Monday, January 16, 2012

Weighing In on the "Pay to Play" Game

This is a continuation of my last blog post, a rant about rising fees which can be found here.

With rising costs and commitments, a lot of artists have had to cut back on the number of things that they can be involved with. It is imperative when determining what to support and what to cut to weigh the pros and cons of involvement, whether that be a gallery, exhibition, membership, organization... So here are some considerations and questions to ask yourself when thinking about the benefits. Feel free to respond with your own thoughts and other considerations that I may have overlooked.

Some Considerations & Questions for Artists

- Artwork Sales
Does art sell? In what volume?
What sort of commission is taken?
How are sales handled? Are artists responsible for their own sales?

- Attendance
Are their shows, events and other happenings well-attended?
Who attends? Those involved? The public at large? What is the demographic?

- Community
What community do they serve?
Do you feel included as part of it? Do you feel you belong and/or fit in?
Can they extend your influence outside of your status quo?
For the social advocates:
Do they work with otherwise underserved communities?
What sort of community social advocacy programs do they offer?

- Exposure: exhibitions, interviews, member databases, web presence...
How much exposure do they generate?
What sort of press and publicity do they garner?
How well do they promote members? Exhibitions? Events?...

- Monetary Commitments: dues, fees, other expenses...
What costs are involved?
How does the fee schedule work? Are membership fees due at a certain time or on a revolving basis?
Are show fees for jurying, acceptance or both? Do you have to pay even if your artwork isn't accepted?
Are there any hidden or additional fees? Handling artworks for show? Rent?...

- Opportunities to Show Art
What sort of opportunities are there to show art?
Juried, non-juried or both?
Solo, group or both? How large of a region are group shows curated from?
Member-only sales opportunities, like sales galleries and boutiques?
Off-site venues?
Other show opportunities?
How long do show rotations last?
How many people are represented? At what stages of their careers?

- Social Connections & Networking
Do you feel you are an important part of a larger group?
What sorts of people are involved? Who do you meet?
How can you promote yourself and connect with others within the group?
Is there a psychological connection? Do you feel a sense of personal emotional, mental, physical and/or spiritual benefits?

- Time & Volunteer Commitments
Are you expected to volunteer?
What sort of volunteer opportunities are available?
Is your time valued? How do they track volunteer commitments?

- Travel Distance
Can you physically get there? If not, how can you be involved?
How long does it take to get there?
How much wear and tear on your personal transportation is required for involvement?
Is the distance potentially problematic? Does it make active involvement difficult?

- Workshops, Classes and Learning / Teaching Opportunities
What opportunities are offered for learning and honing skills?
How are those opportunities handled? Demo? Lecture? Hands-on?
What kinds of sessions are there? Ongoing classes? Day- or weekend-long conferences? Shorter meetings?
If opportunities are offered, what topics are touched upon?
Technique? What media and methods are explored?
Promoting yourself? What means of promotion are discussed? Press? Media? Online presence?
Career advancement? What directions of career advancement are considered? How is advancement determined? What about different stages of careers? Is there one-on-one assessment?
Managing yourself (legal, bookkeeping, shooting images of artworks, applying for shows...)?
What is the process by which artists are considered to teach or lead?

Other Considerations and Questions for Institutions:

Are your fees comparable to similar institutions? Consider the demographics of those you serve and your size.

Do you have anything in place for those who cannot otherwise afford to be involved?
For those who can't afford the time commitment, are there volunteer buy-out options so they can donate money in lieu of time?
Are there student / hardship memberships or rates available for those who don't have the money? What else do those rates entail? More volunteer hours? Other commitments?

Do you have different levels of membership and are the benefits of each clearly defined?
What is your highest level? Lowest?
Do you offer a general Patron / Sponsor level above Professional / Practicing Artist to help fund scholarships for Hardship / Student memberships?

Does your fee schedule conflict with the community you serve?
Can those you want to work with afford to be involved?

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