I have created this resource to help artists, as well as anyone else you feel could benefit from this, with the creation of biographies. This is not intended to be the definitive way to write a biography; it is merely a guideline and an offering of support. My hope is that sharing my experiences can help others to contextualize themselves and situations while preparing their biographies.
BIO #1: Clayton Windatt is a Métis non–binary multi-artist living and working between Sturgeon Falls and Toronto, Ontario. Clayton holds a BA in Fine Art from Nipissing University and received Graphic Design certification from Canadore College. With an extensive history working in Artist-Run Culture and Community Arts, and through their own activism, Clayton works towards healthier relationships for national and global Indigenous artists and communities. The former Executive Director of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, Clayton maintains contracts with several colleges and universities, arts magazines, arts councils, arts organizations, and other organizations as a critical writer, columnist and consultant in addition to pursuing their independent arts practice. Clayton is an active filmmaker and director with works featured in festivals such as ImagineNative and the Toronto International Film Festival and recent commissions by the National Film Board of Canada. Clayton works in/with community, design, communications, curation, performance, theatre, technology, and consulting, and is a very active writer, filmmaker and visual-media artist and was recently appointed to the National Gallery of Canada’s Board of Trustees.
This is a comprehensive and overly detailed description of my life, but it could easily be ten times as long if I listed every affiliation or major event I have worked on. It attempts to state a lot of information by packing everything I do into a very dense paragraph. It identifies gender, race, background, experience, education, employment history, and various benchmarks in my career. When you do a lot of stuff, your biography can get unruly.
When I joined the National Gallery of Canada as a trustee, their staff edited my biography down to include relevant information for their website.
BIO #2: Clayton Windatt is a Métis, non–binary multi-artist living and working between Sturgeon Falls and Toronto, Ontario. With an extensive history working in artist-run culture and community arts, Clayton works towards healthier relationships for national and global Indigenous artists and communities. The former Executive Director of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, Clayton is an active writer, filmmaker and visual-media artist, who also works with several colleges and universities, arts magazines, arts councils and organizations, providing professional services as a critical writer, columnist and consultant. Clayton is an active filmmaker and director with works featured in festivals such as ImagineNative and the Toronto International Film Festival, and recent commissions by the National Film Board of Canada. Clayton holds a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts degree from Nipissing University and certification as a Graphic Designer from Canadore College.
As you can see, they talk a bit differently about education and experience than I normally do, which is fine as the biography they use for me on their website needs to make sense for that place. The process of recontextualizing information allowed me to think a lot about what information I wanted to share and when. For me, my biography as an artist, consultant, and curator gets me work. The experiences that I profile become the reasons why someone will reach out to me and solicit my involvement in projects. This led me to my current shortened biography.
BIO #3 (current): Clayton Windatt is a curator, multi-arts performer and filmmaker living and working in Ontario. As the former Executive Director of the White Water Gallery, Aboriginal Curatorial Collective and current Executive Director of the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference, Clayton has an extensive history working in Artist-Run Culture and Community Arts. Clayton maintains contracts with various governments, colleges and non-government organizations as a writer, consultant and knowledge broker negotiating between peoples, places and communities. Clayton works in/with community, design, communications, curation, performance, theatre, technology, and consulting, and is a very active artist.
Notice that various pieces of information are missing from this version. I have removed gender and cultural identification because I was being solicited to work on gender-based or culturally specific projects often. Omitting these from my bio does not change who I am, it just deemphasizes them and helps me to manage the volume of soliciting I receive. Your biography is a way of marketing who you want the world to respond to. Sharing gender means that people may gender you. Sharing culture may result in being asked to sit on boards as a way of filling their need for representation. Although I am still a Métis non–binary multi-artist living and working between Sturgeon Falls and Toronto, I am not seeking to gender myself or be Métis for anyone. This is why my current bio makes sense for me.
If this is your first time drafting a biography, be accurate and concise. Make a list of everything then think about what is the most relevant for you, your intended audience, and where this biography will live, and edit things down. Only include the information that you are comfortable sharing with the world and that you feel confident about when the world calls on you.
Here is a list of prompts to get you started:
- Region of residence or location you are working from/in
- Gender as you want to be identified
- Culture, race and/or affiliation to place of origin
- Employment, contracts, or other professional experiences
- Education experience including highest attained or current studies
- Event-based experiences you have had
- Major projects you have done or participated in
- Benchmarks that mean something to you
- Skill-based experiences
- Aspirations moving forward
Once you have made the list, think about how a series of 4-5 sentences can summarize many of these points together into a paragraph and then have someone else read it over before it is published. Having someone read things over before they go public is always helpful. My partner Tara reviews almost everything that I write, and it has helped me a great deal over the past 15+ years.