Over two years of making and touring my show, Show Me the Money, exploring how to make a living as an artist in the current economy, I have had countless conversations with artists about all the difficulties they face in making a living from their practice or balancing their practice with other job(s).
The greatest desire many have is for raising artist fees, but that aside, there are still numerous other ways in which venues can better support the artists they work with so, in the first of my two blogs on this topic, here are some practical ways you can help...
Create co-working areas for artists in art spaces, share your wi-fi, share your tea and coffee with local artists.
Working in an organisation will make artists more invested in an organisation, create a welcoming space and help ongoing relationships. In turn they are more likely to come support the work of other artists programmed there.
Introduce artist discounts for tickets.
Artists spend a large amount of the money they do have on seeing more art. They will do even more of this if you offer a concession! This will also make them more invested in your organisation. This will also serve your marketing as artists are likely to tweet about performances.
If you have a cafe/bar that is not run by an independent contractor in your venue, offer artists working with you a discount on food and drink.
ADMIN TIPS - MINIMUM EFFORT, MAXIMUM IMPACT
One fundamental thing to remember is that artists are primarily freelancers and often making a living from working with a number of different clients so give consideration to the difference in how artists and venues manage admin.
Allow artists time to respond.
They may not be at a desk. They may not have immediate access to a printer. They may be doing work where emails can only be replied to on breaks. They may not have immediate access to broadband. All this effects how and when they respond. This should be taken into account when making contact.
Keep applications simple.
This can be a huge help to artists. We spend a lot of time applying and that time is not paid for. Why not consider video applications? Get your application down to a few key questions that an artist can answer in a short video. This can give you a much stronger sense of the artist. It also takes into account that many artists struggle with forms (I know so many visual artists who are dyslexic for example).
Send forms in editable formats.
Sending a non-editable PDF that requires converting or printing may seem like nothing but these small things add up!
Give feedback notes on applications.
Make it part of your processing. Do it at the time you are reviewing. I appreciate this is time consuming, but even the smallest insight into why something was rejected can be enormously beneficial. It need only be one sentence if that's all you have time for.
COMMUNICATION - THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO SAY SOMETHING
Make the contact info for your staff readily available on your website, and have information on your website of how and when programmers like to be contacted.
When possible, advise of response time. I would so much rather get an auto response that tells me I will have a response within 4 months than nothing.
If you have time to read the email…reply
If you know on seeing the email that a show is not your kind of work, say that then and there. If you feel you need to have a think on it, and will probably need a nudge to respond, say that then and there. If you love the idea but you’re not sure where it will fit in your program say that then and there. Artists will be elated just to hear *something*.
Paula Varjack is a writer, filmmaker and performance maker. Her work explores identity, the unsaid, and making the invisible visible.
Part 2 of Paula's blog, with more practical, simple suggestions for ways in which venues and artists can work better together, will be published next month.