Tag: Artists

Fireside Chats: Artists Thrive!

C4 Atlanta’s work has always been focused on the needs of the arts worker to carve out a career in Atlanta. Beyond skill and talent, there is a lot necessary to sustain a career as an artist, arts technician or administrator. Our scope of service has been based on providing a platform accessible to any artist of skills, resources, and tools for professional development regardless of educational level, previous experience, discipline or demographics.

This is a constant conversation in our office: what do artists need, and how are they receiving it (or not receiving it) in Atlanta? Recently, we’ve been focused on the way that our organization is able to connect artists to causes, issues and resources. Our advocacy efforts over the last year focused on the Presidential and Local elections have centered on providing more connectivity and access between our community to policy makers and the community systems that influence how, where, and why we are able to work. As we’ve worked over the last year on this specific initiative, we’ve seen how this work has been beneficial to artists in other, unexpected ways. We’ve seen culture workers who would not know each other otherwise as collaborators and activists for causes and visions of change.

We’d like to continue and incubate these connections to grow and flourish, without agenda or expectation that we are “here to get it done” – in an hour and a half. While we always wish to move the needle toward goals and ideals that can help the creatives in this city have stronger careers, sometimes, idea sharing, a chance at greater understanding and place to congregate is the most important tool we could provide. In this way, our goal is to provide the tools and get out of the way to allow artists to organically utilize them in a way that is most beneficial to their own goals.

With this in mind, we present our newest initiative: Fireside Chats. Fireside Chats are essentially a series of conversations, lead by the issues identified by artists as most important and in need of discussion. Our goal here is not to promise problem solving – though if consensus was reached or an action agreed upon, great. Rather, we are focusing on curating a space where artists can talk about things that they care about or that affect them, learn and share with other artists and have a space to meet one another. We plan to hold these conversations monthly in our space. And while we don’t promise to solve all of our issues in an hour and a half, we do promise to provide snacks!

C4 Atlanta held the first of these conversations on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Our future goal is to theme the discussions based on topics chosen by attendees at previous Fireside Chats. But for this first conversation, we decided to focus on a national initiative for organizations that work with artists to measure whether their operations help artists to flourish or quit: Artists Thrive.

Artists Thrive includes a website with a rubric measurement tool of both artists and organizations that work with artists. Visit artiststhrive.org to learn more.

Artists Thrive is a national initiative, organized by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, researched and crafted by a leadership team from across the United States. C4 Atlanta’s own Executive Director was part of the leadership team and recently helped with an unveiling of these tools and resources at a summit in Berea, Kentucky this fall.

At the Fireside Chat, Jessyca Holland shared the goals of the leadership team and invited participating artists and arts workers to share their thoughts about what needs they had and their impression of the Artists Thrive tools.

Before we showed local artists the tool, we asked, “what do you need in Atlanta to thrive”? Here is what they said:

  • Time – artists need collaborating entities to understand how much time in really takes for the production of art. This is not a time-management issue. It is a communication issue between artist and contractor/patron/employer. Artists need time for the full cycle of creation and production.
  • Money – we got into a discussion about value and price but the conversation seemed to center around the need for money to support (once again) the full cycle of creation and production–not just output. For example: grants that fund process as well as product (yes, we know that word but language is hard).
  • Fair wage for fair time.
  • Vocabulary to be able to express fair value.
  • Transparency.
  • Relationship building opportunities.
  • Peer networks.
  • Shared vision with those who work with artists. An understanding of expectations.
  • Capacity resources.
  • Greater tolerance for risk – allow artists to create interesting work that pushes thought and/or boundaries. An environment that fosters innovation and new works.
  • More supporters.
Artists thrive
Artists discuss fair wage, time, and other resources they need to thrive.

We also asked artists about topics they would like to discuss at future fireside chats. Here’s what they said:

  • Artists & Developers – space
  • Artists as tools of gentrification
  • Artists at the table
  • Artists as freelancers
  • Entertainment vs. design vs. fine art vs. folk art
  • Tangible value vs. intangible value
  • Art as a public good. Is art for everyone?

What else? Email us at actionteam@c4atlanta.org with your ideas!

When to Work for Free?

I am not going to give you the answer you may be seeking. That’s because this is a blog…and ultimately the right answer is deeply personal.

At best I hope to just talk (type, really) through a few points in this blog. The topic of working for “exposure” often rears its frustrated head during our Ignite class. Artists are tired of being asked to give away their work and/or creative energy for free. I get it.

So when do you give away your art?

It is up to you. Really. But I am going to go through a few ways of thinking about intentional giving.

Fundraisers

There is a lot of discussion in the Atlanta art community right now around art auctions/art fundraisers

Image by Chad Gierlich via flick
Image by Chad Gierlich via flick

and how they add or detract from the fair valuation of art. I am not adding to that conversation in this blog at this time. What I do want to examine is mission. If you believe in the mission of the organizer or nonprofit that is raising funds, then feel free to give. If you feel uneasy about the balance of power, then don’t give. Support the mission of organizations that speak to you and your core values. I am not putting the onus of creating value in the marketplace on the artist–what I am saying is this: be selective, be purposeful, be discriminate. Corporations do this ALL they time. They don’t give to everyone who asks.

