Artist Income

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A friend of mine introduced me a while back to a comic strip called Beardo, which features a young artist who just got an arts degree but can’t find work except for a job as a barista at a coffee shop. It was kind of funny but, at the same time, highlighted a painful truth.  Art is hard. Making a living as an artist is harder.

This semester, I’m taking a class with Jeff Abell called Art as Practice that’s all about solving this problem.  In our economy, artists shouldn’t expect to get full-time faculty positions right after finishing their M.F.A. or instantly have people knocking on their door to buy all their art.

Making a living as an artists in our time requires hard work, patience, and creativity. In our class, we are going through a book called the Artist’s Guide Book, and it’s full of great advice on earning income as an artist.

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In the book, the author talks about how many artists believe they have to have a “real job” (a.k.a. non-art-related) to finance their passion, but there are many streams of income that artists can take advantage of to help support their art practice. Some alternative sources of income suggested were:

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1. Teaching

2. Selling artwork

3. Artist’s residencies

4. Investments

5. In-kind donations

6. Grants

7. Barters

In class last Wednesday, Jeff also gave a great lecture on writing proposals for grants, residencies, and other sources of funding.

Here were five steps we learned for successful grant writing:

1. Clarify your fundraising goals

2. Research potential funders

3. Initiate contact through a query letter or request for guidelines

4. Draft a proposal

5. Seek feedback, revise, and follow through

I think this class will be valuable in helping solidify a vision for a successful/sustainable art practice. I’m looking forward to what becomes of the professional projects in this class.