Thanks, Theaster, and thank you, commentators!
I’m sure you know the old joke that if you want to speak about art go out to dinner with bankers, and if you want to speak about money go out with artists.
I absolutely agree that an important service to artists is financial advice, education. Artadia is actually just in the midst of developing a professional services program (beyond the individual consulting on career matters we do now), and financial advice will definitely be an important component. It is something our founder and president Chris Vroom has always very much pushed for. We just did a survey of what artists would be looking for in professional services and, while not among the top three priorities, financial advice was among the top ten concerns.
I think building a financial strategy with an expert one-on-one based on the individual’s situation would be the ideal way to go. And I think the strategy for artists could (but wouldn’t have to) be different, more entrepreneurial. Something that makes use of artists’ courage, their flexibility, their often multiple forms of income and expenses, the time frames they think in. I think (hope) financial experts, those with the endowments, must be creative thinkers, and thus would be able to find creative solutions for artists’ situations. Also, I think simply artists talking and learning from each other is not to be undervalued.
One component is often real estate as Jim pointed out. I’ve always found it absurd that artists get pushed out of neighborhoods they made popular through their presence there. It’s always seemed that that didn’t make any sense at all if it were any other branch of business. So this would be a fruitful place to start thinking creatively. There are a number of artists that buy early and then can stay or make a good profit by subletting etc., (even in Soho) but ideally there would be more solutions. The new “loft law” in New York (which took I believe 20 years to get passed) finally gives people living in loft buildings the same protection and rights as in other residential spaces.
This points to another angle from which to change artist’s financial situations: governmental regulations, initiatives. (Yes, I’m German…)
E.g. Health care. Germany has health insurance specifically for creative professionals, where the amount you pay is dependent on how much you earn, and the state covers half, as is normal in any employee situation. There is a large campaign for reforming health care for artists currently being initiated in Massachusetts.
Both are part of an effort to make artists a regular part of the economy just like all other people with other professions.
Also, the current gallery system might be in need of a reform. Artist-run spaces are an alternative that has been around for a long time. Modifying museum and exhibitions structures would also be a place to investigate I think: standardizing artists fees, etc. I wondered if an art sales tax might be a possibility. Just like the hotel tax that goes to the arts. A sales tax on all art sales that is then distributed evenly among all artists (gosh, now I am starting to sound really German.) Okay, here I go: Unions!!! What about Unions??? Other creative professions have them, why not visual artists?
I am sure that many initiatives like these are already in place or being worked on that I am not (yet) aware of. And I know that there are many more out there. As Artadia develops its artist services we will definitely make sure to know of all, if possible, and share our knowledge.
But aside from all of this and to finish, I do think one should not undervalue in the simple check in the mail, that helps finish a film, or make the whole film, that lets you take a sabbatical or pays a months rent—that simply buys time to make work. Because the investment in the artist’s own work is a real, and I think still the most important investment and one that hopefully will pay off (be this through sales, invitations to shows, residencies, teaching positions, etc.) This is of course is not guaranteed, but no investment is.