Paying a Stipend, Not Living Wage

We used to run a carnival in conjunction with a local music festival in town. We would shut down a street and bring in a moving truck that artists programmed. Even though we didn’t necessarily pay the artist for the days they spent at the truck, we paid them a stipend to produce it.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Misdiagnosed Barrier to Access

At the insistence of an important funder, we provided translators for our one-on-one consultation time. However, this resource was little used and we struggled to explain to the funder that it was because the vast majority of artists from this particular community were 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who spoke English and practiced a range of art forms like hip-hop, graffiti art, and spoken word. There were certainly barriers to programming (such as the diversity of our instructors or a nuanced understanding of their cultural experience), but language wasn't one of them.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

Desire to Serve More Underrepresented Artists

As we’ve expanded to other regions, we definitely had to rely more heavily on community partnerships or having organizational partners that could be mouthpieces for our organization. It assures artists that we are legit, and that we have their best interest at heart. Because we’ve been in the game so long, they think it is worth getting to know us and coming to trainings and taking advantage of grants and coaching that we offer. 

We still have a ways to go to build all of the right kinds of partnerships to make sure that we’re hitting all aspects of the community. We want to serve more artists of color, we want to be sure that we have community partners that will help us reach more artists of color. We want to introduce them and other underrepresented groups to our services so that they can build their art practices.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

Promotional Toolkit

Artists who participate in our annual wholesale/retail event, Craft at the Market, all receive a promotional toolkit that has everything they need to promote their participation and their business, to promote their participation in the show through various means: whether that be through print media, radio communications, television, or more and more through social media. We provide them all the tools they need to do that, at the local level. We do our own promotions at the state and national level for that show, but also encourage them to promote themselves through their own channels and networks. That’s a really good example of something that is sometimes successful and is sometimes not successful, and it depends on the artist’s willingness to use the tools that are provided to them. What we have found is that the artists who will use what is sent to them, those who are really go-getters and who will share the information, that they have much better results than the folks who use one or two pieces of the information sent to them.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Services and Programs

Trying to Create a Norm of Paying Artists

We often think about paying artists during our state-wide arts convening, which is for both individual artists and arts organizations to build networks and introduce new concepts. As an agency is that we’re working really hard for the norm to be that we always pay artists. We are also in a position of feeling that we would like to pay individual artists more for their work. So, during convenings, we will pay artists, via contract, to perform – or, present or do contracted work. And then times that we haven’t paid artists, we usually work to compensate them with a full conference attendance fee waiver. It’s a way to provide a non-monetary incentive or non-monetary benefit to them as a professional artist.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Good Relationship with Artist Cooperative

There is a good relationship between the foundation and the artists in the cooperative. They’ve managed to create a wonderful and successful governance structure where they have a steering committee with rotating officers and committee chairs. We feel like it is such a win-win. They have gained this community of artists that they are a part of, they get income for their work and the affiliation with us, and they meet new clients with whom they may be able to have an ongoing relationship. And that is separate from the co-op with people who may purchase their work or commission their work. This way, people can see artists working onsite and meet artists whose work is on sale. It lets people know what artists are up to, and it gives artists agency in the community.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Engaging with Artists

Making Opportunities Available

We had people talk about available commercial space. We’ve created the opportunities, we haven’t really tracked how people have followed up with these opportunities, but we have created the opportunities. We also have resource fairs, particularly around artists who are also educators. So, we make it available but I don’t think we’ve followed up.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Services and Programs

Informal Connections

It’s not about bringing artists through our doors and introducing them to one another or an institution. It’s about trying to get people out to their openings, gallery exhibitions, things like that, because that tends to be where you have the best chance of even having people already there to introduce them to. So, we can’t be relying on them coming to us; we need to be doing a decent job of staying on top of the arts scene and its programming throughout the area, and making sure that folks in this city know about folks in that city. Sometimes that’s even just very casual: “Oh you’re looking for a studio, I know someone who is leaving theirs.” I wouldn’t say we have a lot of formal things encouraging that.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Services and Programs

Some Consideration of Experience in Setting Pay

Using an exhibition as an example, we pay an artist only if their work is sold. We do keep a commission. For exhibition work we retain 40%, and we’ll pay 60% out as an honorarium at the end of the exhibition. If artists are selling their work through our gift shop we’ll retain a 30% commission and we pay by check once a month for sales that are made. We engage artists as teachers here as well, and we pay hourly wages for the work that they’re doing. Generally, it’s a minimum $20 an hour, but it could be up to $30 an hour based on experience and other credentials.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Word of Mouth Connections

We’ve made community connections informally, just through conversation. You might hear of an opportunity in the community that someone is looking for an artist to do, like someone who wants to do a mural or someone that wants, a musician for a certain performance or for a certain opportunity. Then by word of mouth, we do that.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Community Connections

