Episode 305 – New Markets for Artists / Ideas Are Needed

Ideas Are Needed

I am not saying you need to be a software developer, but any idea you may have that could change the way we communicate through art can be game changing if you take it seriously. The art world is small compared to something like the world of health care or academia. There is usually very little funding for the arts. Look at a visionary project like Kickstarter.com. That was a game-changing idea. It was simple: make a pitch, give different “rewards” like artwork to investors, and hope you get enough interest to fund your dream.

The New Funding Paradigm

Incredibly, they started in 2009, and as of 2010, they were already the largest funding platform for artists in the world. Kickstarter.com is a wonderful place to go to look for more visionary ideas, and is also a wonderful example of how to creatively build a business that helps artists share their work and raises money for them. Even if you do not con- sider yourself an entrepreneur, you’ve probably had ideas before that you thought could be profitable. Your ideas are not selfish or crass or not possible or long-shots, just look at Kickstarter.com and you’ll see that a good business idea can help everyone.

The Non-Visible Museum / the Kickstarter Project I Did with My Wife

In 2011, my wife and I started an art project called MONA, the Non-Visible Museum of Art. My wife and I do all our work together and the projects are usually high-concept art. For the purposes of this book, the story of how I raised over $10,000 in a week with an online art presentation will be both a course in how social media is used, and a course in the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement in art. What I describe may sound unusual or impractical to some, and you might have a hard time imagining how your artwork fits into this model, but you can use it to share your art with the world. Social networking, for all its pros and cons, is at the very least a giant game of show and tell, and as an artist, showing your work and telling a bit about it is what this book is a guide for.

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.


Episode 156 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Preparing the Budget Sheet

Chapter 9

Working with Sponsors and Private Patrons

Isn’t this the holy grail for artist funding? To have a private patron is the dream of many artists. Or at least they believe it is. It has the ring of what we imagine a trust fund would be like, or the romantic stories we have heard about artists living off the regular patronage of one wealthy donor. The truth is that the relationship of artist to wealthy donor is still alive and well, and it is something that I use to support myself. I will outline how you can create that kind of relationship. Like any other methods, it will take work and dedication, but it can also be fun and very rewarding.

Who Can Help?

First, there is the question of who could possibly help you. Depending on where you live in the world, you have to begin to make a list of people who could be potential patrons. Generally, these are people with an interest in the arts and deep pockets. One of the places to meet them would be at your local museum or art institution. Go to the openings at all museums. Go to opening receptions at any center as well as art-related events. Remember who you are looking for; people who don’t look like the artist’s friends, people who look like they have money! The way to organize yourself even better is to keep a list with pictures of everyone who might be a potential donor. The way to get that list is to begin thinking about who it is in your area that is interested in the arts and has money. One method that I use and mentioned earlier is to go to the museum or art centers and find their website and look at the list of donors. There is also a board of directors listed or a group of donors that are the top level. These are the people you want to meet. All the donors to museums are people who could potentially be a patron and help support your work.

Begin by making a list of the people in your area that are donors to the art centers and museums. Search their names on the web and print out a page with their picture on it. Most likely you will be able to find a picture of them on the web, but if not, just print out a page with their names on it and whatever information you have about them, like what museum or institution they are associated with and what social, artistic, or other causes they donate money to. Then go out and talk to them at parties and at openings. OK, for most of you, that is the hard part, talking to people you do not know at openings. Well, I know it is, and I will give you some steps to take here, but you have to be bold and brave. It isn’t easy for anyone, but this is how the relationship with a patron gets started.

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.


Episode 155 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Preparing the Budget Sheet

Preparing the Budget Sheet

Before we met with the curators and assistants again about our show, we prepared a budget, and since we are visual artists, we made a picture on a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper with a pen. We drew one big circle on the paper, and then inside that circle we drew several more circles. On the edge of the big circle we wrote “950K,” meaning $950,000. We were guessing at an ideal figure but stayed under one million to make it seem very calculated and not too over-the-top. Now on the inner circles we wrote other amounts that were the numbers that added up to 950K. There was a book we wanted to make, the cost of building it all, and salaries of people to help us. There was one circle that said 22K, and that was titled “Installation Cost.” The rest of the costs were mostly for a film we wanted to make of it all.

When we went to the meeting where we were supposed to talk about the budget, we brought our sheet of paper with circles on it outlining the grand budget. As I pointed to the first number, 950K, for the whole production, there were audible gasps. I said, “Don’t worry, we can raise some of the money.” And then I pointed to the circle that said 22K, and said, “That is what we need to mount the show.” Quickly, the top curator said, “We can’t give you more than five thousand, that’s the most we have.” Then the other curator said, “I could probably get five thousand as well.” At that, I said, “Very good, we can work with that.” And in the end, the museum did give us ten thousand to do the show, which was a lot of money for them, and for us as well.

