Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beyond the Artist--safe space for the business side of art

The process of creating art is often consuming, and self-absorbing that many artists forget the business side of art. As the sale lags, the number of works unsold pile up, the artist morale spirals down.

This is one thing I love about New York City. You think about it, and voila! Here comes the tow truck with the mechanic experts if your art car has stalled. Art SpeakMaster is a group that caters to helping the artist figure out exactly what is going wrong, or enhance areas that are necessary to be a successful artist, because let's face it, art is a creative entrepreneurial business and if you are honest with your taxes, you know exactly what I mean.

First thing first, one must open the gates of the castle and the self-made walls, invite friends in, and really be open to seeing a different perspective, then we're talking.

I was a little hesitant at first about going. However, a friend, who is a gifted speaker, negotiator and entertainment lawyer, Joanna Kirby, suggested that I visit.
Coincidentally, I've been meaning to go to one of those Toastmaster style meetings, so I thought, "Hey, why not? I could always improve on impromptu speeches."
So I went to a workshop called "The Art of Negotiating".

What I found there was a vast array of friendly, talented artists in the group, and some light snacks (can't forget to mention the snacks, it's a nice touch :))

The workshop was well-planned. After the normal rounds of introduction, we highlighted examples of successful negotiations by famous artists--such as Christo and Jean-Claude. Do you know that this duo are recipients of the Great Negotiator Award, presented by the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation? The examples were followed by the practice of role-playing involving a complicated scenario--getting into the mindframe of the gallerist, the collector, and the artist. All possible scenarios were played out and some were really creative. Some scenario presented I thought were highly improbable. Derek Bernard Harden, a Chelsea gallerist, suggested a negotiation where the starving artist asks the gallerist for housing in the attic, in exchange for exclusive rights to sell the artist's work. I was skeptical that such a thing occurs, but found months down the road something similar unfold in my life.

I returned a few months later to attend another workshop on presenting the artist statement. I had recently shown my piece, an artvideo painting of the American Sexual Landscape, and was taken back by the reaction of the audience, felt completely unprepared for the Q&A portion. So I admitted that I needed practice in speaking concisely yet descriptively.

So, we the artists, took turns in explaining our recently completed work, or work in progress in an alloted amount of time, with someone counting how many "ums" and "sos" it took to present the work in addition to observing mannerisms. In my case apparently, I have a ridiculous amount of "sos" and the habit to stand in a fencer's pose when presenting my work. I couldn't help but laugh at myself.

Aside from getting a chance to present my work to other artists, I was impressed by the direction that these creative individuals suggested regarding my recently finished artfilm --The Barely Private Show. An artist curator mentioned that what immediately struck him about my piece was its subversion, which entails that no artist statement is necessary and that the delivery of the piece must be guerilla style.
Although he was only stating the obvious, it was extremely helpful advice as I was contemplating the most unrealistic route of showing the piece.

So all, in all, dynamic, creative, and talented people flocking together in an artist safe zone? New York City, what's next?

Art Speakmaster, is an art club workshop that regularly occurs at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca.
Founding Members:
Lorra Jackson - Program Development, Direction and Liaison
Charis J. Carmichael Braun - Program Coordination and Direction
Elvin Freytes - Program Facilitator and Direction