December 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It seems redundant to say that its been a busy fall. You may have noticed this blog being updated inconsistently, if at all, and wondered, “Hey, Killerfemme? What’s up? Where did you go?”
What’s up is actually a lot of good news as far as writing is concerned. I’ve been busy writing grants and essays for filmmakers, musicians and visual artists as a freelancer. I’ve also been working on a book project. Yes, you heard me, book project. In the spring of 2013 I will be a published author! Stay tuned, I can’t wait to tell you more, but for now, here’s what I’ve up to in the writing department:
I’ve started writing monthly for Idealist.org’s career blog and offer advice and ideas for emerging nonprofit professionals. Recent topics have included strategies for cementing the connections you make with people you meet at conferences and events and thoughts about how generosity can further your career. Starting in January I’ll be writing a regular column focusing on taking your nonprofit career to the next level.
I wrote a whole slew of portraits of fifteen innovative arts organizations in New York City for ArtsFwd.org and was impressed with the ideas and programs that these organizations have implemented that are going to shift the cultural landscape of the city.
Once a month I will profile a DIY business for the DIY Business Association, starting with HK Honey, a collective of urban beekeepers, designers, and artists in Hong Kong dedicated to promoting the value of bees and locally produced honey.
I also realized I miss writing about music, so I’ve started writing for a brand new magazine called Boxx, whose tagline is “Where women are heard,” and will focus on lady-powered music. My first review is of the incredible Other Lives, who hail from Oklahoma (I also got to take the pictures for the review, which was a lot of fun).
Thanks for reading and more writing to come and, hopefully, now that the mass of edits is done on my forthcoming book, I’ll be branching out and writing for more blogs and publications. I’ll keep you in the loop!
July 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Do you make something that you love? If so, how much is it worth to you?
Last column I introduced the concept of value when it comes to paying yourself for your time and expertise. In this installment of the Creative Money Maker we are going to continue the conversation about value as it relates to setting prices for the products that you make.
Earning income from selling a product is what we most often thing of as “making money.” Just like the rest of your budget, you want to plan carefully for earned income.
This column will help you avoid two of the biggest pitfalls creative people make when pricing their work: under pricing their work because they under value themselves and over estimating how much they will make from sales because they don’t know their market.
Antonio Ramos from Brooklyn Soda Works explained to me that, “It is difficult to change the price once you start your project. When pricing factor in the following: What does it cost to make? How long does it take to make it? What profit can you make from your product at a price people will pay without compromising the essential nature of your project?”
Similar to paying yourself for your time, there is no specific formula to determine the price for your work. When you assign a price you assign a value to your work. When you set out to do so, it is important to have a sense of how valuable you want your item to seem to your customers. Here are a few basic guidelines to help you set a price:
- Know how much the raw materials to make your item cost. You want to be sure these costs are covered
- Does your item include rare or expensive materials or a process which demands unique skills to create that would make your price higher?
- How much time does it take to make your item? You price should cover this time, including the time it took to create and refine the idea. For example, for a band this would include writing and rehearsal of a song
- Know the standard price for your object or event – how much do other items like yours sell for?
- How much are your customers willing to pay? How little would make them think it is too cheap and not worth their time?
- How valuable is your item? Pricing and money is about assigning a value, so you want to make sure you don’t under value your creation or yourself
- Refer to pricing guides for your specific disciplines, such as crafts, visual arts, graphic arts, music, and edible goods. There’s rarely a specific formula, but depending on the discipline their may be industry wide standards
For an example of adding value to the product you produce: In the early 2000s the going rate for a zine was one or two dollars, no matter how many pages it had. When I incorporated art papers, letterpress printing and hand binding into my zines I decided to break from tradition and charge five dollars for them. I was worried I would receive criticism for how “expensive” my zine had become, but the exact opposite happened! Those who picked up my zine valued the time, effort and care I had put into it and people still tell me they have kept them and cherish them as art objects.
Once you have gotten a sense how much it takes you to make your item and how much you want to charge, it’s time to get out a pencil and paper and determine your total cost to produce one item, the wholesale price and the retail price.
Total cost to produce your item: this is the basic cost of materials, labor and time it takes for you to make one item. This should not be your price, but you should know how much each item takes to produce.
Wholesale price: This is the price to which you offer your product to retailers. You will be offering your items to retailers at a “markup” price on your base cost. The markup should cover your overhead, such as your studio space and your tools. There’s no hard and fast formula for determining the wholesale price, but it can range between 100 and 300 percent of the total cost, depending on the kind of product you are offering.
