This word cloud was generated from data extracted from a survey of 500 artists who have applied to The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester.
The data is a response to the application question:
How do you feel when you sell your art?
Clearly, it feels fricken’ fantastic when an artist sells their art, and it hurts when an artist can’t sell their art.
Even though the top 42 art and design schools in North America are charging an average of $51,327 in annual tuition, fine art professors often go to extraordinary lengths to justify why money doesn’t matter to “real artists.”
Something just doesn’t add up.According to Grafton J. Nunes, President of the Cleveland Institute of Art, my alma mater, there are fewer scholarships available at art schools than other schools because art schools tend to have much smaller endowments. That means that art students can wide up with whopping student loan bills, debt that they will be shackled to for life.
Yet art professors commonly compromise their students’ future by telling them repeatedly that they shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about money. They say things like:
Your art should speak for itself.
Art sells itself.
If you want to sell your art, you’re just a sell-out.
But how many artists don’t want to sell their art?!
The most sincere acknowledgment of the value of your art is getting paid for making it.
Many artists feel very conflicted about selling their art. Why? Because most artists:
- could not acutally afford to purchase the art that they found so easy to make
- they don’t understand the value of their art and how to price it
- they view sales as sleazy because they have not yet deterined their Mission and the target market that they can serve
Like it or not, art is a luxury retail product purchased by the affluent.
This economic reality requires artists to build a network of people with enough disposable income to buy their art.
Some privileged artists don’t have to worry about making money from their art. If that’s you, you have a great hobby. Read no further.
Most artists don’t have someone supporting them financially nor are they the beneficiary of a trust fund. If you do, lucky you.
If you are not one of the very few tenured art professors, chances are you’re probably doing something else to make a living and have probably quit making art.
Let’s face it, if your art professors could sell enough of their art to make a decent living, by and large, that’s what they’d be doing.
That said. My mentor, Wayne Thiebaud, an American art icon, is a notable exception. When I met him, he was teaching at the Univesity of California at Davis, for free. When I asked him how I could make a living with my art, he replied, “I don’t know, I’m not a businessman.” His paintings were selling for over $1,000,000, so the IRS considers him a business man.
Over $59 billion worth of art sold on-line alone in 2014, according to a New York Times 03/20/2015.
When there is so much money changing hands for art, I believe that artists should get their cut of the deal.
But the art establishment doesn’t benefit from artists taking:
- control of their heavily guarded distribution channels
- 100% of the profit from their own products
Unfortunately, so many fine art professors are setting up art students for complete failure.
How? By selling art students on an unrealistic aspiration to exhibit their work in art museums, which serve as props for the art establishment.
What art school graduates soon find is that all they want is to pay back their student loans, sooner rather than later, make art that they are proud of, and make a decent living.
For example, Art Professor Glenda Martin-Shirley betrays her unspoken agenda by posting on the Artists Who THRIVE Facebook page:
In today’s culture here in the US, it is almost entirely impossible to “make a living” from creating art. I still love working with the “wanna-bees” because they are pure in spirit like children.
It’s damn near impossible to make a living as an artist with the likes of Professor Martin-Shirley’s outlook and example.
Thank God I didn’t have her as a teacher. It was condescending messages just like this that made me quit making art.
I was fortunate to learn from my teacher, Viktor Schreckengost’s example. Although he never taught business, he led by example as a founding father of Industrial Design and noted ceramist, painter, and entrepreneur.
When I finally remembered Viktor’s example, I fired my art representatives and I sold $103,246 of my art during my first year as a full-time artist, without feeling like a sell-out.
I’ll just leave you with a comment from one of many artists who I’m proud to have as an alumni of The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester, Morenike Heatherington.
“Recognition by peers and “art critics” might be a success for some, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Why on earth should I care about art critics? It’s easy to be a critic, takes no effort at all. But when someone exchanges money for my work because they like it, that (to me) is a success as well as encouragement. It feels good too.”
I’m conducting a study to determine what art students are learning, and not learning, about selling their art in the very top art schools in North America.
My goal is to record 100 video interviews with fine artists who have MFA degrees from one of the AICAD schools.