Our Guests Are Arriving


Aretha was a nice touch. While I rarely play the role of the victim, it IS easy to criminalize funders, partly because young, emerging and even some professional artists have such a complex relationship to money and people with it. These two worlds that often seem very far from each other; the world of the philanthropist or the philanthropic steward and that of the maker. Often the maker’s world feels like one where creativity is key above all and those with wealth seem to have a primary mission of money above all. I am starting to understand that the nature of people, organizations and systemic structures are so much more complicated. As a result, it is very important that folk talk to each other about personal mission, organizational mission and sometimes, personality stuff. Since our guests are arriving, metaphorically and hopefully, some respondents will jump in, I want to begin to take the conversation toward deeper waters and encourage both the funding community and the arts community to engage in the deeper end with us.

Artists are often less concern with resources than the entrepreneurs who have amassed wealth and are in position to support new works. I think one of the gaps that I see in the funding market is that funders don’t talk with artists about how to become wealthy! It’s a constant handing of fish instead of teaching. Its always interesting to me when organizations create endowments as a way to maintain their institutions. I am shocked that more individuals artists haven’t found creative ways to dive into this and other economic strategies as a way of using the existing system to sustain a practice. I wish an organization would give artists the tools to think more effectively about money. Its been fun to watch friends win awards, but so often, the resources simply help us get through the next 3 months or year. Could be interesting if the resources also came with a little bit of financial advice. The grant is great, but the financial skill of the philanthropist who has the money to give away is also tremendous. I guess I am suggesting that artists need more than your money and wants to give more than “kisses” and “propas”. Maybe the respect comes from deep sharing of resources. A deeper relationship than pay for play.

I will research structures that help artists make better use of the grants that we get.
Thinking more about what other things I need besides money is super important in this kind of relationship.
I am interested in alternative funding sources that allow me to be a successful maker.
More Aretha.

Ute, as guests will be coming in soon, I am curious as to what would you like to see more of from artists when they apply to Artadia? Can you talk a little bit about your selection processes, how they morph over time and with different personalities of juries-

I am curious about your processes.

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4 Responses to Our Guests Are Arriving

  1. Dawoud Bey says:

    Well, this promises to be an interesting conversation indeed. I love what you say, Theaster, about artists needing to learn more about wealth building and financial savvy, rather than seeing these grants as simply buying short amounts of time before it’s time to go in search of additional funds. This is imperative for all artists, but particularly those who–at this stage of their careers anyway–are not necessarily going to be able to monetize [i.e. sell] their work at a level that is sufficient enough t to sustain them for long periods of time. Looking forward to seeing what strategies and structures you uncover. We all know that this certainly isn’t taught in any art school BFA or MFA program that I ever heard of!

    • Bernard Williams says:

      I’m feelin this conversation! Off to a good start.
      I’d like to start by acknowledging my great appreciation for the grant support I have received from numerous institutions during my journey as an artist. I most appreciate the “relationship” aspect of what Artadia has brought to their grantmaking.

  2. Jim Duignan says:

    Thanks Theaster and Ute for bringing out the slippery relationship of the artist and the funder. I hope you do not mind if I think out loud as I ponder some of your ideas. I agree with you Theaster that we should as artists explore an expanded field of looking at how and why we solicit funding. How the relationship between artist and funder can both broaden and close in on the questions each have for one another. I feel that structurally, straight funding to artists in absence of any practical financial education is more than one question I hope is excavated through this public conversation. I am interested to hear what young artists think. I have a better sense of what mid career artist think and certainly money management with an arts practice is a process of self education and necessity.

    I imagine that the building of a reliable, reciprocal relationship in some capacity is an ideal route for the future of funder and artist. Not simply a patronage system of support but one that recognizes a partnership on innovation which makes risk less suspicious. The last two years have been difficult with the economy and for my practice has been another opportunity to focus on what are my basic needs to do my work. I am not sure I know what artists want from funders for the most part. I want to believe the young artists I engage with in Chicago wish to manage their fiscal needs over a steady reasonable pace that satisfies the financial management of their lives. This ability comes with time and having a secondary revenue stream and owning property, generally contributes to a good place to talk about funding stripped of urgency. I will return to the mix and read on. I think about this constantly and am happy you set up the conditions for a dialogue Ute and Theaster.

    Jim Duignan

  3. Bernard Williams says:

    Yo T,
    where’r you staying in Brooklyn?
    You owe me an update phone call bro!

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