I mentioned in my last post MY theories on why the Arts have been in a slow motion decline. There’s no science or research in my opinion outside of simply being in a small scene and seeing how things seem to be trending. One of the issues I brought up was the idea of cost. Art and Art Shows are too expensive. In being expensive this limits the artists that can/will participate when charged for space and it limits the patronage when you charge for events.
Now, money is a necessity when it comes to the Arts because the venues need to survive and so they need money and artists need to make SOMETHING for their art or it becomes too expensive to keep creating the art. So money is part and parcel with the Arts. There is no escaping that.
But…there is a way to make economics make sense.
Here’s how I always looked at shows -
1. If I get the space free I am not going to charge artists to show. Now, I am not running a gallery, I am ‘borrowing’ space and using minimal resources so there isn’t a need to charge. I just don’t believe in charging unless you have to. There is a point where the Arts ARE for the people, and for the Artists and you can’t nickel and dime people.
2. If I do have to charge I charge as little as reasonably possible. Some shows, like paid events, you have to make the choice – charge the Artist or charge the patron. These are shows where there is so much going on that paying to attend is something people will do because they want to see the show. But you have to be reasonable. For me, if the event is going to cost more than a few dollars and I need to make the money back then I look at the balance of what I can charge Artists/Vendors and what I can reasonably charge at the door. I prefer to make my money with volume – lots of patrons – and keep the entry cost as low as possible. It’s a gamble but it’s better to risk that than to out price yourself and alienate the people who may have come out for the show. So this is where you lean on the Artists a little more, charge them a couple dollars more for space with the understanding that by keeping the admission low you can get them more potential customers. It’s a trade-off that usually works.
The thing is though, you have to create events people WANT to come to. Especially if you are charging for space and admission. It’s not as simple as telling people it’s a great show you have to CREATE A GREAT SHOW. Something that warrants charging. It’s more than having some poured wine and crackers, it’s creating atmosphere and fun. It’s creating value.
There’s a trend lately though for people to charge Artists for space they already have. These are venue operators/owners taking advantage of the Artists and the patrons they’ll pull in. If it’s an event spearheaded by Artists and they are coming into a space that may not be open otherwise then it makes sense to pay the owner of the space. It’s fair. But there’s a fine line involved. Same with charging for events. Like I said, some wine and crackers isn’t enough. You have to build something that people want to attend. I know the cost of a box of wine and so do those patrons. Give the people a show.
And if the show is the art, then you better have a lot of artists, a lot of art, and a lot of interaction. And this better be stuff that people don’t see every day.
Money isn’t an evil, its a necessity. It only gets evil when people abuse their power, and take advantage of other people for money.
Me, I prefer the free shows. Sure, with the horror con we have to charge but that’s a show and a venue we pay for, otherwise, for me, it’s about the Art and the Artists and building a sustainable infrastructure for the future. We need that more than a few dollars and places need to learn that or alienate the public further.
(I write books – MEEP!)