Artists Taking Steps Toward PARECON

Artists create not just a thing of value, we create the thing of value.  And yet, we live on the margins and accept our status as "starving."  Part of the problem is that we also accept our situation as is, without thinking much about it. The problem is that our creative abilities are directed toward the production of a thing, as opposed to a better situation. When we step back and look at our situation, it is quite easy to create better situations where we as artists and the larger community are better served.  It is quite easy to take a step toward a more democratic or participatory economy (PARECON) where we have some control over what we do and who we become.


For example, most of us have had experience exhibiting art with art consultants in "downtown" corporate buildings. This situation typically goes like this: the art consultant, who contracts with property managers, finds artists who wish to exhibit. We surrender our work, for free, for a month or so and if we happen to sell, we get 60 percent and the art consultant takes 40 percent.  Sound good?


When I was searching for new exhibition sites for a San Francisco exhibition group, I investigated the lobby exhibition situation a little further. I was astonished to find that art consultants were getting four to seven thousand dollars per month simply to organize the exhibition. So I decided to take a different approach.


First, I put together a portfolio of our group’s work and thus was able to offer a broader, better range of artists to property managers. We got two contracts.


We immediately gave half of our proceeds to participating artists so that artists were paid to exhibit.  This came out to about $1,500 per month per artist. And if any work were sold, the artist was given 100 percent. The other half of the proceeds was given over to the group, which was sufficient to pay for many of our expenses (we had over 50 outdoor exhibitions in San Francisco), which then brought outdoor exhibition fees to zero. Thus, with regard to our outdoor shows, artists paid zip and also received 100 percent of sales proceeds.


The point is that our creativity can extend beyond the canvas; we need not live on the margin. We can transform our situation and make it easier to become the artists we are.

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