Former nurse practitioner Alicia Hauff leaves community-based health care for career in the arts
Alicia Hauff describes her artistic process at her studio, Alicia Hauff Studio, in May 2022. Hauff said her medical background informs her approach to being an artist full time.
Alicia Hauff took a leap most people wouldn’t dare: She left her job as a nurse practitioner to become a professional artist.
It wasn’t a simple decision.
She didn’t become an overnight sensation in the arts world.
In fact, for the first six months as owner of Alicia Hauff Studio, she took the time to slow down and come home to herself. She did a lot of research on a variety of topics related to owning an art business, while starting to heal herself.
“People leave their jobs for new careers all the time,” Alicia Hauff said from her fresh, airy artist loft located in south Fargo. “But I found myself having to justify, mostly to myself, why I’d ever want to leave health care to paint. I had invested so much and worked with so many great people.”
‘Hitting a wall’
Like many on the front lines, Hauff said she “hit a wall” during the COVID-19 pandemic, not for lack of caring, but rather due to constant challenges in successfully helping the vulnerable patients in her care — homeless and incarcerated individuals living in high-risk communal settings.
“It felt at times morally injurious to go to work and not be able to provide what my patients needed. I couldn’t prescribe safe, affordable housing, or healthy food; everything felt really palliative and pressured,” Hauff said. “The social issues were compounded more than ever with the pandemic. The team and I witnessed so much trauma of various types on the regular. We talked about how so many things could be done differently to actually improve health. Outcomes were very, very challenging to meet. We always did the best with what we had every day.”
In late 2021, the 36-year-old mom of three boys (and a puppy named Louie) said her moment of clarity came during a talk with husband Matthew.
“I had had a really rough day, and I was venting to Matthew.” Hauff said. “He had seen me struggling for a while, and asked me, ‘What if you quit your job and started an art studio?’ I’d burned out so much, and he saw that. He knew and I knew something needed to change not only for me, but also for our family. There were a lot of tears and shifts in how I moved forward.”
Artist Alicia Hauff captures inspiration through continually learning new artistic techniques and practices, including mapping core themes on vision boards like the one she displays in her studio.
From burned out to fired up
By November 2021, Hauff was moving her paints, swatches, textiles, papers and other mixed-media artifacts into a small studio husband Matthew constructed on the second floor of his company’s headquarters on 52nd Avenue South in Fargo.
Talk about supportive partners. “Matthew had this small storage space in his building they weren’t using, so he refurbished it into a little studio for me to rent and I moved in,” she said. “I spent the next several months just being in the space, catching up on online painting classes and learning how to make a business out of what’s been my biggest passion: art.” He also supports her business by helping make the hardwood frames for her works in his shop.
She’s gaining momentum. Hauff’s work currently displays at a Choice Bank office in south Fargo as part of The Arts Partnership’s ArtWORKS program. In July, several of her works will be on display at Atomic Coffee on Broadway in downtown Fargo. Also in the books are plans to participate in the Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists’ annual Studio Crawl in October and Constraint Exhibit at the Plains Art Museum in the fall.
Hauff’s works are up for sale and available for purchase on her website, and she also encourages people to inquire about her commission services.
“I know a lot of people are intimidated by commissioning a work of art,” she said. “But really, it’s your chance to talk with an artist about what you want and get a truly unique piece of art that suits your vision and needs.”
Setting her style
Hauff takes a “lifelong learner” approach to her art business.
“I did not know anything about the marketing side of things, but I know it’s important for getting my work out there,” she said.
As she builds the business side, she’s also learning more about her own style and voice.
“I’d say right now I’m really drawn to earthy, muted tones and flowy lines,” Hauff said of her art. “I love nature, traveling and incorporating lots of textures and building up layers.”
She doesn’t shy away from the fact that she’s defining her style over time and says creating vision and mood boards are helping her get closer with every painting.
“Abstract mixed media is all about the composition, value and design, and what I love about it is that you can look at a piece and see something totally different than the next person,” Hauff said.
Choosing to ‘show up differently’
Hauff isn’t in her studio full time, not yet, at least.
“Matthew and I juggle parenting duties, but I am often the one home with the boys after school. My schedule varies with their needs,” Hauff said. “But I do get to spend several hours here a day, and welcome people to set up a time to visit me in my space.”
And while she thought starting her own art business would be something she’d get to do after the kids were grown, or even later in retirement, she calls herself privileged to be able to make such a dramatic career shift.
“I still care about the community and health care resources for all,” she said. “But I’ve chosen to show up differently in this next stage of my life. My work in health care taught me a lot about the human condition. I witnessed a lot of pain as well as joy, isolation and community, and the nature of systemic (manmade) challenges to actual care. Even though I do not practice in the field, I am still very much a heart-centered healer and nurturer.”
More on Alicia Hauff Studio
Hauff posts new work frequently on her Instagram account and sells directly from her website. Commission inquiries may also be submitted on her website. She encourages anyone interested in keeping up with her journey to subscribe to her newsletter.
Alicia Hauff has “drawers full” of swatches, samples, fabrics and other materials she uses to create highly textured multimedia pieces.
About the author
Lonna Whiting is a freelance writer and owner of lonna.co, a content marketing and communications agency located in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a frequent contributor to The Arts Partnership’s content library and also provides strategic communications consultation to the organization.
Whiting is a prolific advocate for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia awareness. She serves on the board of Memory Cafe of the Red River Valley and writes frequently about her own mother’s decade-long journey with the disease.