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Personal Economy #12

I have never fully supported myself with my art. An odd variety of jobs over the years include telephone operator, insurance claims adjustor, computer programmer, Montessori teacher, museum registrar, rural community development worker, grant-funded government research, corporate market research director, freelance marketing consultant [which I still do]. My BA and MA degrees are in a social science. Art was an undergraduate minor only, mainly because I found studio courses stifling. I therefore have not got the credentials to teach. Disclosure: I most likely would not have survived in the academic milieu anyway.

Here is an indicative “core sample” of my overall experience as a working artist. This covers 9 most-recent years, solo shows only. I have been working seriously in the studio since 1985.

Since 2000 I have had 13 solo shows. Five of these were in commercial galleries as far flung as Atlanta and Dallas, and in only one case did they pay for lodging or dinner. None reimbursed for work delivery or travel expenses, and few took any responsibility for returning work to me. No help with framing. One gallery dunned me for half of the costs associated with printing and mailing cards as well as the reception. Galleries take 50 percent and expect the artist to share the hit if a buyer wants a discount. At one time designers/decorators were the only ones asking for discounts. Galleries would occasionally give discounts to collectors who had bought a lot of work. Now every buyer, it seems, wants at least 10 percent off. True story: A wealthy couple from Texas who already owned my work flew to Atlanta in their private jet to buy a large painting of mine. They asked for [and got] a 20 percent discount!!

My other 8 solo shows were in tax- and/or foundation-supported non-profit spaces. That includes 1 museum, 4 universities, 3 arts commissions. Stipends [if any] averaged around $300., hardly covering travel costs let alone overnight stays in hotels or meals. One $2,000. stipend covered two extra two-hour round-trips to the university to teach small classes. In three instances I gave a talk. Sales were not expected, but when something sold most institutions took 20-30 percent [remember – they receive tax money!]. The museum “bought” one large work for their collection, but instead of paying me they gave me a catalogue [for which I otherwise was supposed to raise money] instead of a brochure. The curator won some sort of professional museum award for the catalogue.

The voice of reason: Given that I am voluntarily manufacturing a labor-intensive, one-of-a-kind product for which there is a wildly fluctuating market, however, I cannot complain!!

One Comment on “Personal Economy #12”

  1. 1 Alenna said at 10:55 am on April 2nd, 2010:

    Why keep doing shows at all? I have experienced these things, and I have become jaded enough to drop out of showing. I feel like I’m just getting taken.

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