This post is by guest author, Barb Dougherty. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 25,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.
What if you could spend your days in your studio creating art and have a reliable plan in place to insure that you would have an income?
What if your work was driven by your creative inspirations and not by the whims of interior designers?
What if Americans spoke often about the tremendous contributions that artists were making to the cultural values and lives in this country?
These are the driving questions that have captured my attention. There are answers to these questions. The answers can ensure you can lead your life as an artist.
How do I know?
Here is a start on the answer.
The most important concept for leading a life in the arts is to understand art patronage. In Europe, we know of the great stories of the Patrons of the Arts. These are people who ensured that talented artists would have what they needed to live and work. The Medici’s were amongst the greatest patrons. However, the tradition of patronage has not grown in this country.
Why has the tradition of patronage not grown?
The reason is the failure on the part of the artist to understand that their future will come from those who are willing to support them as they move forward with their dreams. The great art dealers in this country, people like Leo Castelli, would put the artists on annual stipend. This practice disappeared in the 1960’s. Yet, the individual collector, when provided the opportunity, will still support the artist.
Once a client of mine, a graduate from the Art Institute of Chicago, asked me to help her fulfill her dream of spending a year painting in Cuba. We calculated that she needed about $30,000. This artist had a mailing list of 23 people who had purchased work while she was at the Art Institute and after graduation. They each received a letter with a special appeal.
The appeal was a description of the Cuban project and the need for art patronage. The opportunity we offered the people on this list included that if they were to provide $2000 for this artist to make the Cuban trip, they would be able to select a painting from the trip as their own. The plan for the paintings was to do an exhibit upon her return to Chicago and each painting would be priced for others at $3000 - at a minimum. However, the contributing patrons would have already purchased one of the works. Those patrons would be able to make their selection of painting before the show opened. The letters went out and, within two weeks, we had collected $2000 from each of 15 of her collectors for a total of $30,000. These collectors became patrons. The artist has repeated this plan and made seven such trips. Her list of patrons has grown.
What does it take to grow a patron?
First, recognition of interest in your art.
Second, recognition of a potential collector – a person who has purchased at least one work.
Third, a recognition of a potential patron – a person who has purchased at least two works and has been able to share a concern for the future of the artist.
What must you do?
First, learn to write thank you letters - not email blasts or printed letters. Learn to sit down and, by hand, write a letter to someone who may become a collector and then a patron. If you sell a work via a gallery, make an arrangement to write the purchaser. In California, it is the law that the gallery must share purchaser contact information with you. Even if it is not the law in your state, the fact is that until galleries and artists create relationships of sharing and trust, patronage will never be a resource for artists. Write a letter to someone who may have just expressed interest in your work. Reveal something in that letter about you and your passion as an artist. Open the window a little bit at a time and let in others, who in the end, will ensure that you can have a life in the arts.
Editor's Note: You can view Barb's original post here.