Episode 260 – New Markets for Artists / Public Proposals

Public Proposals

Another type of public art is when you negotiate terms that will allow you to display your art in a public space. The artist Christo, for example, gives proposals complete with drawings and models to city officials or building owners. He is able to fund his projects by selling his artwork. So, if Christo wants to wrap a building with his signature cloth so it almost looks as though it is under construction, he will begin by sketching the project and then he will approach the building owners directly and present his idea. The owners do not give their approval because Christo is rich or famous; they do so because he is ambitious, has a well thought out plan, and the spunk to ask. Artists may have heard of Christo, but most people have not. The point is you do not need fame to land a large scale project like this, you only need a good idea and some confidence.

A Sculptor Takes the Town

Here is an example of an artist who used Christo’s approach to make her own temporary public art. Part of my profession is coaching and mentoring other artists, and this is the story of one of my clients. She came to me wanting to jump start her art career. In the past she made sculptures that looked like very large flexible tubes, the kind that might be used for a huge air condition- ing system, and had done temporary exhibits for competitions where she weaved the tubes through the windows of abandoned apartment buildings. She showed me several images.

The Model, DIY

The pictures looked wonderful and her art had a refreshing sense of humor about them. They were also strange and looked very odd in a way that attracted attention—like all good public art should. I explained to her that she could follow Christo’s example rather than try to get a gallery to support her or waiting for a local art agency to award her an opportunity. At first she hesitated. “You mean just go out and do it myself?” “Yes,” I replied, and that is what she did. I didn’t work with her for very long because she grasped the idea right away, and with minimal support from me, began sketching her ideas, found a way to present them, and sent out press releases. She then made her tubes and put them through the windows of parked cars in various neighborhoods. She didn’t even need to ask permission.

Success as an Independent Artist

She took photos of her car art and sent them out with press releases. The result was a full-page image in Time Out magazine in New York and an interview on national television. She realized once she had a clear picture of what she wanted to do, executing the plan was fairly easy. She was not famous or rich, she just had a creative idea and went for it. She got what most artists dream about—national press and public exhibits—and with the right attitude, you are capable of achieving this level of success as well. It does require that you write a press release and send it out, but you can do that easily yourself or get help from a writer friend if it seems beyond your skill level. For her, and perhaps for you also, the experience changed her perception of how she could go about exhibiting her work. The Christo model provided the “aha” moment she needed to take the reins of her career in her hands and control her destiny. Now she no longer has to wait for a break or an application to be accepted.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


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