Retail price: This is the price you suggest to retailers to sell your item. This can be twice or even three times the wholesale price. Remember, retailers take a percentage of the sale of your item to cover their costs. When you are selling your item yourself, such as through a website or in person, you should offer it at the resale price. You don’t want to undersell yourself or the retailers that are carrying your work!
It may surprise you to hear there are no specific formulas for assigning a value to your work, but take your time to research price strategies for your specific field. The most important aspects of pricing are that you need to feel confident in your prices and that your customers need to feel they are receiving something valuable to them at a price that feels good.
The Creative Money Maker was developed in collaboration with the DIY Business Association.
June 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’m really excited to tell you about a great, new project that I’m involved in. The Brooklyn Museum, my favorite museum in the world, has launched GO, a community-curated, open studio event. During GO, Brooklyn-based artists are asked to open their studios to the community on September 8–9, 2012. Community members registered as voters will visit studios and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012.
GO brings together so many of my favorite things: contemporary art, the Brooklyn art scene, social media, and the cultural life of the borough. Knowing that Brooklyn is a huge borough with 71 square miles and 67 different neighborhoods, the Brooklyn Museum is working with 22 neighborhood coordinators to help get the word out. I’m serving as a neighborhood coordinator for my favorite Brooklyn neighborhood, Sunset Park. If you see a redhead taking up posters or distributing GO postcards along 5th avenue or down in the industrial waterfront, that just might be me! You can meet the different coordinators, learn about art highlights in different neighborhoods, and learn more about the GO project on the very lively GO tumblr.
If you are artist with a studio in Brooklyn you have until June 29 to register to participate in the open studio weekend. You can find out more and register on the GO website. If you don’t have a studio, but want to go see art in Brooklyn on September 8th and 9th, mark your calendar! Registration for voters opens August 1st.
December 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Since graduating from college I have made my career in arts institutions. I’ve worked as a museum educator, public programmer, and now work to support artists in their fund raising and teaching artists about services and resources that can help them grow their practice. In my studies I’ve focused on the arts in the realm of cultural and social policy and thought about the kind of quantitative research that can be applied to arts organizations to better understand and articulate the value of arts and culture in society. I’m excited to announce that for the next few months about I will be blogging about some of these topics as a blogging fellow on the new website ArtsFwd. ArtsFwd examines innovative practices in arts leadership and is a really exciting place for sharing ideas and about adaptive strategies to create dynamic change in the arts sector and move it, well, forward.
My first piece explored arts leadership in rural areas, which features Melissa Bob, the new Interim Executive Director of Crow’s Shadow Institute outside of Pendleton, Oregon. My second piece profiles the Teen Arts Council blog at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and shares some fantastic ideas of how arts organizations can effectively engage teens and honor their voices in an arts institution. I hope you’ll check these out and join us in the conversation! There’s a lot more innovation to come from ArtsFwd, and we’d love your input!
October 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Texas has its own mythology. Its own place in the American imagination. Depending on who you ask Texas is the reason for the United State’s current political mess, or the greatest place in the US, or somewhere in between. It is a universe unto itself, a huge and diverse place, full of long drives and very pretty countryside. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there in mid-September and take in some of the cities and sites. And of course, the Tex-Mex food.
When I first got to Houston I felt overwhelmed by the highways, humidity and strangely quiet downtown. I hid in a Starbucks and tapped away on my computer. Thankfully, the next day some native Houstonians helped me get hip to the more alternative and arty side of Houston. One of the huge highlights is the Orange Show, a folk art environment created by a postal worker named Jeff McKissack that was began in 1956 and completed in 1979. I loved the Orange Show’s immersive space and the passionate group of people behind the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art that are working to preserve it and other “folk” or “self-taught” art environments and traditions in Houston.
I also soaked up some more “traditional” art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston where I soaked up a room sized mural of mountains and flowers that looked like a traditional Chinese ink painting, but was made out of gunpowder by Cai Guo Qiang. I also discovered the self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon and spent several minutes in front of it contemplating her sheer determination to paint and make a life for herself as a woman artist. In their gift shop I picked up two Frenchie books – My Little Paris (en anglais because I am a cheater) and Ines de la Fressange’s guide to Parisian style. I visited the Menil Collection, including their hotly contested Bzyantine fresco chapel which is being returned to Cyprus next year, and some smaller art spaces like the awesome Spacetaker artists resource center and gallery.