Ask for the Moon

You see, the method here is to ask for much more money than you might actually need, and when you do that, you will find out what the maximum budget for the museum is. In this case, the most the museum could give was ten thousand dollars. And that is the story of how we got that show and began funding it. The next part of that show was how we got the additional funding. In this case, we had some great luck through perseverance. Apple donated equipment generously to the show, as did companies like Bose and Gibson, to name a few, along with private patrons. I will write more on sponsorship and how we got those companies to get behind this show, but first let’s wrap up what happened here.

I began by writing a cold letter to a museum curator and asking for a meeting. At the meeting, after giving three proposals and asking where to exhibit them, I was pointed in the direction I wanted, which was to a top curator. Then, with careful planning, my wife and I were able to talk about the show further, develop a budget, and get the museum to commit to a certain amount of support and a date and time for the show. It is a clear process that you could follow. In the next chapter, I will explain how we got funding for the show.

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.


Episode 120 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / A Major Celebrity Connection

A Major Celebrity Connection

That was all a digression to illustrate how getting someone well- known to host your party may not be as hard as it sounds, or for that matter, to meet someone well-connected or famous.

Here is another example I saw when I was a teenager. My mother worked for a thrift store that existed to fund a local youth program. It was a small used-clothing store no one knew anything about except neighbors. The woman who was running the store wrote a handwritten letter to Yoko Ono one day, saying that she was a big fan of John Lennon and that she was sorry he was gone and a little about her thrift shop and the organization it supports. More than anything, the letter was an honest and heartfelt statement. It was not formal in any way and did not even directly ask for money, but it was effective. She got a call from Yoko Ono’s office saying they were sending a check for $2,000. The woman who wrote the letter didn’t even believe the call was real at first. She thought it was a friend joking with her. In fact, Yoko Ono did send a check for $2,000 to her and asked specifically that it not be announced in the press. Amazing, isn’t it?

Ask Directly

In chapter 2, when I talked about sending out letters to fund my own art, this was one of the stories I was thinking of. I had written to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Jenny Holzer, and other well- known artists asking for a direct donation. In those cases, they gave it to me in amounts between $200 and $500. The point I am continually trying to reinforce here is that you can directly ask people for what you want, and the higher you aim, the easier it is to hit your target because there is less competition there. Most artists are applying for all the traditional grants and services that are out there. I am not saying that you shouldn’t apply for them too, but when you think outside of the traditional box and write to people directly, the odds of success increase dramatically because there is no one you are competing against! So keep this in mind as you plan your studio party. From your guest list to inviting a famous host for your party, there are ways to make it a very special event that will attract the people you want!

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.


Episode 111 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Fund-raising Advice

Fund-raising Advice

This is the last reason I am going over out of the three reasons to ask someone for a meeting. We talked about having tea to discuss a project and also talked about an invitation to a studio visit. The last one is to have a meeting over tea or in an office about fund- raising. That is, how to raise money for yourself. That money could be for a trip you want to take, for tuition to college, for a new body of work you want to make, really anything that sounds interesting (just not living expenses, because that is less exciting to talk about). So think about what you might want to raise money for; you probably already know. The next step for you in the scenario is to meet the person for a conversation at a museum café or their office. Your goal is to talk with them about supporting something, to help raise money for something of yours. You do not have to bring anything with you in the first meeting. In fact, I wouldn’t. If you really think this person might be able to help financially or have friends that could, it is easiest to just talk without documents.

The First Meeting

You are building trust in the first meeting. You are establishing a level of comfort between you two, so illustrations and documents aren’t needed unless you feel strongly about it for some reason. In this meeting, you are telling the person about what you are doing and why you are raising money. But first, to make it easy, you can start by asking them questions. How are they, how is work, or what do they do exactly, or some question like that. That is a technique I often use, to ask someone several questions before I begin to talk about myself. Also, the more you learn about the person you are meeting before you ask them about fund-raising, the better. Imagine if they have an annual fundraiser that is hugely successful and you didn’t know about it. That is why it is very important to always research the person you are meeting as much as possible so you don’t make an error like that! Also, when you have researched the person well, you will know what contacts they have access to and what kind of activities they are involved in. Don’t hesitate to ask them about things you know they are doing. It is a great way to show that you know who they are. That will flatter them, and as they say, you will get everywhere!

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.


Episode 104 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Making Real Friends

Making Real Friends

The steps to begin building relationships are not that hard to follow, but first you have to decide what kind of friends you really want. If you are trying to build your career, to become a professional artist by doing your best to exhibit and earn a living from your work, then you need people who will support that effort. You want to meet collectors, gallery owners, curators, directors of nonprofits, and many more. In the workbook for this section, we will write down some names and groups to contact. The next step is to get out of the house and do what is perhaps the most difficult part: begin talking! To begin with, as I have said, you should start by finding out what museums and galleries are in your area and the dates of openings of art or even poetry readings or other events at the  museum.

