Paying To Play

As an artist, I am always looking for opportunities to display and sell my work. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as hosting open studios, exploring gallery relationships, art brokers, festivals, group shows, juried exhibitions, and even local restaurants and businesses. Through networking and searching for opportunities, I have found some interesting propositions to artists that, after all is said and done, seem to favor the party making the proposition. This is all done under the guise of "exposure", of course... a word carelessly thrown out to entice, but rarely amounts to anything of substance.

I ran across a posting on CraigsList the other day that took the cake. A local coffee shop posted a call for artists. Most of the time, such a venue will make this type of request with the understanding it will receive a percent of the commission, should a work sell. The idea being this is good exposure for the artist. In reality, however, most of the time this is nothing more than an opportunity for a venue to obtain free artwork. The aforementioned coffee shop however, seemed to be operating under an even more lopsided premise. They were requesting a $400 fee, upfront, from the artist, I suppose for the "privilege" of showing work there for a month. I couldn't believe the audacity of this request. I urge any artist to carefully weigh the pros and cons of allowing these kinds of business practices to continue by refusing such preposterous invitations.

I realize legitimate venues are attempting to hedge their investments in artists by guarantying a certain profit for the cost of putting together a show. Businesses that rely solely on the sale of artwork for their revenue, for example, take a risk by showing artwork that may not sell. I can't see how a coffee shop, on the other hand, would fail to benefit from having free artwork on their walls, from an artist of their own choosing. If they need money so bad as to suck blood from turnips, perhaps they should explore other business ventures.