I also fortunately got away from the corporate style restaurants downtown and found one of my favorite things about Texas: spacious coffee shops with nice breakfast menus and outdoor seating. These places are so inviting, like you just want to hang out all day eating and sipping fair trade coffee. I enjoyed both Brasil and Empire Cafe (which are quite close to one another and the Menil Collection) as well as the super El Real, which has great Tex-Mex and is in an old movie theater!
After Houston I took a quick, few hour stop in San Antonio, and then rolled on to Austin. After some frenetic days of work on the road I took a little bit of time to unwind with my friend Jennifer. We took a drive about an hour outside of Austin to Krause Springs. Located in the rolling hill country it almost feels like a folk art environment as well, with rock pools, wind chimes and a spring fed lagoon. While Krause Springs felt like an oasis, Texas is going through one of its worst droughts on record and we drove through the remnants of a fire on the way there, charred trees with ashy leaves making the landscape look otherworldly.
I couldn’t skip eating Tex-Mex in Austin either, of course, and Austin is home to even more fantastic cafes with outdoor seating and of course, coffee shops that serve the delicious (and huge!) breakfast tacos.
But of course, after all that Tex-Mex I took a little break and Jennifer, her friend Jennifer and I had a lovely girlie dinner at a perfectly French brasserie called Justine’s with lovely food and delicious cocktails (also check out the “amazing” section of their website).
I also managed a visit to the Austin Film Society, Arthouse Texas and Domy Books, where we saw a wonderful opening, I connected with an old zinester friend, and purchased a book called I ♥ Macarons. Indeed, it seems like I found a lot of France and a lot of art and a few friends in Texas, even though I didn’t visit Paris (Texas).
October 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Impractical who? Speculative what? What is she on about? If you love bookbinding, zines, letterpress printing, type writers, old Polaroid cameras, and any and all things that have to do with obsolete technology, you will love this project. Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts was started by Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned, two artists who are letterpress printers and bookmakers that I greatly admire. It was Emily who suggested I intern at Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance, my first internship in New York. I also worked in Emily’s studio all through college, binding books, scoring and folding CD covers, and sorting type, in exchange for the use of her beautiful Vandercook press and lovingly homemade lunches. It was this kind of impractical labor, and Emily’s inspiring example of how to do it, that made me think very carefully and clearly about what it meant to be an artist and how one builds an artist’s life and balances their life and work.
Bridget and Emily’s project/organization is a membership organization that borrows from ideas of a labor union and a research institute and a performance project all rolled into one. I was very flattered to interview them for NYFA Current and I hope you will read the full interview here about their activities.
September 16, 2011 § 2 Comments
Far into the wilds of southwestern New Hampshire, down a back road shadowed by pine trees, is the MacDowell Colony. It is an artists’ residency that is over 100 years old tucked away in the small town of Peterborough. It was founded by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marion, a pianist, who bought a farm there in 1896. Edward felt he created his best work in on the farm and when he passed away Marion championed the idea of giving artists a chance to thrive in the same environment he found so inspiring.
The MacDowell Colony invites artists from all disciplines to take part in a residency where they work in a community with their peers. Artistic excellence is the only standard for acceptance and all room, board and tuition is covered.
Entering the grounds of MacDowell feels stepping into a unique microcosm of society. Each resident is given a bike to use to travel around the campus to their studio, residence and the library. There are regular talks and presentations. The food is locally produced, much of it grown on the MacDowell campus. A local sheep herder brings their sheep to graze on the fields of the colony during the day.
I also admired MacDowell’s openness and interaction with the local community in Peterborough and Southwestern New Hampshire. They regularly host lectures, presentations, screenings, and performances that are open to the public both on the campus and in downtown Peterborough, a super cute New England village if I’ve ever seen one (and I’ve seen a lot!). The Resident Director David Macy is very involved in making Southwestern New Hampshire a culturally vibrant place and is involved in town and regional planning organizations. I think this speaks volumes to the strength and history of the colony and how it is not just an isolated place for artists to perfect their craft, but a dynamic organization that helps serve as a cultural anchor for the region.
I have a secret dream to move back to Maine and start an artists residency and organic restaurant on my parents’ farm. David’s involvement in cultural development in Southwestern New Hampshire helped me see that my vision could also combine my interest in city planning and public policy and that a pastoral artists residency can also be a responsible community member.
