Artist Co-ops offer Many Benefits
If you’re an are artist you have probably wondered before about joining an artist co-op. Why would you want to join? Is it worth the membership fee? What would you gain from membership? As an artist, I can attest that belonging to an artist co-op offers many perks, and I thought that today I’d list some of them.
Increased Opportunity to Sell
Most co-ops have galleries exclusively for member’s work. Even those that don’t have an actual gallery will usually have opportunities to share the cost a booth at art shows. Most emerging artists have difficulty coming up with the $100-$200 per day a booth at an art show costs, especially considering that there is no guarantee of selling anything, and splitting that cost with even one or two other artists can really help. in addition, co-ops will often have deals with local restaurants and other businesses to display work for sale, and lets face it, they are more open to someone coming to them with an official sounding name like “South End Artist League Co-op”, than they are to an individual coming in and saying, “Hey, I paint pictures, I was wondering if you’d allow me to display my work here.”
Many artists have a tendency to be reclusive, its usually not because they dislike people though, more often than not its because they get wrapped up in their work, which is usually not something that needs to involve others. There’s also the fact that many artists feel that they don’t quite fit with the typical crowd. Artists and other creatives have brains that are wired differently, some would say we are right brain dominant, and we sometimes find it difficult to interact with the more left-brained majority. (Incidentally, the degree of this varies from person to person, I tend to be very global in those right brain vs left brain tests, with only a slight leaning to the right, and I still have a lot of trouble relating to extremely left brained individuals). Whether its left brain vs. right bright brain, or whether its just that non-creatives don’t share the same interests, it is really refreshing to get together with others who fully understand the statement, “Yes, I was hungry, but I forgot about eating because I was trying to finish this drawing.” Only another artist doesn’t raise an eyebrow if they hear you saying you don’t know how you are going to pay rent this month, while simultaneously handing the cashier at the art supply store your debit card to pay for your $70+ order of paints and canvases. Its also nice to get together with people who understand how excited you are over trying a painting medium you never tried before.
If nothing else, a co-op makes us get out of our houses and private studios, and get together with others on occasion.
Learning from other Artists
Some artists have gone to art school and tried a lot of different techniques and mediums as part of their course of study, but a lot of artists are mostly self-taught. These artists might have taken a few High School level art classes, and a workshop or class here and there, but that’s it. Other than those things they have learned through books, YouTube videos, and trial and error. Regardless of whether an artist has a MFA, BFA, or is self taught, most will acknowledge that most of their learning comes from practice, practice, practice. Most will also acknowledge that they don’t know it all, and often learn new things just from being around other artists. The artist with a degree in design might know a lot about how to compose an art work perfectly, but not really know much at all about how to paint with actual paints, as opposed to computer programs, on the other hand, a painter might be very skillful in handling the actual medium of paint, but may need to learn some tricks on composition and color use, and might really want to learn how do digital art. Both can teach each other, and both may learn something about passion and excitement from the brand new, completely untaught artist.
The artist who usually paints in acrylic might really benefit from working side by side with the mixed media artist or the watercolor painter. etc. The point is that by belonging to a co-op, and interacting socially with other artists, we have that chance to learn something new, or to be reminded of things we might not have utilized since a long ago college course.
Learning from other people.
Okay, this kind of goes with the one above, but its not just art we learn from each other. We might learn about effective ways to greet potential customers, what our tax requirements are, best methods of bookkeeping, what we can legally deduct from our income, and how to protect our work from copyright infringement. The list could go on.
The Opportunity to Pool Resources
Bulk orders of art supplies, splitting rent on a studio, sharing booth fees at art shows, purchasing a high end printer for giclee prints, all things that it might be difficult for one person to do alone, but are feasible when done as group and sharing the cost. Even running the gallery, if an artist tried to open their own studio/gallery combination, that artist would have to be there all the time during open hours, or hire help. A co-op can divide those hours up among all members, rather than paying employees to keep the gallery open.
A Place to Teach
I enjoy teaching painting classes, some artists like teaching drawing, some really like teaching kids, a co-op studio offers a place to that.
Those are the benefits of belonging to a co-op studio/gallery, like the one I belong to. Of course there are drawbacks too, but I’ll address those in a different post.