Money has always been a taboo subject for artists. Still, the truth is that it’s just not possible or reasonable to want to remain a starving artist forever, even for the sake of artistic integrity. At some point, artists will need to find financing to continue with their practice — whether that be because they need to rent out a studio, purchase supplies, boost their marketing strategy or cover their daily living expenses. Being an artist is a one-man business, and it needs money to operate as such.
The most basic way to finance an artistic practice is through gallery representation and finding dedicated collectors. However, not every artist can do this easily, especially those still in the nascent stages of their career. The art market is not only erratic. It can also be creatively stifling for artists who want to experiment with their practice and employ different mediums in their work that aren’t as marketable, such as video art, performance art, and installation art.
Given this, there are still several ways to fund artistic practice. The two main methods are either using the artist’s personal funds and income, and the second is generating income from outside sources such as donors, grants, and residencies. The following funding opportunities are a few examples that fall under either of those methods.
Debt financing involves securing a low-interest loan for a business. There are various types of loans available to artists for just about every kind of need, such as equipment loans for supplies, real estate loans for artist studios, short-term working capital loans for overhead expenses, and credit lines. There are also all-inclusive loans that can fund all of these necessities, but the artist must present a well-structured business plan that demonstrates the need for funding.
Crowdfunding is the practice of gathering small amounts of money from various individuals to fund a venture or project. Additionally, investors may sometimes receive a reward for their donations, either financially or in the form of a freebie. Platforms like GoFundMe and Patreon make it much easier for creators to raise capital for their business. However, both platforms take a small cut from the money raised and might not be viable long-term solutions for funding an artistic practice.
Fellowships and Grants
Most artists apply for fellowships and grants to finance their practice. These opportunities are incredibly helpful for struggling and marginalised artists, but they require a comprehensive application process and a proposal that clearly articulates the artist’s goals and defines the essence of their creative practice. Not to mention, there’s usually a long and arduous evaluation period that follows. Eligible candidates must meet a particular set of criteria before they can be considered for either of these funding options.
Sales & Personal Savings
What artists make from selling their art and monetising their skills may not always be enough to fund their practice altogether, but it’s still a financing opportunity all the same. Personal savings, investments, monetary gifts from family and friends, and income from side jobs are other forms of funding.
Artist collectives and design studios that are registered as a partnership or corporation are eligible for equity financing. That involves raising funds through the sale of stock in the company. Investors then own a portion of the company in exchange for their money. However, this can’t be done if the business is a sole proprietorship.
Paid art residencies give artists the chance to live and work in a vibrant, new location with all-expenses-paid for them for a certain period. Not only will they be given their own studio space, but they’ll also be given networking opportunities, a dedicated support system, new inspiration, funding for their projects, and increased visibility. The only drawback is that this kind of set-up is only temporary, and it isn’t feasible for artists who already have full-time jobs.
There are plenty of non-profit organisations that sponsor artists and helps them raise capital money through financing from trusts, foundations, and various other non-profits. Though the artist will be responsible for raising funds and not the sponsor, being aligned with a sponsor — particularly a well-known and reputable one — streamlines the process and provides credibility for the artist.
Being an artist is a business, and financing is at the core of every business. So no matter how much an artist fights it, they’re going to need money to be able to keep doing what they’re doing. While selling art is the traditional method of generating financing, artists can’t solely depend on it to stay afloat. These alternative ways can help them gain funding and manage their practice.