Monday, February 27, 2012

Motivation Monday

What if we artists owned our power?

I am reading a book entitled How to Survive and Prosper as An Artist, Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, written by Caroll Michels. This notion of artists needing to own their power comes from her introduction to the book.

Caroll gives examples of artists who are badly dealt with by art dealers and others. When counselling artists, she finds that these situations occur because artists are not aware of their bargaining power. She comments that these unnecessary dilemmas and frustrations are created by middlepeople who have usurped power from artists and by artists who allow their power to be usurped.

"Artists, by the fact that they are artists, have power. Artists provide thousands of nonartists with jobs! Examples of nonartists who depend on artists for jobs include dealers, gallery staff, curators, museum staff, art administrators, critics and journalists, corporate art consultants and advisors, federal, state and municipal employees, teachers, framers, accountants, lawyers and art suppliers. Yet more nonartists than artists make a living from art and nonartists make more money from art than artists! This inequity exists because artists, the "employers", individually and collectively have not yet recognized their power." (Caroll Michels)

Did you have a 'well heck yeah', moment when you read the above quote? Are you feeling some righteous anger surging up? Well folks, I say it is time we take back our power!!!!

[Caroll offers a website of helpful resources here (click the highlighted text) and she also has a website.]


Barbara Ann Goodsitt said...

Empowerment of artists (and women) is something I need to think about more. Thanks for reminding us to think about our value.

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Barbara, I must confess that while I know it is true that artists provide oodles of nonartists with jobs, I really needed Caroll's reminder. And so I wanted to pass the ahhh moment along. Glad it resonated with you! :-)

Jeanette said...

Oh yeah. I've said similar myself. Artists, like farmers, keep a lot of the world turning, but are at the bottom of the heap in terms of reward quite often.

Do we allow it to happen? Maybe so. Or is it part historical, part societal expectation, part sense (or lack of sense) of self worth? Do we know how to take that power back? I'm not sure. But I'm sure willing to try.

Love the quote, its worth sharing the concept with other artists and making them think.

Feathers said...

who wouldn't love to have more power--but as long as we are "employing" these people (consultants, galleries, etc) and they expect to make money from that employment, what can we do? It does pain me too, when I receive my check from a gallery , after they've removed their chunk, but they are the one with the buyer! The only solution I can see is to become hugely famous, and charge such high prices that it wouldn't matter so much. Seems to me that we need them as much as they need us.

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jeanette, I too thought of farmers (not thinking of factory farms here). I think awareness of our worth is a big step in getting treated fairly. I have found that by conducting my affairs professionally and standing up for myself when needed, whether as an art teacher or someone who exhibits work, I end up setting boundaries. Healthy boundaries! :-)

Feathers - my thinking is that if a gallery is doing a good job in representation, i.e. my work is featured well in the gallery and I get some decent publicity in their press etc. then they earn the commission. Galleries (as you know)have tremendous overheads, from rent, utilities, business expenses to salaries and if they are shifting some work I have not been able to myself, then so be it. As you said, they are the ones with the buyers.

Yes, we do need each other. I think in order to stop situations in which artists are treated badly, artists are going to need to negotiation from a place of power. Artists have a responsibility to themselves to get educated on what contracts should entail and so on. Knowledge is power! :-) The successful artists I know are good business people not just talented artists.

Feathers said...

I believe that if an artist is being treated badly, it is possibly partly (at least) because the artist does not have good communication with that gallery. We cannot just sign a contract and drop off our work--we need to keep in contact--let the gallery know that we value ourselves, and our work. I learned long ago that if we approach a gallery with the feeling that they are doing us a favor, they will sense it, and it will allow them to disrespect us. (however unintentionally)

I do agree that we need to educate ourselves on business practices. We do need every asset we can arm ourselves with, not to be taken advantage of.

Teresa Mallen said...

Thanks for your input Feathers. I couldn't agree more.