Helping Artists Be Effective in Their Partnerships

In some of the projects where the artist was not able to complete their project on schedule and be in line with the timeline that was proposed, is that their budget may not have been realistic. That causes them to have to pause or make changes. Helping artists to develop realistic budgets and also helping them to build relationships so that there are no venue issues allows them to be effective in their partnerships.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Community Connections

Empowering Artists to Be Advocates

A lot of people actually are not aware of the power that one voice can do by just picking up the phone and just speaking out. We provide all of our individual artists with phone numbers, emails, and access to information to teach them how to advocate by and for themselves. We teach them how to call their local, state, national, and federal politicians, and we link them with Americans for the Arts and similar organizations. By empowering them inform themselves, we’re teaching them to advocate for themselves.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Advocacy

Advocating for Artists as a Code Switcher

Our role in advocating for artists often comes as a code switcher. We try to speak as many “languages” as possible. We listen to organizations that might be potential partners to artists, and we act as intermediary to increase accessibility for artists. Some artists really excel in running organizations and speaking these languages, and we’re here to help the others.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Advocacy

Rallying Artists for the Greater Good

We had just experienced budget cuts of fifty percent, so we did a very wide-reaching campaign. At that point, we also had galleries where artists could show their work. It did affect all of those things. We had some good timing on our side and a really nice pipeline into all the individual artists at the start of our campaign. And we brought a lot of people together. We actually brought in an outside facilitator to help us do this as well. We rallied the artists and many of these artists, who weren’t recipients of the grant program, understood the greater good of why the arts were critical to the city. And I think because we invited them to the table, the artists really came out in support. We ended up having a First Friday – a gallery night – which is a huge celebration across the region. It happened, I want to say, literally three weeks after we heard that the budget was going to get cut, and we worked with artists to create a number of things that talked about funding for the arts. We made tee shirts that talked about funding for the arts. We had somebody underwrite the production of those tee shirts and we raised about $5,000 just by giving out the shirts. We said, “These are free, but if you wanted, you could give some money to help support this advocacy campaign.” And they became kind of collector’s item. They were created by artists, and we gave them away in all the different galleries.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Advocacy

We Don’t Give as much as We’d Like to

We don’t give as much as we’d like to. Our maximum is six thousand dollars. There are some instances where artists are raising sixty, seventy thousand dollars through a crowdfunding campaign. So, while we are able to help, it’s still just a portion of what they would need to recover. Our assistance certainly helps, but it’s also not enough.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Funding Individual Artists

Grants to Serve Underserved Populations

This person on our staff handles issues related to those kinds of folks who live and work in the state. So, we’ve done various things to provide equitable services to different populations. We have a grant program called the Arts Access Assistance Grant, and that actually encourages organizations that are not arts organizations to partner with an artist or arts organization in their community to serve a special population. So, the populations have rotated.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

An Artist Sits on Our Board

We have an artist who sits on our board of trustees, and she has done very well there in helping to guide the overall governance of the organization. She has also contributed her knowledge and expertise to help develop the programming and the directionality of our programming for the organization overall.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

Our Staff Tries to Know What’s Going On

We do talk internally about how we can build better relationships amongst the artist community. We attend as many art exhibitions as we can. We make sure that those in the artist community are aware of the opportunities we have for commissions and the grant funding and any call for artists that we communicate to the public. We have a desire and a goal to leverage our relationships with artists, and, as individuals in an organization, continue in our personal lives to support the work of upcoming and established artists. Whether it is readings, concerts, art exhibitions, participation on panel workshops, we try to engage. And as a staff we try to know what’s going on so that we can, as a group here, be as supportive as we can.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Organizational Capacity

Finding Funding Has Been a Major Challenge

Our program was highly successful and effective for the artists who participated, but we weren’t successful in developing a program that is financially sustainable in the long term. As of right now, we’ve postponed it, and we’re definitely not going to be able to continue the same format. It’s intensive and it’s wonderful and important to those artists, but finding funding for it has been a major challenge. The reworked program probably won’t have the same level of depth as we had in the first three years that we ran the program.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Organizational Capacity

Reorganizing to More Clearly Serve Community Needs

A recent reorganization that we’re going through is to redefine our staff and board goals to make sure that we’re more clearly serving the direct and changing needs of our community. From what we heard through our listening sessions, it was important that we developed an aggregated opportunity and resources center for the local artist community. Now if we know about it, they know about it. We can become that sort of clearing house for anything from an arts fair, to a Midwestern sculpture initiative, to a poetry competition, to other opportunities in the zipcodes where they’re from.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Struggle Organizational Capacity