Today’s interview is about STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE. Joining me today is a woman described as an independent thinker and quiet force in her approach to life. Camille Obering is a fine art advisor, curator, and investor. She and her husband, multi-instrumentalist and composer Ben Musser are the founders of Guesthouse, a private studio space in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that invites artists, musicians, filmmakers, and creators to explore new ideas, and present their work to new audiences. Last year, Vanderbilt Magazine highlighted Guesthouse as “a laboratory for adventurous art” in which “no project is too avant-garde”.
Camille, it is such a pleasure to meet you. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your career and how your business evolved.
Hi Lisa, thank you for including me in your inspiring series of interviews. I am a mother, wife, art advisor, curator, investor and a curious person who is eager to learn and experience many things.
I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my family. I grew up in Jackson Hole and returned here in 2008 after many years of schooling, work and travel around the world. I was living in New York City working at the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center and RxArt and loved the energy and stimulation but felt there was an opportunity for me to bring more modern and contemporary art to Jackson Hole. My hometown was evolving from a rural ranch town to a more cosmopolitan place. I started by curating shows for galleries and nonprofits or doing pop ups. My focus was and is bringing in artwork that speaks about ideas that resonate with people here such as, man’s relationship with nature, how we experience light and texture, and the history of this area which has had a resounding impact on how society values natural spaces – i.e. national parks – and cultural sites (the World Monuments Fund evolved out of the national parks idea). My contacts in New York were willing to consign work to me because the economy had fallen out and I was offering up a new market for them. My success with those first shows built my confidence to keep pursuing my vision.
What excites you about your current stage of life?
The work that I put into myself, my marriage, my family and my business is starting to pay off in a way that makes me feel proud and happy about the direction of my life. My 30’s were a stage of growth and reflection. Once I married and had my first child, I honed in on what was happiness and fulfillment for me. This propelled me to work on my life from a place of intention. Taking control of my finances by learning about what I had and what I needed to be comfortable and thrive, was key to this. My perspective changed from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ and I started to learn how to be a better communicator and manager, so that the ‘we’ moves forward together, without neglecting what I need to be my best self. Lastly, I started to believe in my convictions and abilities.
Through the work, my husband and I have been able to solve the rubix cube of how to be engaged parents and spend quality time with our family, while still pursuing our passion in the arts by contributing something we are proud of to the broader creative conversation.
You have set up this amazing art space, Guesthouse. Tell us how the idea came to life and how it plays into the illusive work life balance. What makes your model unique and interesting to both artists and visitors?
I was curating shows around Jackson Hole and had picked up a clientele, but it became clear I needed my own space. Simultaneously, my husband and I started our family. In my first year of motherhood the question how I could raise my children while still pursuing my passion for art, came into focus. In addition, being based in Jackson Hole, my husband and I lacked a community of creatives that nurtured and inspired us. We pivoted from trying to pursue our professions akin to our peers who were in cultural hubs, to making our location an asset rather than our Achilles heel. We set out to create a model where we could build our community by inviting artists, musicians, and filmmakers to come out to us, and we could provide them with an extraordinary experience in Jackson Hole.
Building a guesthouse designed so that we could host people with a small bedroom, and a plain white box with stunning views of the Tetons could accommodate shows, film, and concerts, was the resolution to many of our problems. We felt that if we provided quality programming, people would find us via word of mouth. Opening a public space was the obvious choice, but by being private, we have avoided stresses such as staff, hours, commute and overhead bills which would force us to make a sales quota to keep the doors open or sacrifice time away from the family.
We do two art shows, one benefit concert, and maybe one film screening a year, focusing on quality rather than quantity. By being private, guesthouse visits foster engaged conversations and connections, something getting lost in the advent of social media. The experience at Guesthouse is meaningful. Artists appreciate the beauty of the space, the opportunity to show their work to a new audience and a place outside the spotlight to explore new ideas – things imperative to an artist’s growth and evolution. We are proud that the vision of Guesthouse has manifested itself in all the ways we hoped it would.
Data shows that young people are suffering from more anxiety and depression coming out of the pandemic. Do you have advice for people on ways to empower themselves?
Depression and anxiety that I have struggled with were manifestations of not feeling in control, and not pursuing something with intention. Social media exacerbates feelings of inadequacy. Whether you are young and trying to make your way or if you are reentering the workforce, I would advise people to reflect on themselves, meditate on what they have and what they want, recognize their weaknesses and start to understand their unique assets they can offer the world.
Develop and maintain contacts you respect. If you don’t know specifically what you want, work with people you admire and slowly more will emerge about the direction your life will take. Women looking to reenter the workforce should be honest about what they are seeking and what is realistic. Do you want stimulation and connection outside the house? Do you seek work in a specific area? Do you need money? How much time can you commit? There is never a perfect time, so start small and grow if it serves you.
The Big Three
What women inspired you?
Diane Brown of RxArt was a huge inspiration to me because she always strived for excellence and as a result was successful and respected. She is also a fiercely devoted mother. Various women artists who have pursued their work despite the challenges have been inspirations, namely Michele Oka Doner and Mary Obering (auntie).
What are you doing to inspire the next generation of female leaders?
I’m trying to lead my life with integrity and to show that a desire to be a mom and pursue something I lead my life with integrity and with a commitment to excellence both as a mother and a professional. Through example I hope other women will open their minds to various models that could fit their needs, rather than feeling stuck in traditional structures.
What advice do you have for a young woman who’s trying to break through or a woman who might be re-entering the workforce?
I would advise them to reflect on themselves, meditate on what they have and what they want, and I would advise them to reflect on themselves, meditate on what they have and what they want, and to start honing in on their unique vantage point or experience that they can bring to the conversation. Honor your desires, be honest about what you are seeking and what is realistic i.e., do you seek work in a specific area, do you just want stimulation outside the house, do you need money, how much time can you commit? There is never a perfect time, so start small and grow if it serves you.