August 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
There was a New York City that I dreamed of when I was growing up. It was a mixture of Greenwich Village during the Beatnik era and the Lower East Side of the 1980′s. It was full of punks, dreamers, activists and artists. The dangers that might have been lurking there were more aesthetic than real. Poverty and hunger were stylish accouterments. All who were there possessed the ability to transform the urban environment. While obviously this political, arty urban paradise existed only in my imagination some lived it in all its gritty, dangerous, complicated, hungry reality. Patty Smith lucidly captures it in her recent book Just Kids. Gary Indiana’s new compilation out from MIT Press, Last Seen Entering the Biltmore, collects his poems, prose, short plays and works of art from the late 70′s to the present, chronicling through his artistic production his time in this environment after he made the decision to “not to do anything he didn’t want to do” and to become a writer. Last Seen Entering the Biltmore captures Indiana’s sense of absurd and also his strong artistic integrity. I wrote a full review for NYFA’s online magazine for artists, NYFA Current, and would be honored if you checked it out here.
June 27, 2011 § 6 Comments
What compels an artist to create art? Is it internal or external? Is it the environment, inspiration from peers and community members, or simply having the space, time and opportunity to work? What environment is most nurturing to art and what type? Do artists create better in urban centers, buzzing with life, where their daily peregrinations and haphazard meetings can be the source of inspiration? Or do they need peace, quiet, solitude, nature and focus? While I live and work in the first set of circumstances (Brooklyn has the highest per capita of artists of New York’s five boroughs), I’m curious about the second. Specifically, the intentional artist’s community.
This summer I am setting out to explore artist residencies, retreats or schools that have consciously built themselves away from urban environments. They are all situated in locations of surprising natural beauty, yet each has a particular history and offers artists a particular experience.
Places like MacDowell and Byrdcliffe reach back one hundred years or more, while others, like the Vermont Studio Center, reinvent the tradition. This summer I will be traveling to residencies, retreats, art schools and colonies in Vermont, New York State, New Hampshire and Maine, reaching out for work, but documenting these unique places for myself and for this project. I’m searching for insight into artistic inspiration, ideas about what binds an artistic community, and educating myself about an important tradition in the history of making art in the United States.
My first stop was a seven hour drive north of New York City to Johnson, Vermont, which is practically on the Quebec border. I visited the Vermont Studio Center, which is a relative newcomer to the artist residency scene, and was founded by artists in 1984. Housed in a series of old mill buildings, and even the old town hall, the Studio Center integrates with the tiny town of Johnson. The residency itself is very independent—residents, who are visual artists and writers—come together for meals and studio visits, but that’s about it. Otherwise, they work in their studios and many of them work to keep the residency running. The residents themselves are diverse and hail from all parts of the world and are at all stages of their careers as artists. Serious, community oriented, independent, all set in a very tranquil northern landscape of lush hills, rivers and forests. While I’m generally unmoved by northern landscape (having grown up in one), the Vermont Studio Center felt like an escape for me as well. I hope one day to return as a resident.
May 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The first tweet I wrote when I landed in Phoenix said, “I hope I don’t get kicked out of Arizona for looking like an immigrant.” Arizona has drawn quite a lot of media scorn for the proposal, which was thankfully defeated, to stop and ID anyone who might look like they were an undocumented immigrant. While there’s a lot of conservative, reactionary politics going on in the United States, Arizona seems like the epicenter of some of the most virulently racist and reactionary policy proposals. Tucson even wants to succeed and form their own state to get away from some of the worst of these policies. However, there’s another side to Arizona. It’s a stark, beautiful, other worldly landscape. There’s a vibrant cultural scene and strong history and everyone I met (who granted were all involved in the arts) were friendly and welcoming and happy to show me another side of Arizona.
Despite being a short flight from Albuquerque, Phoenix felt very different. While Albuquerque quickly receded into the desert, Phoenix’s suburbs sprawled out along palm tree lined avenues. “Who do they think they are, L.A.?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but tucked into Phoenix’s sprawl is a vibrant, growing downtown arts scene. It is anchored by the Alwun House, a historic house that presents exhibits and performances of all kinds and takes an active role in the revitalization of the neighborhood. I tried out Carly’s Bistro, a fresh, local culinary establishment that’s open late serving good food and cocktails with a rock and roll feel. Try the whiskey sangria!
