Episode 259 – New Markets for Artists / Third Step: Dinner

Third Step: Dinner

You can either make something inexpensive like a big soup with bread, or you can ask local restaurants and caterers if they will help. Don’t forget to tell them you will be sending out press releases that mention and thank your donors. The likelihood of a great event like this getting press is very high, and it will be good advertising for the restaurants who participate. Once your dinner plans are finalized it’s time to invite your diners. Who refuses an invitation to dine with other art lovers? Explain in your invitation how the event will work and let them know that a minimum ten dollar donation which will become the winning artist’s prize money will be required at the door.

Last Step: Enjoy Dinner

Your last step is to make the dinner and have fun. Once the presentations are over and the votes are counted you will have the pleasure of presenting the winning artist with the evening’s proceeds. You can probably see how this will grow after it’s initial success. Word will spread and more artists, press, and hungry art lovers will want to get involved. One of the exciting aspects is that the diners who come once will have an incentive to come the next time – to see the art that they voted on at their first dinner!

Community and Public Art

For the diners, there is something very satisfying about being a patron so closely involved in the local art community. From the artist’s point of view, what could be better than being paid to put on a show? Personally, I love this model, because it can be done almost anywhere in the world. You don’t need to be in a big city, you just need a dozen or so artists and a community of people who like to eat.

New Forms

The FEAST event is nice because instead of filling out lengthy applications and proposals, all an artist has to do to show their art in public and give a short presentation. Even more unusual, they will know the results that same evening. The experience will also let artists practice their verbal pitch skills which will help them give better proposals in the future.

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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Episode 258 – New Markets for Artists / Expenses for FEAST

Expenses

One of the biggest expenses for this event is the dinner itself. To help offset the expense, you can ask local restaurants and caterers to donate food. They will probably be willing to help, considering that this is a community event, especially if you tell them that donors will be credited on event press releases which you will be posting in local newspapers and on the menus that you will provide your dinner participants. Events like this, where the production costs are small or nonexistent, are called “sustainable funding for artists,” because, in many ways, that is exactly what this is. If the idea excites you, you should start planning your own event right away. Look up FEAST art online and you will see more material about how many people have done it.

First Step: Find a Venue

The first step is to find a place where you can stage a dinner and exhibit artwork. A church basement can be perfect, but it could also be in someone’s home, an office, a car dealership— almost anywhere that has enough vacant space and bare walls to hang art. Just be brave and start somewhere. Explain to a library what you’d like to do and emphasize that it will not only be fun, but will get the community more involved in art and culture. It’s OK if your sales pitch isn’t perfect; it will get better the more you give it. The first step is to go out and give it your best and be positive. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how many people share your enthusiasm.

Second Step: Find Artists

The second step is to figure out which artists to invite. You must consider whether their style and medium will work well in the space you have found. You need about four or five artists, and it’s OK if they are your friends. Otherwise, you can post an ad in the artist community on Craigslist and ask artists to send you links to samples they might use in their proposals. If you like their work and think they could make a good proposal, explain to them how the event will work and ask if they will participate. Most will be happy to join with the chance of getting to display their work and winning a cash prize. The only thing left to do is get a couple of friends to help you make dinner.

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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Episode 257 – New Markets for Artists / How FEAST Is Run

Collaborative Exhibits and Fundraising

One of the most recent new public art forms is represented in a project called FEAST, which started in a few different communities and has been replicated in many places thereafter. A dinner is held and four to five artists and at least a dozen non-artists are invited to attend. Ideally, the event space is at a public space that can be loaned for free, such as the basement of a local church (which is where one FEAST event was done) or a school or even an office building.

How FEAST Is Run

The first dinner would work in the following way: The dinner space must be able to accommodate an art exhibition with enough space on the walls for the artists to hang their work. You tell the artists you invite to give a proposal during the dinner on what they want to hang in the space and why their work would make a good show. They can bring images or the actual art pieces if they are not too difficult to transport. When you invite the diners, explain that artists will be giving presentations during dinner and the diners will be asked to fill out a form and vote for the presentation they like best. Also explain that there will be a minimum donation of ten dollars to cover the cost of dinner.

Voting for Artists

During dinner, the artists will stand up and give their presentations one at a time, doing their best to demonstrate what their exhibits will look like and persuade the diners to vote for their ideas. When dinner is over, and before dessert is served, the votes will be tallied and the winning artist announced. The winner will receive all the donation money collected earlier (no less than one hundred dollars) and the rights to install their art in the room for the next FEAST event, which will take place a month later. Ideally, the diners who voted for the winning artist will attend this second event so that they can see the art they voted for in full scale.

The Next Month

The second FEAST event will proceed just like the first. Four or five artists will give short presentations, the diners will vote, and the winning artist will be awarded the money. This is a new and exciting form of public art, because the public (the diners) are involved in choosing the commissioned art and will get more satisfaction out of seeing it displayed.  The first event is the hardest to set up because you have to find a space and make all the preparations,  but you will find that most people are excited by the idea and want to participate, and why wouldn’t they?

