When I found out that my intern had graduated with her Bachelors of Fine Art Illustration AND over $200,000 in student loan and credit card debt to finance her education at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco, I was inspired to create The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester, an interactive, self-paced, on-line program including eight business courses designed for independent artists.
My intern showed me her course curriculum from “Designing Careers” from The Academy of Art University. It was just a bunch of handouts slapped together in a cheap binder with outdated instructions on how to file a US Copyright application. Yet she paid $3000 for this course. Never surprised always appalled, but I decided to do something.
Students studying fine art and crafts at one of the top 42 art and design schools in North America are paying, on average, over $50,000 in annual tuition. Tuition at The Rhode Island School of Design is $67,720 per year, more than Harvard at $63,025.
Art professors may teach art students how to make art but not how to make money with art. When art students ask their art professors about how they are going to make a living as artists they are often dismissed, shamed, or told that they can plan for a life of financial struggle.
There are no good jobs for fine artists and artisans. So if there are no jobs, it’s unlikely that you will have a successful art career. I hear from many artists whose parents discouraged them but parent’s concerns are justified.
Students studying fine art and crafts at one of the top 42 art and design schools in North America are paying, on average, over $50,000 in annual tuition. Tuition at The Rhode Island School of Design is $67,720 per year, more than Harvard at $63,025. Art professors teach art students how to make art, not how to make money with their art. Many fine art and craft majors will abandon their talents to make a living in fields unrelated to art.
Like the music and publishing industries, the art and craft establishment is ripe for disruption. Small businesses gain a large proportion of their sales by way of referrals. However, if an artist is represented by an art gallery they will not receive referrals because they typically do not share an art buyer’s contact information with the artist. Art gallerists consign art, they do not buy art. When galleries do sell art, they pay the artist 50% of the sale on average. Representatives often maintain an unspoken agreement with artists. For every sale that the artist makes, the artist will pay their representative a 50% sales commission. Even if the representative plays no part in the sales transaction. Artist representatives customarily require exclusivity, preventing artists from building multiple sales channels.
I wanted to be connected to my collectors and the scarcity and permission based art establishment wasn’t working for me.” says artist Ann Rea. In 2005 she fired her representatives, moved to San Francisco, and drafted a plan to sell over $100,000 of her art during her first year as a full-time unknown artist; she sold $103,426 of her art. Rea received national press attention and artists from across the globe started asking her for advice.
Her student eco-artist Colleen Attara, launched a hand-made greeting card line that sells in over 100 stores. Kate Bradley developed a following as a children’s portrait painter. When Rea learned that her intern had earned an undergraduate degree in fine art illustration, but had no job prospects, and over $200,000 in student loan and credit card debt, Rea created “The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester” to reach a broader number of artists.
To officially graduate Rea’s students must earn back their tuition investment, at a minimum, through the sale of their art during their final “Prototype Project.” Rea says, “This goal holds students accountable, it tests their offer, and their results confirm their grasp of the principles. The final project can kick start their business or affirm that making art may be better left as a hobby.”