Are you deserving? Part 2

Read the first part of this blog post at http://juliatrops.com/blog/2009/11/23/deservingartistprices What follows will make more sense….

or not…. 😀

I am reasonably sure it is the European culture which still pervades our society today, where hard work is necessary in order for something to be given weight and value. Tilling the fields and milking the cows are all very valuable skills and required duties at one time, but come on, in this day and age, how many companies milk their own cows? Even the farmers are subject to mass reproduction agriculture no differently than it pervades the art community with its giclees and prints.*

Art is not hard work

Art is not seen as hard work. Anyone can copy another’s work – it takes no brains and no talent – but, I challenge you to come up with an original concept and an original execution, pay for the supplies and the methods to market the work, not to mention the time to do all this, and tell me again how easy and inexpensive it is. And you wonder why we price our works they way we do.

Though, as an aside, I have to say that giclees and prints* are priced outrageously and people will buy them, and I shake my head every time. The pricing of mass produced items to originals is completely out of alignment. Next time you want to buy a giclee/print* take a hard look at the price compared to an artist who does originals. And if you want that artist’s work that bad, save (I know, it is a four letter word) for it, or ask if there is a layaway plan.

In Kelowna, despite public outcrys of admiration and support for artists and art, artists continually get the short end of the stick. Most certainly, I have been vocal about my dislike of silent auctions and art, I have been vocal to artists encouraging them to be smarter about who they donate to, and to make their donation relevant. I have been vocal about artists who I consider foolish enough to put original artworks in silent auction with no return whatsoever. An income tax receipt is a poor substitution for cold hard cash, so don’t tell me I’m getting something! I still have to claim the artwork as a sale even though I received no funds!

Local artists are soaked for entry fees in to such events as Music and Arts Festival (which promises the potential of exposure and sales) even though I remember advising to keep the artist booth prices down because of the local economy and attitude towards artists. (A side opinon: the Music and Arts Festival or Life and Arts Festival, whatever you want to call it, needs to be run by a BUSINESS, not a non-profit.) And when artists donate artworks to actual gallery formats such as the recent Evergreen Art Gallery at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, where all the art had solid gallery appraisals, some attendees, who can easily spend $200+ per ticket, ask “where’s the deal?”

Castanet, the local news website with a forum for discussion refuses to have art subjects in their “Entertainment, Food, Literature and the Arts” section because of lack of interest and the perception of advertisement in discussing our (art related) events. Here we are, the lowest income bracket and we give to charities and support our community, yet this public forum gives no inch. I find that very embarrassing. But, this forum will discuss what you are reading, and all the concerts and music you wish, and, well, perhaps that is the mentality of that forum – so in otherwords, don’t look for any brainiacs at Castanet. I’ve already tried.

At Night of the Arts recently, November 19, Charlie Hodge was quoted as saying “it is the artist everytime that steps up to the plate”. Yes it IS the artist who steps up to the plate, because we know what it is like to have nothing, and hope, (though some may deny this), that maybe, just maybe, through the charity’s nebulous promise of exposure, someone will search us out and actually purchase an artwork from us because they like our work.

It hardly ever happens.

Why?

I believe a number of factors are at play here:

  • social mindset that local art is somehow inferior
  • social mindset of art at silent auctions “where’s the deal”
  • social mindset of artists who feel “pressured” to give works to charities

Local Art is Inferior?

Those with the means to purchase original art in this city rarely go and search out local artists, instead they rely on the galleries. Fair enough, it has been done that way for at least a hundred years, why change it now? :-/ Local artists are the grassroots of the city, the people who support the community when they can’t afford to, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find many of them at the Foodbank. Yet we give and give and give. What comes back? Some good karma, eventually, I guess. Maybe this lifetime or the next, but how well does that pay this month’s bills? Try taking that to the bank.

It seems art is only valued if you pay for it. The same people who attend $200 a ticket dinners have no problem going in to the commercial galleries and spending thousands of dollars there, yet they ask “Where’s the deal?” at a fundraiser, where an artist out of the goodness of their heart, has donated a work.

If my work is good enough for your silent auction, isn’t it good enough for you to purchase? I am so tired of being told, “I’m going to wait til the next silent auction to pick up a piece of yours”. Well, keep waiting, buddy, it ain’t goin’ to happen. I’ve also been told, “oh yes, I am going to buy a piece after you donate.” That worked on me a total of ONE time. A new policy I am instituting in the New Year “with every purchase, I am happy to donate to your favourite charity a work of equal or lesser value.”

For those artists who feel “pressured” to give works to charities:

Ask yourself this question, it’s an important one. Are you a professional artist or a hobbyist? A lot of people think they are professional artists these days. Everyone can draw, we know that, everyone can paint, everyone can sing, everyone can act – the difference is what do you do with that ability, how do you use it and do you respect your talents?

Is your intention to make the majority of your income from your art? Do you have a pst number? A gst number? A business name, a business license? Do you spend the majority of your time on your art? Do you give your artwork the respect and honour it deserves as a creation from your heart, mind, body and soul? Have you committed to your work? Do you have a specific place for your work where you can go to create – (it could be something as informal as a corner in the dining room, or an unused bedroom etc)? Do you have a firm price structure? Do you deserve the prices you put on your work, or do you just give most of it away anyway?

It is my contention that the social mindset regarding art at fundraisers, and I am told by artist friends around the globe, that Kelowna is not special in all this, is one of “Where’s the deal?” We as professional artists need to stand together as a group, locally and globally, and say no more! We need to change the social mindset of donating to charities. Charities are big business, don’t fool yourself otherwise. No more donating original art to silent auctions unless it is specifically relevant, no matter what income level it is directed to! Don’t believe the hype of “you will get exposure”. Unless your name is specifically mentioned in all the advertising, don’t bite the hook! If you are a professional artist, stand your ground. This is one of the important times in your life where you can’t cave in to perceived social pressure. Hold on long enough and the social pressure you are feeling right now will be turned back to the fundraisers. The perceived social pressure will require them to treat you fairly.

And why shouldn’t it? Art is hard work.

*prints refers to anything mass produced, not original prints from methods such as authentic handpulled lithography, intaglio, silkscreen etc.

7 Replies to “Are you deserving? Part 2”

  1. Hi Julia! Wow, what a great post! I really enjoyed reading this. I had no idea that Castanet refused arts related topics in their arts forum! What a joke. I used to participate in the forums regularly and was always sort of confused and dismayed at the lack of interest shown for the local arts community (I’m in Kelowna as well). It seems that nobody really cares about art and artists. Like you say, people don’t mind spending their money on prints, but no one is willing to support the artist. It’s a mentality that I can’t understand!

    1. Hi Miranda, thank you for your note. Yes, just recently, when I started a thread under my own name in the Entertainment etc forum, asking to have a thread dedicated to art events in the city (one thread mind you to include everyone!), it was removed, and I was reprimanded by Jo saying I should have asked it in private. Wha????!!!!

      So many times in the past I have tried posting about First Thursdays (involving 8 artists), it was called spam. The idea was to get a discussion going, not to just advertise the events – I already advertised the events through the calendar. I tried to get a discussion going about the Homes for the Holidays art show (50 artists) at the RCA, and it was removed. Suppression. I am done with castanet and no longer take them seriously.

  2. I don’t disagree with a sinle word you said Julia.I find the whole thing as disgusting as you do but you are the one who said it first. You should take parts of this writing and put them on our wall so every one could read snipits of this work. I’m very proud of you for this work.
    Bon

  3. You have made valid points and offered considerable food for thought. Thank you. Let’s hope the situation described will not always be this way. Artistic appreciation is priceless!

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