Episode 264 – New Markets for Artists / Permanent Sculpture

Permanent  Sculpture

Permanent, public art such as sculptures can still be created and sold, of course. College campuses, for example, often have monuments. If your college alma mater allows public art, you can go directly to them and ask to speak with the person in charge of acquiring public sculpture. This is often not as hard as it may seem. It just takes a call to set up a meeting with the right people, and then you can propose a site on campus and how you’d like to use the space. You can sometimes get your work purchased by being that direct. I have worked with art- ists who are very successful placing their art on college campuses, so if you are a sculptor or a painter with a mural idea, do not hesitate to take action. But be as detailed as possible. Have a picture of what the finished piece would look like in the space you want, and have a rough idea of the budget needed to create and install it.

A Good Proposal

At the beginning of this chapter we talked about traditional methods to get public art commissions by applying through local agencies for new construction projects. Remember to inquire at your local council on the arts about this, or if you are in a country that doesn’t have a council on the arts, inquire at the local art center. Now, I want to talk about how to make a good proposal.

Competitions

Sometimes when there are competitions for public art proposals, there is more than one round of discussion. At the first meeting you will be asked to describe your idea, and you need to be as precise as possible, and have compelling, detailed images ready in case they want to see them. Remember that the architects and city planners evaluating your work want to know three things: 1) Is your work attractive and fitting for the environment? 2) Is the proposal clear and understand- able? and 3) Can you execute your project well? These are the questions you must answer convincingly. For question one, of course your art is good, but more importantly, it has to look good in the location it will be placed. It is helpful if you can place your art on a photograph of the site (imagine the way architects propose their buildings).

Rendering / Modeling Is Everything

Architects make cute scale models of their buildings and the surrounding buildings, complete with scale people, cars and trees. They also make composite images with people and street traffic which give a sense of what their finished product will look like. The closer you can come to that with your project, the better, because they will be able to visualize your project. If you can’t do that easily yourself, find someone who knows how to use Photoshop and ask for help. A beautiful image will make a huge difference. And as with an architect’s proposal, your writing should be clear and to the point. By clear, I mean that you should not talk too much about the work’s meaning, but focus instead on how it will affect the people that see it, and how it will complement its surroundings. The last thing to remember is that you must convince them that you can do it. If you have never done this kind of work before, you have two choices: Either include a partner who has public work on their resume, or be very detailed. By detailed, I mean show exactly how you will paint the mural and discuss the equipment and materials you will require and how you will obtain them, etc. The more you can demonstrate that you have thoroughly covered the logistics of your project, the better. If you expertly cover these three questions, the more likely you will be to get the commission.

More Options

If you choose to proceed with public art, you should be aware that more and more artists are redefining what it means to work in the public, and you, too, can help create new ways to reach your audience. Look at how many people are using platforms like kickstarter.com to raise money for public art projects. I explain about new platforms and kickstarter.com in detail in chapter 14

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 263 – New Markets for Artists / Interactive Work

Interactive Work

Other new forms of public art include “interactive” works of art which have become increasingly popular. My wife and  I began giving foot washings and hugs to the public through a storefront we rented in the East 10th Street in New York City. That was, believe it or not, considered public art, and was included in the Whitney Biennial in New York. More and more nonprofit organizations and galleries are promoting performances as public art forms.

Performances as Public Art

I remember a piece where a woman was selected to create a work of public art for a plaza that would last for three weeks. In the plaza, she built a house the size of a small shed with a window and a ledge on which she could cool pies. On certain days of the week, she would bake pies and leave them out on the ledge. She wanted people to take them, to steal them, and that’s exactly what happened. It was like making a fairytale come to life. I used to go through a corporate lobby on a regular basis, and there were always new artworks on display. While some fit traditional mediums of sculpture or painting, there were interactive pieces as well. One that I liked was a row of very large wide-mouth bottles that contained soap bars in them, each embossed with a word like “greed” or “love.” The public was invited to take one, and it made me smile to see all the jars al- most empty every day.

