My message to all starving or slightly hungry artists

15Apr10

The Waterloo Region Small Business Centre is hosting an event for artists and arts organizations. Arts, Business, Creativity: The ABC’s of success takes place this Saturday, and offers a number of workshops which could greatly benefit artists and arts organizations. Topics include: Biz 101 – Manage Your Projects Meet Deadlines, Social Media Networking, and Promote Yourself and Your Art For Profit.

The event costs $55 and although I can’t vouch for the organization or the event, I think the time/money investment is probably well worth it.

Why? Because there are too many artists and arts organizations who suck at anything realted to business or money. Often they say it’s because “we’re creative people not business people, we put all our energy into our art and have none left over for the business aspect.” If that is your attitude you deserve to fail. Just because your primary focus is on the quality of your art, doesn’t mean you can ignore the financial and business realities/responsibilities of your organization. In any other field this would not be a valid excuse, so it shouldn’t be valid for creative people either. Chefts need to balance the cost of ingredients, staff and overhead, even if their primary focus is to create a memorable dinning experience. Engineers need to make sure their projects come in ont time and on budget, even if thei primary focus is to create a safe system. If a chef or engineer failed because they couldn’t deliver, they would need to change their game plan so that they could succeed in the future. Arts organizations need to start to do the same thing.

Also, the price includes a free breakfast, lunch and wine/tapas event.

I understand that not everyone will measure their bottom line in terms of profits and loss. I know that things like community engagement, and artistic achievement may be of higher importance, but spending enough time on the business aspect to ensure the fiscal viability of your business should NOT BE OPTIONAL! Go here for more information: http://www.artsbusinesscreativity.com.

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5 Responses to “My message to all starving or slightly hungry artists”

  1. It’s easy to think of business in terms of crass commercialism.

    So don’t. An artist has a viable business if their work is useful or important enough to someone else that they’re actually willing to pay for it. They can make a living if they’re making something good and people know about it.

    Business people call this product development and marketing. But the artist doesn’t have to call it that if it makes them feel bad. It’s making something of value and telling people about it. That should be everyone’s goal.

  2. Completely agree!

  3. It’s also easy to think of art as a commodity, so don’t. An artist certainly doesn’t always have a viable business. Value is a tricky word, and can’t just be defined by what people are willing to pay for.

    I think people should go to this event and learn about management, deadlines, networking, promotion – all very important and vital stuff that must be learned to maximise the scope of an audience and make your living. Absolutely. But we have to be careful of a dangerous slant in thinking. One that I think a lot of people hold.

    You can’t say that artistic achievement can be a higher importance and then say that ditching fiscal viability is not an option. You can’t always have both, and in the instances where you can’t have both, it can’t just be abandoned because it won’t sell. A great work ahead of its time won’t sell, but can still be really culturally significant.

    So I partially agree, but I’ll sound hoity toity by saying that it’s important to understand that not all art should be modified by what’s commercially viable, that an artist can’t always be concerned with selling their work, and indeed shouldn’t be governed entirely by what the public want, but by what the public need. I’ll reach my most pretentious-sounding there only, I hope, because I can’t deny that I’m making a judgement about how I think things are between artist and audience. It’s tricky here not to place artists on a pedestal, or hoist them up as secular saints, but just as I would trust a good lawyer in his or her profession to see me through a big legal battle, I would trust a good artist to help me see something about important about myself and humanity.

    That’s not an excuse to be negligent about your finances and not promoting or marketing yourself well, but if you’re producing work so that it can sell to a market, you’re not making art, you’re making commodities. So comparing making art to making a dish is an oversimplification and an innaccurate analogy that suggests that you’re thinking about art in business terms, as a thing to be served and consumed. That art should be a commodity first and a piece of art second. That idea is poison.

    I can’t hold to that idea. I think art is a magic, and an ancient practice that serves an essential need – it informs our humanity, in both sense of the word inform, to tell us about and to shape.

    It certainly might end up a commodity in afterthought, but should never be in creation. When art and business can coincide, it’s great, and an arts organisation especially certainly needs to keep their wits about them in terms of marketing and business savvy, but to suggest that art is a product for consumers is belittling, and is antithetical to why we need art in the first place.

    Though of course, I think people in general, since their lives are so busy and filled with chaos and hardship, don’t think they need it or receive it in their lives, since it can be hard to understand at first, since not everyone just picks up on the language of art. Which is why it’s easier to interpret it in terms of market.

    So again, the event is a great idea and any artist should go. But there’s more to it, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

  4. The Wizard: I completely agree. I don’t suggesting anyone “sell out” (for brevity). I agree that art is magic, and artists should spend as much time and energy as possible creating they best they can. All I’m saying is being an artist doesn’t mean you have an excuse to neglect other areas of business/operations which any other successful business or person would pay attention to.

    No I didn’t attend. Blogging has been is such a lucrative industry, that I didn’t feel the need 😛


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