I'm an artist currently getting my MFA, current a TA, I will begin adjuncting next semester and hope to pursue tenure track/stay in academia in the future.

I've hit a bit of a road block in terms of how to go about my name, and am wondering what to do. I adopted a pseudonym for my work/professional life (a first name + last name) and use that excusively professionally as an artist. I have had exhibitions under this name, I'm a sole proprierter have a sales & use tax license as well as a DBA registered under this name. Tons and tons of artists use pseudonyms so this is definitely not at all uncommon in the art world. Similar to actors/musicians who use stage names, authors who use pen names, notable street artists use pseudonyms (KAWS, Banksy, Swoon, etc etc). I decided to use a pseudonym just to create a more unique & memorable entity -- additionally, I've just never liked my name. I generally go by the the first name (which is a nickname). My legal last name has some negative connotations I just don't want associated, and being an artist kind of presents this very cool opportunity to be whoever you want & establish a brand. With all that being said, it's not a dead name by any means -- Just a preference.

However, how do I go about this in academia? I figured when applying to jobs, I could just apply under my legal name, and in the cover letter say that I make work under the name xxx. However, what about when it's time to start teaching? What name is listed on my classes & on my syllabus? How do I introduce myself to my students (I'd want them to see my work and know who I am)? How do I introduce myself to my colleagues and what do they call me? Anyone have thoughts, or have experience with something like this? I'm mostly stumped because my pseudonym is somewhere in between sounding like a real name and something fake. Would love any advice. Thanks!


1 Answer 1


I would apply under the name you use in academia, but give your legal name somewhere in the application (cover letter or CV) and when you register for benefits/tax purposes. HR should be familiar with all this, it's fairly common in academia, especially for people who change their legal name to match a spouse's but retain their previous name for professional purposes since it's tied to their publication record.

It's also common for people to use a shortened name for simplicity, e.g. when multiple surnames are taken from families of both parents, to use a middle name as a first name, etc. Your situation is not really mechanistically different from these.

You can also consider legally changing your name; the process will depend on where you live but is typically not too arduous as long as you're not trying to evade a past (e.g.: sex offender registry).

I'm assuming that this name is appropriate to use as a name for all of these purposes; you'll have to weigh whether that's the case or if it will cause others to take you less seriously.

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