Monday Commentary
4:12 pm
Tue June 6, 2006

Making a Living Making Art

Copyright law, grant writing skills, tax preparation -- even starving artists need some business sense these days. WHQR's Megan Williams recently visited a workshop in Wilmington which tried to add some left-brain skills to local artists' right-brain lifestyles.

Wilmington, NC – A more reader-friendly version of this script will be posted later today.

A ROOMFUL OF WILMINGTON?S ARTISTS? AND THE HOTTEST TOPIC OF THE DAY? IS HOW TO FILL OUT TAX FORMS?

WELCOME TO THE ?BUSINESS SMARTS FOR THE ARTS? SEMINAR, A FULL DAY OF LECTURES ON EVERYTHING FROM COPYRIGHT LAW TO GRANT WRITING, SPONSORED BY THE GREATER WILMINGTON ARTS AND CULTURAL ALLIANCE. THE EVENT WAS A DIRECT CHALLENGE TO ANYONE WITH A ROMANTIC IMAGE OF THE DRIVEN GENIUS WORKING ALONE IN THEIR STUDIO? OF COURSE, SOME OF THE MOST PASSIONATE BELIEVERS IN THAT STEREOTYPE ARE ARTISTS THEMSELVES? WAITING TO GET LUNCH BETWEEN SESSIONS, POTTER JULIANA FOY SAYS SHE LONG AVOIDED THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS.

I have a girlfriend who always says, Juliana, bread and butter, in other words, make the money, make the money. And I always held back on the creative aspect, and being creative and that was my integrity. And here she was, making the money, and I was sitting back starving.

THE ARTISTS STANDING AROUND FOY IN THE LUNCH LINE ARE HARDLY STARTING OUT IN THEIR CAREERS. MANY OF THEM ARE ESTABLISHED PAINTERS AND FREELANCERS, HERE TO BRUSH UP ON SPECIFIC SKILLS. ACCORDING TO ANN CONNER, WHO TEACHES A COURSE IN ?ART AS A CAREER? AT UNCW, IT?S NO SURPRISE OLDER ARTISTS MIGHT FIND THEMSELVES PLAYING CATCH-UP.

Artists used to think they could exist in their studio and these opportunities would come to their door. And I think the realization has become quite widespread now that that simply is not going to happen, that artists have to have these tools to compete.

THAT?S A SHARP CONTRAST, CONNER SAYS, TO THE STUDENTS WHO PACK HER CLASS NOW.

I've been amazed that this course is not one that currently awards art degree credit for the students, and yet, they're very interested in taking it, because they need these skills, they know they need these skills.

ART IS AN ENTREPRENEURIAL ENDEAVOR. CONNER POINTS OUT THAT GALLERIES HELP THEIR ARTISTS WITH MARKETING AND SALES, BUT DO LITTLE TO HELP UNTANGLE PERSONAL FINANCES OR EXPLAIN THE NUANCES OF COPYRIGHT LAW... AND OFTEN AN ARTISTS? FIRST BUSINESS HURDLE COMES THE MOMENT THEY HIT THE GALLERY WALL..

Pricing was really hard for me.

19-YEAR-OLD JACKIE KEATING PARTICIPATED IN HER FIRST SHOW EARLIER THIS SPRING, WITH THE GROUP THIS IS VIRAL.

I didn?t feel like I should price it for anything really, cause it was just what I made. It?s didn?t cost me much, it didn?t take much work for me to do. But just talking to other artists gave a lot of input and helped me.

KEATING NOW HAS TO WORRY ABOUT HOW TO PAY TAXES ON THE ART SHE?S SOLD... A CONCERN SHE SEEMS READY TO LEAVE FOR NEXT APRIL. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN AN ARTIST AND A WORKING ARTIST IS NOT JUST THIS OCEAN OF PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE? BUT ALSO A WILLINGNESS TO PUT THE TIME INTO IT. WELL OVER 50-PERCENT OF THEIR TIME, ACCORDING TO CONNER.

The students always want to know this information, but no one's prepared for the amount of time it actually takes to do it.

IN THE END, THE REAL REWARD OF SUCCEEDING AT THE BUSINESS OF ART, ACCORDING TO PROFESSOR CONNER, IS BEING IN THE POSITION TO HIRE PEOPLE TO TAKE CARE OF THESE THINGS FOR YOU.

MEGAN WILLIAMS, WHQR NEWS

 

Support for local arts and cultural programming comes from WHQR members, and Landfall Foundation, an organization of residents who support projects enhancing health, education and the arts in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties.