, car shows, gogo dancers at nightclubs, liquor promotions, and more.  Soon, the bars  and restaurants started asking me to find them bartenders, servers, bottle service girls, bussers, barbacks, and even managers.  Before I knew it, I was hiring for dozens of bars in Chicago.

But it didn’t stop there.  Social media was on the rise and because I had such a large network, everyone wanted me to handle their marketing.  So I started a company called Digi Noggin, a digital marketing agency.  We grew to 6 full-time employees and it was nothing but stress.  I realized that my once ‘artsy’ Triple Threat Productions had turned into a marketing and staffing agency.  I wasn’t happy and wanted out, but I didn’t know why.

I began bartending and serving.  I worked my way up quickly and began managing restaurants within months.  I started assisting restaurant owners in opening their new spots and once again, realized I could make a company out of this.  I launched Pippco, Inc. and began consulting new restauranteurs on how to open their restaurants.  I helped open dozens of restaurants in only four years and, you guessed it, wanted out. 

People will tell you who they expect you to be

My friends tried to give me advice like, “Try to stick to one profession, you’ll be more successful if you stay focused and on track.”  I also heard a lot of, “What exactly do you do?  I can never keep  up with you, you’re all over the place.”  Even though my progression of careers spanned over 13 years, people lose track of time and seem to think you are who you were when they met you over a decade ago. 

Listen to your dreams

I opened my last restaurant at the end of 2018.  I started driving Uber to make up for lost income and turned down every restaurant job that came my way.  I knew I had to say “no” in order to find my calling.  It wasn’t long before I got bored and wanted to do something more fulfilling.  I began helping out local charities that some of my friends ran.  That’s when I started having this dream.  I kept dreaming that I was running trough a forest, chasing after something, and I would look down and find a shiny silver compass.  The compass was spinning and the more I tried to get the compass to focus, the faster it would spin.  I must have had this dream over 50 times.

Immerse yourself with likeminded people

I was attending a charity coat drive event at Artspace 8 with Street Samaritans, a Chicago charity that helps the homeless.  I was being introduced to the owner of the gallery when I looked down and found a pendant to a necklace; a shiny silver compass.  I was so in shock I had to tell my everyone about my dream.  A believer in the numerology of the universe, Fidel Rodriguez, the owner of Artspace 8 Gallery, invited me to come back to the gallery and paint.  I responded with, “I’m not an artist, I’ve never painted before.”  His response, “Yes you are.  And besides, I will teach you.”  I began painting with Fidel a few times a week.  Sometimes for 12 hours at a time.  I realized how addicted I was and how peaceful my mind had become.  My financial world was falling apart but I was still calm.  For once I wasn’t thinking about money or expanding my business, I was thinking about my happiness and my wellbeing.

Your future is your canvas

I began getting commissioned for work and invited to participate in art shows.  My art career was starting to blossom and I couldn’t be happier.  I was still heavily involved in a ton of charity work and wanted to combine those efforts with my art.  And that’s when it hit me, art in itself is a gift.  Giving is an art-form.  And that’s how the Art of Giving was formed.  Now I’m a full-time artist and the founder of a charitable organization.  I didn’t go to college to be an artist.  I didn’t go to college to be a business owner.  I didn’t go to college to learn how to be a good person.  All of this to say, if you are insecure about starting a new career because you don’t have a degree, just remember, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Albert Einstein, and many more dropped out of college.  If you have an innate talent, that is your gift to the world.  Do not ignore it, it will surface eventually and you’ll wish you followed your destiny sooner.  That’s my only regret, that I didn’t tell my college advisor to go kick rocks.  Your future is your canvas.