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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Episode 256 – New Markets for Artists / Government Agencies/Nonprofit Institutions

Government Agencies/Nonprofit Institutions

Working with local government agencies is still a good path for making public art, but the players have changed. There is a non-profit art group in New York City called Creative Time, and they have been at the forefront of commissioning new and innovative public art. Their goal (shared by many other agencies like them) is to find out new and exciting ways to engage the public with art. The first project I saw by Creative Time was done in Times Square in NYC where dozens of giant video walls flash ads and videos of various companies. Creative Time made a deal with one of the owners of the video walls that allotted the first minute of each hour for an artist’s use. That meant twenty four times a day an artist’s video played on these screens. Great idea isn’t it? That section of New York City is a huge tourist attraction, and the likelihood of the artist’s work being seen was great. And even if the viewers don’t recognize an artist’s work at first sight, the work will likely be different from all the ads around it, creating curiosity and intrigue. Billboards have been used in the same manner, with art agencies and artists renting space to showcase their work. There are other types of nontraditional public art, but these are just a few examples.

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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Episode 255 – New Markets for Artists / Public Art and Independent Projects

Chapter 8

Public Art and Independent  Projects

Many artists do not feel that their work is suitable to become public art, or have never ever considered the possibility that it might be suitable. It is, however, an area where any artist can make a proposal, and it is one of the least competitive areas as well. To begin, let’s define what public art means.

What Is Public Art?

The definition of “public art” has changed dramatically over the past ten years. It used to refer to sculptures or murals that were displayed in public. Traditionally, the way artists got these types of commissions was by registering with a local council on the arts, or if they lived in a country outside the U.S., with a local government arts center. After completing the registration and application process they would be considered for future public commissions. This is still one way to be commissioned for public work. Each state has a council on the arts, and they can tell you how to become eligible for new projects. In most cases, you will have to send images and a resume to the agency that your local council on the arts directs you to.

Percent for Arts in the United States

There is federal money controlled by the state as a tax on new construction. The way it works is through “percent for arts,” which means that for every public building created in the United States, one percent of the total building cost must be set aside for the purchase of art. That can be a significant sum, because if a building cost two million dollars to build, there will be a $200,000 budget for artwork. Usually that budget includes the artist’s fee and material costs. Keep in mind that creating a work of art that can withstand all forms of weather can get quite costly. I will discuss how to create winning proposals for this traditional type of public art later in this chapter, but first I want to explore other forms of public art.

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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Episode 254 – New Markets for Artists / Your Budget

Your Budget

The final and most important thing to consider is how much that space will cost. You don’t want to go over budget, so first decide how much you can spend on rent, paint, and other installation costs like electricity. Let’s say your budget is $1,200, and you cannot spend more than that. If that is your amount then the rent should be no more than about $800 for the three or four days of the fair, but remember that you will need to acquire the space sooner so you can clean it up if necessary, paint the walls, and hang your art. It’s important to have a rough budget already in mind when talking to the person who controls the space. Have you already figured out how much the paint and other installation materials will cost? It is OK if you don’t have the exact figures, but be approximate, and err on the side of over-budgeting. That way, when you talk to the person in charge of the space you will be organized and will know right away if you can afford the space or not. Keep in mind that as an artist, the person you are talking to knows that you are not rich, and that you are ambitiously fronting your own money to follow your passion. This may motivate the realtor to go easier on you during the price negotiation. It also means that if you are firm about the costs and your budget, the realtor will believe that they cannot demand any more money if they want your business. You may also offer a piece of your art to sweeten the deal. Most people like the idea of being a collector, especially if the art in question is associated with the major art fairs nearby. If renting a space nearby a major art fair is something you want to try, just begin to look for spaces and be prepared to negotiate.

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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Episode 253 – New Markets for Artists / Realtors, Owners, and Developers

Realtors, Owners, and Developers

There won’t always be a realtor, and in those cases you will have to negotiate a price with the land owner or developer.  If you are talking with an owner, the process will be similar to negotiating with a realtor. Tell them who you are and that you want to exhibit your art in their space and chances are they will be willing to work with you for two reasons. The first reason is that to hang art on the walls and leave the rest of the space untouched is not likely to cause any significant damage to the property—and you can sweeten your offer by agreeing to coat the walls in white paint. The second reason is that the people who will be coming to view your art will mostly be middle-class art lovers who are not likely to cause trouble and are also potential clients for the realtor. These will be your selling points for both private owners and the realtors. The upside for the realtor is that you are drawing attention to their space, cleaning it up, and increasing the likelihood of someone else being interested in renting it. There is nothing like an empty room with art on the walls to inspire others to think about what they could do with that space.

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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Episode 252 – New Markets for Artists / Do-It-Yourself Fair

Do-It-Yourself Fair

The DIY fair is another approach that can work out well. Essentially a DIY fair is when there is a big art fair near you like Basel Miami Beach, and you rent a space and host your own show. Graffiti artists, among others, have done this very successfully. If you do something interesting and promote your space well and have good art on display, you will be easily noticed, because you will be outside of the main fair area and will be viewed as an independent artist, and thus will be more likely to get better press and reviews.