Dance, Sculpture, and More

Interactive public art like the examples above keep growing and diversifying, and the term now includes dance performances and sculptures that you can interact with or climb on. But because works like this are hard to sell, they are often self-funded or funded by grant money. Still, they are a good way to get public recognition.

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 262 – New Markets for Artists / Do You Have an Opinion?

 

Do You Have an Opinion?

Do you have a message you want to relay to the world? The Internet reaches a vast, and in many ways, gullible audience. Be careful how you proceed if you decide to try something similar to what the Yes Men did, for even they are susceptible to legal repercussions. A tamer version of what they do would be to create a collaborative, interactive space where people can make art together, or make a website that does not show your art, but creates a guessing game of some kind.

Hell.com and Internet Art

One of the most fascinating and enigmatic pieces of online or “net-art” is a website called hell.com, a coveted domain that gets thousands of hits every day from people

who type hell.com in their browser for the sake of entertainment. It remains a curious place for art and utilizes some of the most sophisticated uses of web design. For a while, it was very difficult to navigate, and there were obstacles like hidden passcodes which, if you did incorrectly, would reroute you to a ran- dom Internet search. It was frustrating, but sometimes beautiful. Every time I checked the site, there were always different things happening.

Nosuch.com

Once, when I went to the site, it automatically sent me to another domain called nosuch.com. The hell.com designers always seemed to have a sense of humor even if it was hard to follow. They defy our expectations of what it means to navigate the web by making their site function the opposite of what we expect. While writing this book, I went to hell.com and found a completely blank page. At first I thought something was wrong with my browser, but I could see that the site had fully loaded and there had been no error. Then I noticed a message at the top of the browser, which said “domain disabled”—a message I have never seen before. Hell.com has a reputation for using the Internet in unique ways that tend to confound their viewers, and one of the definitions of art is to challenge the norm and make us think. Hell.com has certainly done this. You can read more about this notorious and odd work of Internet art on Wikipedia. Perhaps it will inspire you. You can also listen to the full interview I did of the founder of hell.com on Yale Radio, (wybc.com) under The Art World Demystified public affairs program.

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 261 – New Markets for Artists / Internet Art and the Web

Internet Art and the Web

Online projects ideas are another form of public art. Even museums are starting to collect Internet art. While broad in category, anything that the public can view can be considered public art, even your personal website, though in my view, in order for an Internet project to be art, there needs to be something more to it. The first examples I saw of Internet art in the late 1990s were almost like games, where the cursor would roll over hidden links to other areas or reveal words that were hard to make sense of. The objective of this kind of art was to find out what the Internet mechanics really were and to try and use them to create an interactive, aesthetic experience. Since then, it has vastly evolved and artists are using the Internet to create a variety of new projects.

Taking On Corporate Culture

One fairly radical project was done by a group of artists called the Yes Men. Their artistic goal is to make fun of corporate culture, and in this particular instance, they did so by posing as corporate CEOs. They made websites that duplicated an actual company’s website (and had similar domain names), Exxon, for example, complete with links to parts of the real Exxon website. But the big difference was that they included what looked like email links to the CEOs on their home page, but the links were actually attached to the artists’ personal accounts. Then, they waited for email requests for the CEOs to give presentations at a conference.

Performing

The Yes Men would accept the invitations, and give presentations to very prestigious groups of people because they thought they were hiring major CEOs. The Yes Men tend to be critical of corporate culture. At one event, they presented a gold skeleton and discussed the value of a human life. They said that some skeletons—that is, some lives—are worth more than others and can be calculated precisely when making corporate decisions. They mentioned the Bhopal disaster in India that killed thousands of innocent people and explained how those lives were not as valuable as lives in other parts of the world.

Documents and Reaction

The Yes Men videotaped all of their presentations. The remarkable thing when watching the footage is that often times the audience liked what they heard and agreed with what the Yes Men said. The film they made about their work is a horrifying indictment of corporate culture, and it is available to rent online if you are interested in seeing it. The Yes Men are a great example of how to effectively use the Internet for artistic purposes—in their case, to create art that criticizes corporate culture. In my opinion, their approach of starting something that begins as a hoax and ends in critique is a fairly sophisticated use of the Internet, but there are many other ways to utilize 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 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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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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