I ask this from the perspective of the artists’ advocate that I am at heart. To clarify, when I use the term ‘artist’ I am referring to those working in any fine art medium including photography, ceramics and sculpture.
Think about what a great art event does for any community. It attracts tourists and brings out the locals, creating a lot of energy and excitement along with a great boost to the local economy. Without the artists, there is no ‘boon’. The artists themselves can have a great show or can walk away with absolutely nothing. The local stores, restaurants and hotels benefit no matter what from the artists’ presence.
I often think about what an artist has to go through to exhibit and participate in such events. First, there is the process of creating and presenting a body of work to be juried into the show. Generally, there are non-refundable application fees that must be paid for this consideration. Then, there is the expense of the venue itself (that can run into the thousands) for which most artists also have to provide their own tents. And then there is the cost of travel, the cost and labor of transporting the work to and from the show, and lodging. Now, if Mother Nature is feeling kind, it can be a guilty pleasure to sit outside, talk to buyers about one’s art and call that ‘work’ but that kind of luck can be rare, especially here in the Mid-West where high heat, summer storms and humidity can truly make one ‘toast’.
|Terry Abrams booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair|
Here is my point: Professionals of any kind make what they do look easy. We don’t see the back-story, only the result - the beautiful presentation. The exhibiting artist goes through so much to bring this joy and excitement to our communities. Why, on top of all of this, should they be taxed on the sale of their work?
I posed this question to a couple close art loving friends (one a doctor, the other an attorney) on a recent evening walk. Being great friends, I can always count on them for lively debate. Here’s the counterpoint.
When a city hosts an outdoor art event, there is a tremendous amount of investment, planning and other logistics that insure a great experience for both the artists and the public. It’s the city’s obligation to attract the best possible audience for the artists, giving them maximum exposure and opportunity to be discovered and sell their works, so a great promotional effort is necessary. The city also provides safety and security services, requisite sanitary facilities, coordinates parking and volunteer efforts, and blocks off streets for the exhibitors.
I hadn’t even considered those realities.
However, the question in my mind still remains; do the taxes from the sale of the art make a significant dent in an event’s budget? Is it really worth making an artist’s work that much more expensive for the buyer? Should street fairs be an opportunity for buyers to choose great original art at the lowest possible price without the discount coming out of the artist’s pockets, given what they’ve gone through to be there in the first place?
I would love to know what you think!