How TMNK Did It

The artist TMNK makes his living selling his art on the streets of New York, and for a few years, he sold his art on eBay as well. He talks to students in high schools and likes to say, “I am nobody, and if I can do it, then anyone can.” What is different about him is his relentless pursuit, as he says, for what he wants. And one of the things he wanted was to go to Basel in Miami Beach and find a way to show his work. He told me he was thinking of renting a carwash for the day. As he calculated, a carwash couldn’t make more than $1,500 a day, and he was willing to pay that much so he could use the space to exhibit his work. But he never did that because, according to him, once he was in Miami he went around the city and found a better place.

Getting a Space

Eventually he met a developer who rented him a space in the heart of the fair district, right across from a permanent collection of a wealthy family that received an exceptionally high amount of traffic on its own. TMNK was not the first person to have success by renting a space around the fairgrounds, and in fact this method has since become more popular among artists and may be a viable option for you as well. Once you have your own space, you can host parties, openings, and band performances, and you will have a lot more room to experiment with new ideas. In the end, renting a space could (though not necessarily) be cheaper because you will be in control of all the decisions that must be made, but you must do what TMNK did before renting his space— go to the fairgrounds and start checking the neighborhoods for empty storefronts or warehouses. Who knows what you will find? Depending on your art, you may be able to use an outdoor location as well. After finding a suitable location, your next task is to find the realtor who is in control of it.

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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Episode 251 – New Markets for Artists / Promoting Your Booth

Promoting Your Booth

To promote your booth or room, you can employ traditional as well as nontraditional tactics. Traditional tactics mean advertising, which can range from using your Facebook page to tell friends, to local print and web advertising. If you don’t have a budget for promotion, you can think about performances or other guerilla tactics. If you are sharing the booth with a friend, one of you can go out and promote in person while the other remains inside. Handing out postcards is a good method, but make sure they have an eye-catching design or promotional hook. Have a picture on the front, and invite them to an after party on the back. People will be more likely to come if there is a social element to the event. Try to think of other gimmicks, such as free giveaways to the first 10 people who visit, or adding a performance by a band or well-known artist.

Do a Performance or Hire Someone

Another way to draw a crowd is to have a performer put on a demonstration outside your booth. You know how stores sometimes have people dressed up in silly costumes to draw attention? That can work for you too, but since you are an artist, the performance should be more interesting. Most art fairs have a good amount of traffic anyway, but this is not always the case. I have seen artists invest a lot of money into a booth only to find out that the organizers didn’t promote the fair enough, and by then it is too late. So if you are in a fair that is run by artists, it is wise to find past participants and ask them what they think about the fair in question.

Brand New Fairs

Some independent fairs are run better than others of the same size, and they change from year to year, so be sure to learn a little about their histories by searching on the web and finding people who have been associated with the fairs in the past but are no longer running them. Most fairs have lists of participating artists online, and you can easily write to the artists and ask what their experience at the fairs were. The easiest way to get their email addresses is to look up their art website or Facebook page. I have found that Facebook is the easiest way to contact people you do not know, because unlike regular email, their inboxes are not filled with junk or spam.

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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Episode 250 – New Markets for Artists / Parties are Good, in Moderation

Parties are Good, in Moderation

By all means, you should go to and enjoy the parties at these fairs, but be careful not to end up talking to people all the time. It is easy to just hang out with fellow artists and get their email addresses, but you also need to be trying to meet the collectors. Talking with collectors is hard for most artists. Probably you are not used to talking to collectors (or other very wealthy people, for that matter); and so you are leaving your comfort zone. Who wouldn’t naturally be reluctant to jump into this situation? But since you are at the fair to meet people who can help you, you have to help yourself by expanding your social circle.

Sales

Let’s assume you have decided to join one of the artist-run fairs to show your work in your own booth (or hotel room). To save on the cost, one option is to split the room with another artist, ideally one you would be comfortable sleeping with so you can share the bed too, but that is up to you. The gamble you take in investing in a booth or hotel room (especially for artists who do not have strong sales records) is that if you don’t make enough sales, you are losing money. Many artists who have booths never worry about sales and instead hang out in their rooms, serving wine or juice and hoping that their art on display will catch the eye of passing buyers.

Sometimes this works, and people do make sales, but this is the exception and not the rule. If you are running your own booth, be friendly when people come in and try to start conversations—you will be more likely to make sales this way. Also, if you have a friend who is an actor or a salesperson, you could ask them to help you in return for a commission on the art they sell or a flat rate that you agree upon in advance. The money you give that person will be well spent, because if they generate more sales than you are able to make on your own, you are in the black. Of course, it helps to have your booth be easily noticeable from the outside. The next step is to think about how you can promote your booth to increase foot traffic.

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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