Monday, February 22, 2010

Free Art Rant

Grrr. Got this tidbit forwarded me, since in my capacity as a teacher I'm in a unique position to take advantage of whoring out any starving student's artwork:
"Any budding artist out there looking to design a logo for the [redacted] group that is heading up the new stadium efforts for the Goldpanners and other Alaska Baseball teams? It won't be for pay, but you'll get the credit and it'll look good in your portfolio."
I'd really like to see 'em try and get anything else done for free building a stadium: just once how about asking the carpenters, electricians etc. to do their shit cause it'll look good in their portfolio. Yeah, see how far that gets ya, cheap bastards. Hasn't worked last time I asked a doctor or automechanic for even for at least a tradeout in services: tells you what the honest appraisal of relative worth art has in any professionals opinion. That or my stuff doesn't rank a rotten tooth or '86 Ford pickup...

An artist is just as much a skilled craftsman as any of those other trades, but for some reason we're expected to give it away for free. I hear this line or variations on the theme dozens of times over the course of any given year, and it really gets old.

I suspect this instinctual appeal to take advantage of artists generosity and assuage their guilty conscience is connected with the fact the overwhelming number of artists in the community are retired and/or well-to-do folks indulging in what can only be called an elitist hobby, so they can afford to donate their cheap, crappy crafts to any cause that comes knocking. This is why I cyclically turn cynical bastard and start saying no to any requests from non-profits and personal appeals: you just get burnt-out on the assumption your always good for a donation.

Which, as evidenced by many postings right here on this blog and at almost every event in the community by other artists, is actually true. It might be an attribute of the sensitive artist stereotype to have compassion for pet issues and an altruistic streak, which is great if your broke at the bar while out with other artists. To be sure, there's a half-dozen fundraising opportunities I'm personally glad to participate in each year, but this is balanced out by the 90% paid gigs that in turn enable such philanthropic indulgences. Learning how to graciously decline, or just say no, is crucial skill and a prerequisite in actually having the confidence and self-worth to charge a living wage for your work.

And the last time I checked, sports can't piss in the shadow of the arts as far as complaining about any financial woes. Give me a break: comparisons of budgetary priorities in the educational system, not to mention media attention is laughable, and all the hoopla over the Olympics going on in the background right now isn't making me any more sympathetic. If a fraction of the economic resources enjoyed by sports were invested in the arts, there'd be a cultural revolution, and artists would bag some of those bazillion-dollar contracts and lavish lifestyles.
Of course, we'd probably have to start wearing the same ridiculous outfits emblazoned with sponsors when we work in the studio...


  1. I love the way the request is skewed as though THEY are doing the artist a favor. It's not that they want a kick ass free logo, it's that they are giving credit and offering a portfolio booster... I bet they even believe it...

  2. I guess I should start charging at some point.. >_>;;