Artist Cooperatives: Advantages
Even in the best of economies, making art your full- time career
can see a bit daunting. With the rising costs of gallery and studio
spaces, the time-consuming process of marketing and advertising,
it may make sense to collaborate with fellow artists by joining
or forming an artists cooperative, or artists co-op.
In this article, we'll cover the advantages and disadvantages of
artist's cooperatives, and will offer tips on making the most of
the opportunities they provide.
In an artist's co-op, many of the financial hurdles facing individual
artists can be overcome as a group. Sharing a studio/gallery space,
for example, means that you may have the ability to rent a space
in a high-traffic area, rather than being relegated to a part of
town that gets little foot traffic.
In terms of marketing, public relations and advertising, if the
members of your artist co-op agree, purchasing a large advertisement
in a local arts weekly or printing and distributing flyers announcing
a show becomes much less costly for each individual artist, though
all artists in the co-op share in the potential benefits
-----> When looking for your first space, don't sign on for a
3-year lease. Look for rentals that allow the flexibility of short-term
leases. Month-to-month is ideal.
A co-op also offers the chance for you to expand your network, both
personally and professionally. Working around and sharing responsibilities
with other artists means that you'll be constantly introduced to
others' styles, opinions and points-of-view. Other artists can provide
you with insightful feedback and suggestions on your own work.
Another networking opportunity comes in the form of clients or potential
buyers. Each artist in the co-op probably has a 'following' of patrons
who've purchased their work before. During open houses and tours,
artists will have the chance to meet other artist's clients, expanding
their own circle of potential buyers.
-----> Consider a 'getting-to-know-you' event where artists'
customers, friends and family are invited to meet other artists
in the cooperative. You can schedule this for shortly after you've
opened your doors' it doesn't need to be a huge, formal event.
Many artist's want to give something back to their community-to
nurture upcoming artists in their area. But as an individual artist,
things like hosting a workshop or providing a class may be difficult
at best, impossible at worst. Artists co-ops can make education
a part of their mission--and can increase awareness and revenues
at the same time--by offering and promoting educational opportunities
within their community.
Because the responsibilities of setting up, promoting, managing,
staffing and supporting the outreach activities are shared, no one
person takes on all of the risk (or reaps all of the reward.).
-----> Before offering ongoing classes, use half-day and full-day
workshops to gauge the interest (and willingness to pay) of your
community. These workshops will also give you the chance to 'practice'
the process that will be involved in running classes.
Though not a substitute for advice from your tax professional or
certified public accountant, it's worth mentioning: Many artists
cooperatives have sought and obtained nonprofit status. In addition
to helping protect the personal assets of everyone involved (the
nonprofit is a business entity, whereas a group of artists working
together is not), going for nonprofit status will add structure
to the cooperative (through the development of a board of directors
and other managerial positions.) Also, special government considerations,
tax-exempt status and grants may be available to help the group
-----> Nonprofit organizations are often given more consideration
by the media than their for-profit counterparts—for example, a nonprofit
has a better chance of getting the local TV station to cover their
workshop than a for-profit organization does. Use this status to
Lots Of Work
The reason why an artists cooperative works is because many people
are assuming responsibilities within the organization, instead of
one individual artist making each decision and performing each task.
Starting and maintaining artists cooperatives can be time consuming.
From selecting and recruiting members to getting finances and other
details set up to manning the gallery while it's open, artists involved
in co- ops often get to play the role of gallery owner, janitor
and envelope stuffer, all in the same day.
-----> In order for the cooperative to run smoothly, each member
needs to do what he or she say they're going to do when they said
they'd do it. But that doesn't mean that artists can trade schedules
and tasks amongst themselves.
Gotta Pay Your Dues:
Artists cooperatives know that money doesn't grow on trees-it comes
from each individual artist who has joined. And while your 'share'
of the monthly pot will almost certainly be less than what you would've
spent on your own, even $50 a month can seem like too much if your
work isn't selling or you haven't been happy with each decision
the cooperative has made. Artists who join a cooperative must agree
to be dues paying members for a minimum amount of time in order
to allow the cooperative to forecast finances and plan accordingly
-----> To calculate dues, divide the total monthly budget amount
by the number of members you want your cooperative to have. Consider
including an 'emergency fund' in your monthly budget amount.
Along with the shared responsibilities come shared choices. Because
artist's cooperatives represent several artists, those artists must
be able to come to agreement on decisions regarding everything from
which space to rent to which color scheme to paint the interior
to which font to use on the marketing flyer. If you're used to being
the master of your own domain, this shift in decision-making me
feel awkward to you at first.
-----> Be willing to be flexible. Even among the best of friends,
reaching consensus can be difficult…and in most cases, a less-than-ideal
decision is better than no decision at all.
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