This is the way you will meet interesting people and have friends that can help you. The reason you are going to the museum events, besides it being fun, is that there are often collectors and the supporters of the museum at the openings. There are others who are simply interested in art. It will pay to do a little research before you go to the museum. It will help if you go to the museum’s website and find the list of museum supporters and board members. If they have pictures, look at them and read the little bios about each one. Consider printing out the pages of brief descriptions of some of the people you may meet at the museum opening. Have fun with this; it’s like being a detective. Yes, it is calculated, and so will be the expressions of your desires if you take things step by step in this fashion.

Real Friends are helpful

Openings and Parties

The next step is, of course, to actually go to the openings or events one or two nights a week and do very little at first, just look around. Enjoy the art, the atmosphere, have a few nibbles, but not any wine, yet. If you have been researching some of the people from the museum, see if you spot anyone in the crowd. If you are there for the first time, don’t push yourself, just watch. See how people are talking to each other, watch hand gestures, and listen in on the topics of conversation. It will give you a feel of what people are taking about and how they present themselves. Take a look at what everyone is wearing. Can you tell anything about the people you are looking at? Try to figure out who looks like they work at the museum.

These are some of the games I play when I am in a new environment where there is the possibility of meeting interesting people. After watching an opening like this for a while, you can skip talking to anyone and go home the first time, or even the second time if you are feeling uncomfortable. But at some point, after going to an opening, find someone there to  talk to. If you see someone in particular like a curator or museum director you recognize, you can introduce yourself in this way: Walk over to the person you would like to talk to and, while looking in their eyes, say, “Hi, I would like to introduce myself, I am X, and I am really enjoying this show.” That or something similar is all you have to say. For many people, this is difficult at first, but you have nothing to lose, so try it! You will find after doing this a few times, it is really quite easy. After you introduce yourself and say that you like the show, you can either be silent and wait for them to respond or simply say thank you to them if you know they work with the museum. Most likely the person will say thank you, and you can leave it at that or tell the person why you liked a particular work of art there and ask them what they think. To direct the conversation to something in the room is a good technique, because then you are not focusing on either yourself or the person you are meeting, but a topic of mutual interest.

This is the way to get everywhere because as you practice, you will find that you get better at talking, better at introducing yourself. I know this may all sound very basic on some level, but it comes down to that. When you go to parties, you probably have the tendency to meet other artists and stick with them. So to meet other people there, it must be a conscious act that you do, knowing your goal is to meet new people who could help you.

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.


Episode 103 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Small Donations Add Up

Small Donations Add Up

Winning friends is certainly a social grace, but for the moment, consider the 2008 presidential election. Obama began running for the Democratic nomination for president against Hillary Clinton, who already had all the big Democratic donors in her pocket. Like the waiter in the previous example, he needed to raise a lot of money, ideally even more than Hillary Clinton! We know now that he did just that, and it was largely because he used the Internet extremely well as a networking tool. He went beyond traditional friends and supporters to generate new revenue and used all the social platforms to make bridges. Instead of getting the large donors, Obama raised enough money to outspend Hillary Clinton by seeking the small donors. And, as we now know, he was successful. Everyone wants a friend that will give them a break, but it isn’t always about an introduction or who you know; in fact, it is as simple or as complex as making a friend. How does one go about making friends?

Well, in the online community, there is a strategy that, again, is very similar to dating. In the business world, when you want to get some- one’s attention, you think to yourself, “What do they want?” So if you are in the business of selling golf balls and want to reach the organizer of the U.S. Open, you have to figure out what they want. Perhaps in this case, the organizer of the U.S. Open would like more sponsors, or maybe you have researched this person well and notice on their Facebook page or in the news that they have an interest in watching birds or some other hobby. One of the ways to get to this person is to ask him or her a question about birding or tell them a bird story. Does that sound strange? It is human nature; we are interested in our own ideas, hobbies, and dreams, and if someone else asks us about them or helps us, we become very interested in that person.

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.


Episode 102 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Relationships in the Art World and How to Maintain Them

Chapter 4

Relationships in the Art World and How to Maintain Them

As we leave the realm of formal education at the level of high school or any level of college, the choices the world presents in terms of living are quite stark. Money is king. That is it, really. It does not mean that you cannot chase your dream and have it, but you have to find a way to fund it. You must build the friendships that it takes to get there in a sincere way as well.