Think about why you want to give and the impact of your gift. I know that I cannot personally give to every cause. Neither can you (unless you have a ton of money and in that case, let’s get lunch!). If you happen to receive accolades and exposure for your gift, great. I will never promise you that will happen if you give to C4. I will do my best to appreciate the heck out of you, but I would rather someone give because they believe in the work we are doing. There are some very worthy causes in our community. For thought: the average American household contributes more than $2,900 annually to charities.

Your Budget

If you want to give to a cause each year, put that in your budget. Make it its own expense line. When you have reached your giving cap, you can make the decision to dig deeper or you can say, “I am sorry, I have reached my budget for donations this year.” Again, corporations and wealthy people do this ALL the time. Track what you give. In an ideal world, I would love to be able to give away to charitable causes 10% of my income every year.

Tax Deductions

This is not tax advice. Just some stuff I know. Many of you know that if you are a visual artist, you cannot deduct the fair market value of your art donated to an auction, etc. There are legislators seeking to change this law. Realize that the change in law will not offer the fair market deductions for auctions, necessarily. Fundraising supports charitable work but itself is not a charitable activity. Furthermore, actors, dancers, singers, doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and the list goes on, do not receive a tax deduction for the time they give to a charitable cause. But they do it every year. In fact Georgia Lawyers for the Arts has a cadre of attorneys who provide in-kind service benefits in the millions. Millions. None of those attorneys are able to deduct their time spent.

A tax deduction would be a nice bonus to giving and C4 supports legislation to help artists received fair market value for art work that has a public benefit, but don’t let that be the reason or deterrent. Give because you believe in the cause.

Project Work

Fry from FuturamaArtists are often underpaid. Negotiate. Work for money, not exposure. Determine your fair value, and demand it. Your fellow artists will also be the better for it, because it will encourage the market to appreciate fair value for all arts workers. Make sure you learn about budgeting. Understand the difference between direct and indirect costs. Pay yourself–I mean really. This is key. When we asked funders what one of the biggest mistakes artists make when submitting a grant application they replied that artists often omit in their budgets a line item for their own artist’s fee. Add it as a line item in your project budget. You may have to invest up front as you begin your art career–this isn’t unusual in most businesses. Many businesses began with “debt equity.” The restaurant business, your local gym, the oil change-slash-car-wash-place, local nursery, and the list goes on. As a freelancer, do your best to move to a place where your total costs are covered in your project expense budgets.

Work toward not coming out of pocket for a project that someone else hired you to complete. You will resent the work.

There are projects that you will want to put your own money into. You may self-produce to: raise awareness for a cause, experiment with a new idea, work with a colleague you really respect, work on a piece of material (like a script) that has had your heart for awhile…or you just want to try something new. All valid reasons.

My only advice: find balance. I mean balance of power, balance of live/work, balance of paid/unpaid, and balance of love for the practice.

Internships/Apprenticeships 

I am personally hesitant to take on interns. This is because a true internship benefits the the intern more than the host company. In fact, interns are not supposed to help you expand your bottom line. I do not want free labor. I want our interns to get a) educational credit b) paid or c) a ton of experience that will help her/his career move forward. Volunteers and interns are not the same.

I think it is also worth mentioning that internships by their very nature, sometimes breed inequality. How? Think about it. You can’t support a family on an internship unless you have savings, a family member willing to cover your expenses while you intern, or the ability to pay back loans.

I am not against internships. I have had some wonderful internship opportunities.

When considering an internship, think about what you will receive from your training. How will you use it? Are you making connections? Do your career goals align with the internship opportunity? Are you learning marketable skills? Does the internship offer a stipend? Who benefits more, you or the company?

I am sure you have your own thoughts about the arts economy. Feel free to leave a comment. Remember, this is not an exhaustive research post. I am also not speaking for every staff member or board member…how could I? I am one person. I can say that as an organization, we want to see artists being paid fair wages. It’s the right thing to do. Period.

Here are a few resources for your consideration:

Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E)

Department of Labor & the Fair Labor Standards Act 

Image by Chad Gierlich via flick

 

Paying it Forward

When my oldest daughter was three, she loved for me to read to her a little book titled, Sweet Surprises. I am not sure why she liked that book so much. Three-year-old children are mysterious–or maybe adults are too predictable. Nonetheless, for a short while I read that book to her at nap time, bedtime, and sometimes in the morning before I was barely awake with coffee in hand. The story featured a little girl who performed good deeds throughout the day for her mom. These good deeds, as you may have guessed, were the sweet surprises.

I don’t know if my now-thirteen-year-old daughter remembers this book. From the looks of her room, probably not. However, I remember the story. On occasion, I snicker to myself when I think about the book. The simplicity. I also think about how cynical I can be sometimes when I here about these supposed random acts of kindness.

Yesterday afternoon, after our Ignite class ended class participants milled around talking. One of the participants (whom I really admire) approached me with a check. C4 Atlanta offered her half off tuition through a scholarship. The scholarships we offer are made possible by individual contributions dedicated to Ignite and by the Possible Futures Foundation. She said she was in a better position financially this month so she wanted to pay back the scholarship. She mentioned that she really enjoys the class and it has helped inspire the next phase of her artistic journey. I was moved. Sincerely. It was a sweet surprise.

This money will allow us to open up one more scholarship for our March/April seminar. It’s not a million dollar grant, but the gesture means so much to C4 Atlanta. Artists are severely underemployed in this city. It is not easy to come up with money for professional development; however, this year I have learned to never make assumptions about who will give and who will not. Some of our greatest supporters are artists.

For everyone who has given to C4 Atlanta to help support our artist community, thank you. You know who you are.