$735 a year
24 workdays spent sitting in 3 galleries.
Here’s the breakdown on my costs to belong to 3 non-profit city art association galleries:
▪ $385 for three memberships and display fees
▪ 24 workdays – the combination of 12 full days at one gallery, plus 6 at each of the others – it’s the workdays and finding a better way that I talk about in this blog.
▪ Receive 60% to 65% on sales
▪ $350 for gasoline for 7 tanks of gas for 64 round-trips to galleries to sit or pick-up and deliver art
I’ve been assessing art league memberships and their value to me. It’s time to renew. Three towns around me have active art leagues. Some months they sell a good amount of art. Most months they don’t. They are staffed by volunteers who don’t know how to sell or even know how to talk about your art. One association does provide sales training, and it’s good. But you can’t train someone in a couple of hours how to intuitively know which visitors are customers and which aren’t.
Here’s how it works: For a half-day or one full day of sitting in the gallery, plus payment of dues and a display fee, an artist can hang their piece or pieces once per month or per show. To take advantage of the area’s art association gallery walls, an artist should belong to all three organizations. This adds up to a hefty amount of money and time as stated above. Oh, and if you sell anything, the gallery takes 30 to 40% of the sale.
So, why am I writing about this?
First, because I’m grateful that there are outlets like this for us to display and occasionally sell our art. (Yes, my art sells). And second, because I think artists are being taken advantage of by being asked to sit in addition to paying dues, hanging fees and commissions, plus delivering their art in a 2-hour window of time once each month, and picking up during same.
Some artists actually like sitting because it’s the only time they are forced to meet with the public. This is an opportunity to talk up your art. But, the problem with that is not everyone cares about your art. They might like someone else’s art. So, it’s a crap shoot that you’ll actually meet anyone who likes, let alone wants to buy, your specific painting, sculpture or print.
So, what wonderful things could happen if the organizations actually hired an experienced gallery salesperson to work even a few hours a day, subbing for those volunteers? Uh, more sales, for one. More time given back to artists to create more and better work, reduced expenses and on and on. Although it is claimed that the association’s budget won’t allow it, funds would be found if someone put a priority on it. One of our leagues actually has a professional manager who could be out amongst the visitors talking about the art. She knows more about it than anyone else. But she stays cloistered in her office while the volunteers struggle to make eye contact, or over-talk everything. Another organization hired a fund-raiser Executive Director. Would all those funds be needed if someone was selling more of the gallery’s art each day? Maybe, maybe not.
An advantage of membership is that if you don’t want restrictive contracts, non-profit art associations give artists (and their work) opportunities to be seen. Most professionally-owned galleries force you into contracts with a million geographic prohibitions in them, which in our area is a bit silly. Each of our towns is SO different and attracts their own demographic.
I’m back to the big question: What is the real cost of belonging? 24 workdays, $735 and receipt of 60% of the sale (assuming there is one).
And the second big question: Is it worth it?
It’s worth it if:
1. You want people to see your art but are not invested in whether they buy it or not. If you belong for long enough, you will eventually sell something. It’s in the numbers.
2. You want to win competitions to bulk up your resume.
3. You want to spend 6 to 12 days a year in each gallery appreciating mostly fine art and sharing your love of it with others.
4. You like to socialize and enjoy events with other artists.
5. You want to be in juried shows – again, to validated your artistic goodness
6. You like to volunteer – a LOT!
Getting that gorgeousness or that contemporary statement or those great designs into homes, offices and public buildings should be our real goal. This benefits both artists and society.
Can’t we find a better way for artists to SELL their art? I’m just sayin’…..
See my work at ArtLofts in Beaufort where I paint, play, enjoy my loft-mates, sing, dance, teach and sell my work.