Across the river from Phoenix in Tempe is the gleaming Tempe Center for the Arts that presents performing and visual arts, as well as art education programs. During an opening for their exhibition Twenty Questions I even met the grand daughter of the man who founded Tempe – that just shows how new towns and cities in the west are compared to the east.
I didn’t stay in Phoenix long, however, and after a fruitless morning of trying to buy sun hat (are these people in denial they live in the desert or what?) I headed down to the Saguaro National Forest and then to Tucson. I first stopped at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museumto look at living exhibits of native desert plants and animals. I loved the chance to see coyotes, javalinas (they look like wild boars) and a very sleepy brown bear up close, but if you are looking for desert walking I would skip the Desert Museum and go straight to the Saguaro National Forest.
I got there in the afternoon and was happily surprised to find out the park was free thanks to National Parks Week. I talked with a Ranger who recommended a 3-mile hike to the top of a ridge and gave me this warning, “Since you are unfamiliar with the landscape I will warn you to be careful when you are walking down hill during sunset because you don’t want to step on a rattlesnake.” No thanks, I did not!
I had never seen a Saguaro cactus up close before and I could not get enough of them! Their arms! Their spines! Like trees, but not at all! So stoic against the elements!
After a few hours of wandering around among the Saguaros I drove into Tucson and checked into the Hotel Arizona. I had a corner room and could see the sunset over Grant’s Pass.
However, it was Easter Sunday and I was worried, where would I find anything to eat that wasn’t a chain restaurant in downtown Tucson? I asked the teenage front desk clerk and he suggested The Grill, “It’s kind of a greasy spoon…” he explained. Sure, why not. I wandered towards where he suggested and found myself face to face with a classic, American diner. It was as if I had dreamed it. Punk rock, queer teen waiter, great menu, perfect vinyl covered booths, and a hamburger that tasted like it had been homemade, not pulled out of a freezer. Did I mention it was open 24 hours?
I felt like I had been transported into an issue of Puberty Strike zine, published by Seth Bogartin the 1990′s and extoling the virtues and vices of teenage life in Tucson. The Grill felt surely like the place the coolest teens in town would hang out. But now that I’m an adult I needed a drink after all my wandering in the desert. “Do you have a bar?” I asked the waiter, a little desperate because I had seen the hotel bar close at 7:30. “We have a great bar next door, they open at eight.” Was I dreaming?
After I finished the best hamburger I’ve eaten besides those that SMH makes me I wandered over to the bar. Now I was really dreaming. The Red Room, the bar attached to The Grill has a menu of carefully selected Belgian beers and American microbrews. As I sipped on a perfect blonde ale from Belgium I noticed cocktail making accouterments. “You make cocktails too?” I asked the bartender, “What are the drinks you like making lately?” Once I finished my beer I ordered one that he suggested, the Death in the Afternoon, a mixture of Absinthe, champagne, bitters and soda water, garnished with freshly picked Borage flowers. For $6! I laughed as I paid him, saying, “I live in New York and there this would cost $12!” “No,” he said, “I was just there, it was $14!”
The next day I was treated to a walking tour of Tucson’s rail yards gallery and studio district. I really liked discovering art and radical community projects such as Bicas, a bike recycling and education center, and the Citizens Art collective. I also got to drop in on the intense universe of Mat Bevel, who makes immersive kinetic sculptures out of found objects. When all the sculptures were activated his studio and gallery space was cacophonous and transporting. We also dropped in on Santa Theresa Tile Works, who make gorgeous hand made ceramic tiles, and and Raices Taller, a nonprofit community gallery focused on the Latino/a community (but not only).
After all that inspiration I was also able to fit in a little bit of thrift store shopping at a richly endowed and modestly priced Goodwill. I don’t even both with the Goodwill stores in NYC, but I knew this one wouldn’t be so picked over. I scored two skirts, a pair of light wash Levi jean shorts that will either be my best fashion addition for the summer or a huge mistake, and a work-appropriate button shirt, all for $20! I also popped into Preen, a beautiful vintage shop that also sells records by local bands and some local fashions. I picked up a vintage Vera scarf that reminded me of a 60′s flight attendant uniform in a good way.
Finally, to cool off from all the shopping I caught a drink at the lovingly restored Hotel Congress, where I could have stayed all afternoon if I didn’t have to work! Since Tucson was the last stop on my southwest tour I celebrated with a fancy dinner and cocktail at 47 Scott. My drink was infused with sage, which felt like a fitting tribute to the end of an inspiring journey through a (previously) unknown land.
There’s more Arizona on my Flickr stream.