This posting is a little long but please read through to the end.
I received an e-copy of the Artist Doll & Teddy Bear Club Newsletter produced by Terry and Susan Quinlan and it inspired this letter to you all, my fellow artists. Regardless of how you may feel about the Quinlans (and they have certainly not endeared themselves to everyone), two points in their August 2012 issue are worth bringing to your attention concerning the state of art as a business (no matter what your art) and the place of artists in securing their own success. (For those not familiar, the Quinlans created the “Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum and Library” in California, are huge collectors and currently run an annual convention.)
Firstly, we have to find new markets for our work. The attendees to the Teddy shows, or the dolls shows or the art shows already know we exist and understand what they are coming to see. We have to go out and find new audience members and show them how awesome we are and what incredible things we create. Artists need to get active and get noticed, by getting into newspapers and non-art magazines, taking part in non-traditional venues and informing potential new fans. Our Hallowe’en tour, I’m happy to say, does this very well: with 22 000 receiving Bat Conservation International’s e-newsletter (according to BATS magazine, Spring 2012 issue) and 26 000 Facebook “fans” of Bat World (according to the President Amanda Lollar) we are reaching out to a huge group of people that (except for potentially a small set) never knew we were out there.
Secondly, we need to work as a team, “working as a single profession toward a common goal”. Working as isolated individuals is not the best way to function but as a group we’re boundless! Consider again our tour: alone, I can’t reach too many people, I can only advertise so far, but if each artist pitches in we, as a group, reach a HUGH number, everyone of us sharing our pool of contacts and our community networks for the benefit of the entire group. Times are tight, money is tight, so consequently there is no room for “free-loaders” any longer. I believe the Quinlans were sadly dead-on with their statement that “We have too many “takers” in the artist doll and Teddy Bear world”, too many who expect others to do the work for them, hurting their own profession. In my own experience co-organizing a local craft fair, I was startled by fellow artists who were downright resentful and angry when asked to help participate in the promotion of the event, as if it were beneath them. “How dare you ask?” was their reply, direct or indirect, and one even said it was enough that he create his art and show up at our event, as if he was doing the event a favor. Again, I return to our Hallowe’en tour: with participation in the tour set at $28 which goes directly to the bat conservation groups, there is NO money for advertising, it is ALL word of mouth and signing up means you agree to help spread the word. This can be done in many ways, both virtual and physical, by using your online options like your websites, Facebook pages, twitter accounts, blogs, etc…, by getting the tour included in show listings, and by hanging posters, distributing bookmarks or pamphlets (all available here: http://www.scratchingatthewindow.com/trick_or_treat/for_artists.htm) at shows, leaving bookmarks at your doctors’ offices, your public libraries, etc… I hope some of you seize this opportunity to write to your local papers, etc… to say “Hey, do you know about bats and the trouble they’re in? I’m taking part in this great show to help raise awareness.” (If you want additional bat information for your article, just ask!) What a boon to you, our tour and the artist community!
So, there you are. Do you have an opinion? How do you plan to be an active participant? What do you think the role of the artist should be in today’s climate? Please feel free to express yourself and share with the group.