This week's blog is the second in our series of updates about Spacetaker's programming (the first is here) and is dedicated to a few of Spacetaker's physical programs that may or may not already be on your radar: the Spacetaker ARC Workshop Series and the ARC Exhibition Series.
It's no secret that artists struggle with their business savvy. And it's no secret that while nearly every other profession is designed to make money, the art world has a peculiar relationship with marketing, commerce and entrepreneurial pursuits. And while most artists work as independent contractors of some sort, one can graduate with a string of BFAs, MFAs, and PHDs following their name and never take a single business-oriented class. In my own experience, my schooling may have taught me why Wagner and Brecht were important... but nary a mention of nonprofit tax code or QuickBooks basics, which (forgive me, dear professors) have a bigger impact on my ability to run an arts organization.
Spacetaker has always functioned as a sort of 'help desk' for artists working in the Houston area. We field inquiries ranging from how to best connect with media contacts to how to utilize social media for arts marketing to how to create art project budgets for funders. The constant feedback has been useful in gauging the industry-wide gap in practical business skills, but historically, Spacetaker's small staff has only had the capacity to work with a limited number of artists.
Starting with an info session on financial literacy late in 2008 (led by our fabulous partners at Amegy Bank, who have been instrumental in getting Spacetaker's finances in order), the organization began looking toward the workshop model which would allow Spacetaker to reach more artists at once, as well as justify retaining the input and participation of outside field experts. At that point, Spacetaker launched an informal needs-assessment, asking artists which professional development resources were most needed, as well as asking the industry establishment for input on the local art community's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth. Thus, the ARC Workshop Series has been developed as a direct response to the needs of our local arts community.
Throughout 2009-2010, a variety of workshops were proposed and tested, and the resulting observations have significantly shaped Spacetaker’s approach to professional development. For example:
- ---Working artists are pressed for time: workshops must be outside of business (day-job) hours
- ---Local artists are seeking community: peer-to-peer feedback is needed, as well as networking with seasoned professionals and experts
- ---Artists have strengths and weaknesses as varied as their art itself: while a comprehensive business strategy is ideal, a one-size-fits-all approach is not, and artists should be able to plug into professional development services as needed
- ---The time-poor artist needs help turning big-picture concepts into an actionable strategy
These factors have informed how we’ve designed our ARC Workshop programming in 2011, which has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. We strive for our professional development resources to be practical, efficient, community-driven and locally pertinent, and immediately translatable into action. Case in point, our upcoming workshop on grant-writing for the individual artist will allow participants to submit their actual proposal to the Houston Arts Alliance’s Individual Artist Grant program for feedback and editing. Not only will the process be a vehicle to hone overall grant-writing skills, but participants will complete the workshop with a stronger proposal to submit when the HAA deadline rolls around this fall. Two birds, one stone!
To date, since the launch of Spacetaker’s ARC Workshop Series in 2009, Spacetaker has hosted over 1,000 (1,071 to be exact) individual artists in 50 professional development workshops and consultations. (The subjects Spacetaker has covered and have in the works are listed below.)
Similarly, the ARC Exhibition Series has sprung out of a need for more exhibition/performance opportunities for local artists, as well as a mentorship program for coordination, production, and promotion. Plenty of independent artists are realizing they need to organize their own exhibitions and build a collector/patron base on their own. (Like our friends at Glasstire suggest, artists shouldn’t wait to be invited to show by curators and dealers.) But how does an artist execute an independent project in a professional manner?
Spacetaker dedicates time and resources to mentoring each artist in the ARC Exhibition Series through the process of public exhibition and performance… from marketing and promotion to pricing, presentation skills, and cultivating clientele. Our goal is not only for participants to leave with another show on their resume, but with applied knowledge to improve their professional practice in the present, as well as throughout their careers. As the proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
To our knowledge, Spacetaker is the only Houston-based organization whose presenting series focuses on the professional development and entrepreneurial aspects of exhibition and performance production.
Last, but not least, this blog post is being composed from New York City, where Spacetaker is currently meeting with a variety of NYC-based arts service organizations. Already, our meetings have sparked several ideas for how we can modify and improve our existing programs to better serve Houston’s artists as we move into 2012. Exciting things afoot…stay tuned!
Workshops on the books and/or in the works:
• Functioning as Your Own Agent (for performers)
• Evolving Your Career: Basic Business Skills for Visual Artists
• Portfolio Preparation & Review
• Gallery Relationships
• Preparing Your Audition for a Casting Agent
• DIY Event & Exhibition Planning
• Introduction to Civic Art
• Arts Leadership Forums
• Financial Literacy Series with Amegy Bank (basic budgeting, organization & cost-center budgeting, loans, business plans, etc.)
• QuickBooks Training
• Quarterly TALA Legal & Accounting Clinics
• Fiscal Sponsorship & Crowd Funding Info Session with Fractured Atlas and IndieGoGo
• Info Session on New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Services & Resources for Artists
• Funding Strategies for the Individual Artist
• Grant Writing Practicum
• “From the Funders Point of View” Panel Discussion
• Art for the Healthcare Industry
• Info Session: Health Insurance Options for Individual Artists & Small Organizations
• Art Licensing & Leasing
• Copyright for Artists & Performers
• Right to Publicity
• Quarterly Legal & Accounting Clinics with Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts (TALA)
• Art Markets & Festivals: Pricing, Presentation & Sales
• Social Media Management
• Developing a PR & Marketing Strategy
• Writing Press Releases & Working with the Media
• Art of the Interview
• Optimizing Tools to Enhance Your Web Presence
• Harnessing the Power of WordPress to Create Blogs, Websites & Portfolios
Stay up-to-date on all our workshop offerings by visiting our ARC Workshop web page.