Why Do Some Artists Get All the Money?


ARTS SHRINK is a bi-weekly column designed to answer questions from artists and arts groups related to their arts business and practice. The Arts Shrink brings two decades of experience as an arts consultant, teacher, and mentor to the table as she responds your questions.


Question: Why do some artists get all the money and others nothing at all?

- L.A. Choreographer

Dear La Chor,

Oh dear, you've sent me a doozie, haven't you? Well, I fear you won't like my answer, but I will tell you the truth no matter how hard it is for you to swallow. So pour yourself a glass of pinot because I'm about to serve up a bitter pill.

I have found that there are certain similarities between artists and arts groups who consistently get funded and here they are:

Their work is full of integrity--which is anchored in a deep belief in themselves -- and they are not afraid to take risks. An underpinning of artistic integrity ensures that, even when the risk doesn't work, the final product has value.

Now, dear La Chor, take a good look at your work and ask yourself these questions: Does my work truthfully reflect my artistic intentions? How does the quality of my work stack up against others in my field? (This means you need to see other artists' work and plenty of it.) When was the last time I pushed myself creatively?

Be honest with yourself. I know this is hard but if art-making was easy you're probably not very good at it.

Okay, now it gets easier.

You can't raise money in a crisis:

Artists who are good at getting funded are raising money for projects they want to do at least six months from now, not raising money to dig themselves out of the hole they're in today. Take a deep breath and imagine the project(s) you want to do this Fall. Then figure out how much project(s) will cost and make a fundraising plan that includes at least a couple of different methods like maybe a crowd sourcing campaign - check out Hatchfund - artists keep 100 percent of the funds raised. Also look for possible grants and or fellowships. Find out whose funding other artists by looking at the acknowledgements on their website or examining their performance program, which will give you other ideas about where funding might be available for you.

People give money to people:

That's the most important piece of advice I'm going to give you today. You need to start developing relationships with people who see your work, people who should see your work, people who may have the money to fund your work, other artists, and everyone else. Make some sort of a database to keep all these people organized and then communicate with them. Don't stalk them but keep them in your loop. Make them feel like they're important to you, because they are. These are the people who will donate to your crowd sourcing campaign and may provide access to other people who will do the same. Work hard to grow your circle of audience members, donors, and friends.

I hope that sniffle I just heard wasn't you crying. Remember you aren't just an artist, you're also a business owner and you need to set aside time every single week to tend to the business of the art you want to successfully make.


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