Wealthy Friends

Once I was in a local restaurant with my wife talking to a young, charismatic waiter who had just gained admission to an elite high school that he described as looking like Hogwarts of Harry Potter. We asked him what he wanted to do, and he said, “I want to be a governor of the state or something like that, in  politics.” As he told us more, he also described his main hurdle. All his friends, he said, come from extremely rich families, and he lives with his mother, who doesn’t have much money. The key, he said, is to figure out how to get all that money to run for office. He hoped his friends would help him, but he made clear that without a lot of money, he could not even come close to his ideas. It was exciting to hear his enthusiasm and see his bright teenage eyes. It seemed like he was making a bold move that had a good chance of working. When we came back to the restaurant a year later, we asked him how school was going. With a smile, he said he had changed his plans. He told us that the students he was working with were all very rich, and they had their own set of rules for how life works out. He said he found that their outlook was mean-spirited and he wasn’t interested. He dropped out. Now he wants to make videos but is not sure, and for the time being, he continues to work in the restaurant.

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.


Episode 61 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Fundraising

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: And so the artists that they’re collecting, they’re not just necessarily known artists, they’re also emerging artists or unknown artists?

Stoffel: They’re all emerging artists. I worked with a lot of the galleries on the Lower East Side on Manhattan who were once the directors of the major Chelsea galleries now and who are going out on their own and starting their own stables and they bring extraordinary institutional memory with them. And have built up their own expertise and I work with them and it also depends on the taste of each client. I never show the same client the same work. I get to know how my clients live and how they live in their own residences. I do everything from delivery, installation, lighting, framing, insurance, tax planning, loans, everything.

Carey: Wow, that sounds like you’d need another degree to learn all of that. That was part of what you’ve learned in Arts Administration?

Stoffel: Yes, very much so, very much so. It’s a fantastic program.  It teaches you what everyone used to be doing by the seat of their palms. Curators used to become museum directors and now museum directors need an MBA.

Carey: And what school did you go to learn that?    

Stoffel: Columbia, here in New York.

Carey: I’d like to talk a little bit now about fundraising as well. I know you’ve worked with organizations to help with fundraising. I’m not sure if you’re doing that anymore, are you still helping with fundraising?

Stoffel: Yes, on a project basis. If I can buy into the project and it’s well conceived and they thought of a budget and they know how much it’s going to cost, I’m happy to make a few phone calls and say, “I think this is where you might have your commitment.”

But fundraising is – Anne Pastenak taught me that, fundraising is about fit. It’s about the project and about the funder, and you can only know that after having done it for a long time. So you have 3 sources of fundraising. You have corporate, you have government and you have private. And so you need to have a good healthy mix of all 3 of them in order to successfully fund any projects.

She also taught me that it takes dollar to raise a dollar. And so you need to have some kind of tools first before you go out to other sponsors and potential funders for grants and say, “Look I’ve got this. It’s going to cost me this, I need you to underwrite a third.” And sometimes they say, “I’ll write a third.” I’ll write a tenth,” but that’s how you get projects funded on a case by case basis.

Carey: Is it possible for artists to use this paradigm? I know places like Creative Capital and others are beginning to suggest to artists that they could run their studios almost like their own nonprofit and begin raising monies for their activity. Is that something you would encourage or do you think it’s possible this idea of artists’ fundraiser for their project?

Stoffel: I have never heard of that.

Carey: Organizations, like the LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) and some other new organizations that are coming up are offering artists fiscal sponsorships where they will act as the non-profit to accept the funds on behalf of the artist. So if the artist raises money or gets a commitment from a corporation or an individual to donate money to that project, it will go first to let’s say, in a case of the LMCC, to them and then they take a small percentage and write a check to the artist. Myself, and my wife and I are collaborative, when we raised some money we used Performance Space122 as our fiscal sponsor. Artists are using other organization as fiscal sponsors to essentially create their own fundraising platform.

Stoffel: I have a question back at you then. Is that fiscal sponsor responsible for the end product?

Carey: No

Stoffel: Did they oversee the end product?

Carey: No, I mean, they obviously want something to happen. Let’s say in the case of me working with Performance Space 122,, I’m responsible for communicating with that funder about the progress of it and what ultimately happens with it. The funder is really using Performance Space 122 as a way to donate to a 501(c)3 (a registered non-profit) so they get the appropriate tax off.

Stoffel: Correct.

Carey: This is similar almost to Kickstarter which is like the 501(c)3. They’re not responsible for the end product and of course there is sometimes problems with project completion.

Stoffel: I did know that the LMCC place takes sponsorship but I thought there was only the quid pro quo or they would be given studio space or …

Carey: No. Now they’re just doing fiscal sponsorship because essentially it’s book work. It’s their bookkeeper, that is committing to accepting donations on the artists behalf and creating a separate section in their book to keep track of this project but artist that doing with local churches, it could be anyone with a 501(c)3 really     

Stoffel: I’d like to know more about that, that’s an interesting model.

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.