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"The Independent Artist"
Issue V, April 2009

Page 8

NAIA: At Work for You

NAIA Voices: New Members

by Cynthia Davis, Photographerr, NAIA Staff, www.CynthiaDavis.com

Cynthia Davis

During these tough economic times artists are hunkering down, trimming costs and expenses, trying to figure out alternative ways in which to market their work. In a word: Survive!
The NAIA has had an influx of new members recently, and I decided to ask some of them about their motivation to join the NAIA at this particular time. Their answers were as varied as their media.

John Coburn Ceramist
John Coburn, a ceramicist from Tennessee has been selling his work at art shows since 1985. John was first told about the NAIA by Craig Nutt (Craft Emergency Relief Fund Director of Programs). Then another woodworker suggested to John that he join the NAIA and he did. John says, I like the NAIA and everything it works for, and Im glad that there is an organization that speaks for me. Times are tough economically, and Im glad that I make affordable domesti accessories for every room in the house that people can justify buying. We will survive. People need pots and people need art. Cause and effect is a law and as long as creative people keep making what people need, then artists such as myself will not only survive, but will thrive.

Tom Mills Photographer
Oklahoma photographer Wm. Thomas Tom Mills is just starting to explore selling his work at art festivals. Tom initially learned about the NAIA through a Yahoo forum for photographers who sell their work at art shows. He looked up the NAIA web site and simply joined, wanting to learn more about the national art show scene. Tom is not optimistic about the economy and its effect on artists. Loss of jobs and inflation means fewer people who can afford to invest in the arts and greater competition for the fewer well-healed patrons.

Jacqueline JAX Ryan Milliner
JAX Ryan of San Francisco, has been selling her hand-made hats at art shows since 1996, but she only first heard about the NAIA a few years ago. JAX was selected to be on the Artist Advisory Committee for the Tempe Festival of the Arts and the show director suggested that she join the NAIA, and so she did. JAX says that her to shows in 2005 after visiting the Cherry Creek Art Festival. He had been previously selling his work through galleries and working as a special projects painter with architect Robert Venturi, but the notion of taking it directly to the people intrigued him. Michael found that he really enjoyed doing shows and talking to patrons directly. It was heartening to hear viewers pick up on aspects of the work that often either were ignored or went over the head of a gallery owner. Plus I do better

Join NAIA!

at the art festivals than I typically do at a gallery!
Michaels first introduction to the NAIA was at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. The NAIA had a Town Hall Meeting and then another one at the Coconut Grove Art Festival that he attended. That piqued my interest, as it seemed you were doing good work for artists. I had visited your website earlier, and had used your show list to investigate shows. Because of your advocacy on the behalf of artists, I thought I would join. I am pleased with what I have experienced so far. The forums are very useful. Because of the posts, I applied to Fort Worth, not previously being aware of the show. I also signed up for CheckInn Direct.

Isabella Bjenning Painter
Isabella, from the state of New York, is our youngest NAIA member. At almost 11 she has been going to shows with her mom, Christina, but doesnt have enough of her own art yet for her own booth. Isabella wants to start selling her art at shows and online and her mom said that she might be interested in the NAIA. So she joined the NAIA this year in a joint membership with her mom. Isabella loves her membership card and certificate. Im proud to be part of an organization of artists.

Sarah Pollock Pastel Artist
Sarah Pollock has been marketing her pastels at art shows since 2005. Her first show was in her home state of Pennsylvania at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. It went well enough for her to recoup her investment in a Trimline canopy. More importantly it dispelled her inner doubts about whether her artwork could find a market.
Sarah first learned about the NAIA on the Art Fair SourceBook Forums a few years ago. Sarah said she joined for two reasons. First, I suffered through a university art program that taught me nothing about the practicalities of being an independent artist. Since joining the outdoor art show circuit, Ive been impressed by the determination, savviness, and pragmatism of other artists that Ive met. As a relative newcomer to this arena, I still feel that Im learning with each show and the best advice and tips have come from my fellow artists who have learned by doing. Joining NAIA seemed like a logical way to continue learning from others who are working in the same capacity as I am. The second reason is that Ive had some pretty dreadful experiences with showing my work in traditional retail galleries. Whether its been issues related to financial dishonesty or damage to my work while on others premises, Ive found that doing outdoor art shows has been my best avenue to connect my work to buyers and to retain greater control over how my work is presented. For this reason, I wanted to join NAIA as a small way to make a statement about my own independence and how I prefer not to rely solely upon a middleman to succeed with my artwork.
My initial impression so far is that [the NAIA] is working to improve circumstances for art show participants. I believe it is the closest and best thing that we have to an advocacy group on our behalf as we confront challenges such as digital jurying and this difficult economy. And as to the economy, Sara believes that this will be a down year for both shows and artists, but she remains optimistic that it need not be catastrophic. Sara and her husband, a business professor, both believe that patrons who would have gone to a gallery to make acquisitions may explore art shows instead this year. In addition, Ive read quite a bit about how people are turning their attention to making their houses feel more like a home during these tough times. Although they may not spend as freely as in the past, when they

Artist Web Sites:

Wm. Thomas Mills: Yessy.com/TomMillsPhoto

Michael Wommack: WommackStudios.com

Jacqueline JAX Ryan: JaxHatz.com

Jane Burke:

do make a purchase, theyre looking for unique and meaningful possessions. As artists, we can offer things that are ideally-suited to these conditions. But I think it will take more effort, more service, and greater attention to detail to make it happen this year.

May Ying Painter
California painter May Ying has been working as an independent artist for over 20 years. She has her own gallery/studio where she exhibits her paintings and also exhibits at other galleries. May says that she discovered the NAIA through the Internet. She was looking for a well-run arts organization to join. May also wanted to be part of an atist community and have more connection with other artists in the country. I am extremely pleased with the responsiveness of the NAIA, its organization and information as well as how the NAIA is actively involved with its members.

Jane Burke, Wood Marquetry
Georgia artist Jane Burke just recently started exhibiting and selling her wood marquetry at art shows. She first heard about the NAIA through fellow artist and NAIA member Bert Beirne. Jane looked at the NAIA web site and decided to join. Initially I joined because I was hoping to find a used tent and other booth supplies through the member forum, but I quickly realized that the site had much more to offer. The NAIA AT WORK link topics are great as they give the art show novice a lot of great advice. Also, as an artist it is nice knowing there is someone I can turn to for advice and help, be it from the NAIA staff or simply other members. Jane has also been impressed with NAIA efforts toward keeping art shows honest and in the best interests of the artists.
Jane talked about getting into art shows during this economy. I realize this was a bad time to get into the art show world with the way the economy is at present. I went to my first show in February 2009 with high hopes of selling my marquetry pictures. The public response to my work was great. People oohed and ahhed but I did not sell a single picture. I was hoping to at least sell enough to pay for my booth and travel expenses, but it just didnt happen. I am however going to keep going and apply to many more shows. There could have been other factors than just the bad economy and hopefully with a different location and a different clientele I will be able to make money from my art.

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