Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Art?

As usual, I have too much to blog about, so I'll just pick one topic for now and get to the rest another time. Right now, what's got my goat is people wanting art for free.

I was contacted earlier this week by a government agency here in town (won't say which one so I don't embarrass 'em). They have a construction project going on by their main entrance, and it has a wooden fence up to keep people out and to hide the really ugly construction stuff. The fence is about 8' high and about 100' long. The agency's director wanted some art that would (a) make the fence look better and (b) honor the people that the agency serves. And once the construction was over, the art would be removed from the fence and kept within the agency. Sounds pretty cool to me. I went out and looked at it, then talked with my point of contact on the phone. We were both talking about a pretty good-sized project, namely five 4'x4' diamond-shaped plywood panels with different things painted on each panel. Everything was going great until I asked him, "What kind of budget are we looking at?"

Stunned silence on the other end of the line. Then "Uhh, well, we were looking for a volunteer effort ... uh, we'd pay for the materials, of course ..."

Right. This government agency wants me to work for about six weeks on these panels. For free. Gee, I'm so honored. I mean, hey, everybody there is working for free, too, right? So is everybody in the construction company ... but the government is paying for the materials, of course!

I've sent them a written proposal that includes a fairly detailed description of what the job entails, how long it would take, and what I'd do it for. I'm even giving them a very cut-rate price since I admire the work they're doing. But it's not free.

The problem is, so many people think that artists are just dying to give their work away for free. This agency is no different from any non-profit, church, school, or tiddly-wink club. I get people all the time asking me for donations for fund-raising events. I used to give to some of them, but then I thought about the business side of it, and have slammed that particular door shut. Here's the business model, in a nutshell:
1. I do the work.
2. They take it away and sell it for maybe 25% of the retail price if they're lucky.
3. They keep the money. The buyer might get a tax break.
4. They tell me how much "exposure" my art got.
5. My collectors have now been "exposed" to the fact that other people are buying my work at a 75% or more discount.
6. I'm left without the art, without a tax break, and with collectors who are pissed off that their collection has just been severely devalued. Think they're gonna buy anything from me in the future?

Grumble, grumble, grumble. This government agency has got me in a grouchy mood. Time to go play with my dogs.

1 comment:

sujaco said...

That's just a bit too much to ask for you to volunteer your hard work and talent. Your paintings are very good.