Episode 163 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Emergency Funds

Emergency Funds

Another way to use this same technique for emergency funding is as follows. Let’s say you have a flood in your studio and work got destroyed or damaged, or maybe some other emergency happened, a health crisis, or perhaps your landlord raised the rent and you have to move your studio.

You can write a similar letter to the one I described above and explain your situation. Be clear and honest and you won’t have to dramatize anything. Just state the facts of your situation. Then tell them that what you need is help until you get your studio back or your health back, whatever it is. Explain what you would like from them. I would suggest asking for a certain amount, say $500, and tell them that if they give you money now to help you through this crisis, then they can pick out a work from your studio at double the price. So if they give you $500, then they can come to your studio in a month and they will have a credit of $1,000 toward any painting. And if they give you $1,000 now, they will have a credit of $2,000 toward any painting in your studio. This is a very good way to make a bridge for yourself in difficult times. It will allow you to not only move forward but also will begin to create and deepen the relationship you have with your collectors and even family members. Once they give you the money, then you can write to them and tell them how it has helped, what you are doing, and other updates. It may seem like a strange statement, but it is really a gift to be able to have the opportunity to help someone financially. It is rare that someone asks in a polite and professional way for help. For the person who is being asked, if you know them, it is a chance for them to comfort you, to assist in your creative process, and that in itself is a gift to them. I often give small amounts of money to different projects, and I am always thrilled by it. Giving money to others who need it has its own special reward for the donor, which is hard to appreciate unless you try 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.


Episode 160 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Charm


Once I was talking to the avant-garde theatre director Richard Foreman and I was asking him about raising money for different projects. He started to tell me about Jonas Mekas, who is the director and founder of Anthology Film Archives. AFA is a building in New York that is dedicated to showing avant-garde films. It is a nonprofit institution that was founded by an artist with the help of many other people. Mr. Foreman told me that Jonas Mekas was great at talking to wealthy people at parties. He said they used to call him “Saint Jonas” because he was so sweet to everyone, and they loved him. Foreman said Mekas was able to ask many people for large sums of money to support other artists, and they gave it to him. I never learned many more details of this story, but it is clear that part of the way he raised millions to build his institution was to befriend people in a charming manner.

You can start writing a letter today. Think of what you need money for: to complete a painting series, or make a new sculpture, or for the development of some other project or dream you have in mind. Then write it down and get into it, get excited about what you are writing, and express that with enthusiasm so the person you are writing to feels it and comes along for the ride. Then when you send updates, continue the excitement of your accomplishments.

Don’t Be Negative!

A special note here is to remember not to be negative or say that you need the money because you are broke. The reason for that is simple; people want to fund your dreams, not pick up the pieces. They want to attach themselves to someone who is flying, not get on a sinking ship. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Put yourself in the position of donor again. If you are about to give a small or even a large donation, you want it to really make a difference, you want people to be happy and grateful, and you do not want it to just be a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The last note about writing a beautiful letter is to come up with other ways for the letter to stand out. I often use sealing wax on the back of the envelope and I use a coin to stamp it. It looks beautiful and is one more way your letter is standing out from all the rest that come in. Or consider scenting the letter lightly with perfume!

I also do not usually mail a letter like that with the address on the front as I would with a normal letter. Sometimes I do, but generally I put the letter in a FedEx envelope or in a priority mail envelope. That way it is protected and will usually be opened first as well.

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 159 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Sending the Letter

Sending the Letter

Then I did much of what she said. I went to the art supply store, and I bought a few pieces of beautiful paper and an envelope to match. Then with a nice pen, I wrote out a letter explaining that I was having a show and that I needed $2,000 to complete the budget. She mailed me a check for $500. Then I sent her a thank-you note, also handwritten. Six months later, I asked her for funding again, in the same manner, and this time she sent a check for $1,000. Every time I asked for more, she gave me about 50 to 75 percent of what I was asking for. The amounts kept increasing. Now I count her as one of my regular patrons who gives me significant sums every year. What I have learned from her is that you have to build a relationship over time.

Sometimes I hear artists saying to me, “I know this person is a millionaire, and they could easily write a check to me for $10,000.” That may be true, but that is not how millionaires function, especially those with foundations that have to give in a responsible way. The way giving is done is in small amounts that keep increasing, and the reason for that is so the donor can watch how their funds are being used. Imagine you are a donor; wouldn’t you want to make sure that your money is spent wisely? If an artist asks you for $10,000, and she is a person without much money to begin with, how can you be sure it will be spent wisely? They might promise you the world, but the only way to know for sure is to give her a small amount of money first and see what she does with it. That is what you can expect from someone you write to that has a foundation, so expect that and ask for a small amount to help you build a relationship.

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 158 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Using Your Contacts

Using Your Contacts

The next step is to go home and keep the cards you collected in one place. As soon as you meet someone and get their card, go home and send them an email within twenty-four hours. Even if you don’t get their card, remember to look up their names and find a way to send an email to them. You might not find their personal address, but you can probably find a company address for them. Write them a polite email saying that you enjoyed meeting them and that you would like to keep in touch and give them a link to see some of your images. Then keep going to openings; you will see them again, address them by their first name, and ask them how they are and talk again about what you are seeing. This is the way I do it, and it is one of the basic ways to make new friends in a setting like this. After meeting them twice, you can begin to ask them to lunch or tea and get to know them better and tell them more about who you are. See chapter 3 on presenting yourself for more information on what to do at the lunch meeting.

The idea, of course, is that you are making friends with people who can help you, and the next step is to ask them to help!

Writing a Beautiful Letter

Once, when I met a trustee of a museum that I wanted to talk to further, I asked her at an opening if I could call her and ask her advice on a new project I was working on, and she said yes. I tried calling her several times and only got her assistant. Then I asked her assistant when the best time to catch her was, and she told me between 7:30 and 8:00 am. Since then I have found that the time to get people who have assistants is in the thirty minutes just before the assistant arrives.

I called her back at that time and I said hello and reminded her who I was, and said that I wanted to ask her a quick question about fund-raising. I proceeded to ask her how I should go about asking people for money for my artwork. She was very forth- coming. She told me that in her experience, there were several things that were needed for her to give money to an artist for a project. She said that when artists send her beautiful letters, she responds. By beautiful letters, she meant that the letter was handwritten on beautiful paper, in a beautiful envelope. And the letter itself was long, chatty, and asking for a specific amount of money. She said that when people send her letters like that, she not only writes back, she saves the letter because it is so beautiful. Now there was something very important that she mentioned about how much money you are asking for in the letter.

Like most people who are involved in the arts and give a significant amount of money to the arts, she has a foundation of her own that administers how the money is given out. That means that you can search online and see what her foundation has given to in the past. She said it was important to her that people knew who she was and what she gave money to and how much she had given. The reason for that, she said, is so that people don’t ask her for too much or too little money, but an amount that makes sense. She also said that she doesn’t like it when people only write to her for money and don’t send her letters in between giving her friendly updates. And, at the end of our talk, which was about twenty minutes, she said, “When you get the letter done, send me a copy.”

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.