Friday, April 17, 2009

Indianapolis Art Survey Presentation

Scott Grow presented the results of the Indianapolis Art Survey at the Harrison Center Thursday evening. He displayed the figures from each question to let the attendees draw their own conclusions. Scott occasionally read samples of additional comments that were submitted. Some were humorous, but most of the time it was easy to spot trends. Even though a little over 40% of the respondents were artists, Scott discovered when that group was removed, the ratios of figures were barely effected.

Two questions sparked the most discussion. The amount of money people had spent buying art and the top figure most would consider for an art purchase hit a ceiling of about $500. Scott pointed out that there are many who easily spend $300 for a few hours of entertainment at a Colts game, but where is the mindset that an investment in original artwork lasts a lifetime?

Mark Rushman, owner of Rushman Gallery, explained how a small to medium gallery costs $250,000 per year to operate. Without sales to corporations, it would be impossible to stay in business when people who are earning $75,000 - $100,000 per year believe that collecting art can be done for the same amount as a couple of trips to the grocery store.

The average income of a professional artist in the U.S. is around $14,000 per year, and that figure is skewed by the minority who make the big bucks - kind of like the perception of professional athletes with the multi-millionaires getting the attention while those in the minor leagues barely scrape by. So it appears that our local arts community needs to better communicate the value of art. Even among artists there can be confusion about how to appropriately price work. It certainly is confusing to patrons and not understood by casual fans.

There are many more facets to the survey Scott has labored for so long. He plans on posting the results soon, and I'd like to encourage everyone to check them out and explore what they mean to you.

11 Responses to “Indianapolis Art Survey Presentation”

Flounder Lee said...
April 17, 2009 at 9:54 AM

One thing that shocked me was how cliquey everyone thought that the scene was. I have been here less than a year an a half and know tons of people in the scene already. I guess I have two advantages though. One I work at Herron, but mainly I think it is that I talk to people constantly at openings, etc. I introduce myself to the gallery owners and curators and artists and anyone. This is a two way street you can't say that people won't talk to you if you aren't trying to talk to them. Maybe they think you are cliquey also.

The Urbanophile said...
April 17, 2009 at 10:08 AM

I've paid more than $500 for an artwork. Let me share some thoughts on this. Contrast buying a painting with a going to a Colts game. Does someone looking at a painting with a price tag on it have any idea what the real market value of that painting is? For local artists (in any city), I think there is even a legitimate questions as to how many non-friends and family have actually paid significant money for one of their works.

I think this inspires a particular emotional reaction in people: fear. Fear that they are overpaying for something and will look like an idiot one day because of it. Fear that they are being ripped off or taken advantage of by people much more knowledgeable than themselves. Fear that they won't be able to get any resale value out of the work. Heck, any of these might in fact be true.

The average person is not an art expert, doesn't know what art "should" cost, has no confidence in their own taste (not helped by people who post comments here implying that only experts should offer commentary on the arts), and therefore is very uncertain. The fact that buying art is positioned as an act of monumental significance, and that you are being entrusted with some object that needs to be preserved for the ages, only heightens the angst.

Contrast with a Colts game. You have a known, well-understood commodity, with an established price in the market. Tickets an easily be resold if you can't make the game. People know what they will get for their money. And they know that if they are getting ripped off by the prices, so is everyone else. And they are confident in their choice to like the team. Plus, it is an ephemeral experience. People aren't stuck at a football game for years. If the team loses or they have a bad time, they can psychologically write off the cost.

These are the areas to tackle IMO to make people more confident purchasing art. As you might guess, I think we need to start treating starter art buys as a temporary or fashion purchase. People should be able to look at their art as a temporary consumption expenditure. Assume the art has no salvage value and donate to a charity if you don't want it anymore or heck, don't feel that you are defacing the Mona Lisa if you actually throw it away. Not ideal, but if the goal is to sell more art, then this perhaps heretical approach should be considered.

The Urbanophile said...
April 17, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Flounder, I don't attend a lot of gallery openings, etc., but my experience has been that people are extremely open to meeting me. Also, the arts people I do know do not exhibit the signature attribute of cliques: cattiness towards other cliques. I just don't hear that type of thing at all, though possibly it doesn't occur around me (or I'm the target :)

Jeffrey Cufaude said...
April 17, 2009 at 9:08 PM

I think comparing art to entertainment and sports isn't going to help shift price perceptions. All of the art I've purchased form Indy artists has ranged between $500 and $2000, with most of it falling around $1000. I think of those purchases more in line with furniture and home furnishings than entertainment. I think that analogy is a better fit since most people understand the value in investing in well-made furniture you will use every day and have for some time.

The Urbanophile said...
April 18, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Jeffrey, great thoughts. I like that idea. I do think we've got to create some sort of analogy to a purchase that people can already imagine themselves making. Home furnishings is a great one.

Scott said...
April 18, 2009 at 1:03 PM

This analogy to furniture or design goods seems to be a good one but I do have some reservations with the numbers due to the answer to one of the questions we asked on the survey, "Do you purchase high end design products and/or high end designer fashion?". Perhaps I worded this questions poorly and I used the term design products rather than furniture but the answers provided on the survey were 73.8% saying no. No they do not buy high end design products or fashion. This number was a bit of a shock to me, I expected maybe 50%. I would have to hazard a guess that people are not spending a lot of money for quality furniture either. If people can get a bookshelf from IKEA for $168 that looks somewhat modern why spend $2500 for a quality bookshelf made by a master craftsman? Ok course some people are going to buy quality when and where they can, in art or design, but I think the numbers are not quite showing it here.

I should be able to post the survey results link online later tonight so those of you who are interested can check them out. A little busy at the moment so will keep it short. I look forward to seeing where this dialog takes us.

The Urbanophile said...
April 18, 2009 at 5:50 PM

Scott, that doesn't really surprise me. As I've long noted of Indy, there is virtually no culture of connoisseurship - in anything.

Craig McCormick said...
April 20, 2009 at 11:31 AM

To your point, Aaron - "virtually no culture of connoisseurship," which I agree with... shows a lack of a basic appreciation of arts and culture. Culture 101. This is what is missing from our city - educating people to the value of arts and culture. And by value, I don't necessarily mean the cost of a painting.

There are a few organizations who are working on this problem. Part of the mission of the Harrison Center for the Arts is to support emerging artists and develop emerging patrons. Speaking as a board member, we deeply believe that the arts cannot flourish without the patron base. To that end, we focus on leveraging connections in the business and non-patron community to draw people into the arts. Some of the shows put on by the HCA might seem less curatorially serious that other institutions, but when we have a show with Riley Hospital, or Urban Times Newspaper, or a pirate-themed show... these are all intended to draw people in who might otherwise find the visual arts formidable. We find that many or these people keep coming back, and we work to 'graduate' or encourage them to visit the other arts institutions in our city. Joanna Taft (and many others) who worked hard to create Herron High School did so with a belief that a classical liberal arts high school would graduate cultural patrons into our city.

The IMA is making great strides to draw in a new generation of patrons with it's excellent web and video content. Seeing an artist speak about their work on artbabble makes the work relatable to people who might frankly be scared of or uninterested in the work without the understanding.

The courses available at the Indianapolis Art Center are also a great way to educate people and draw them into arts and culture.

Growing patrons and educating our community about the power and importance of art seems to me to be the key.

The Urbanophile said...
April 21, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Craig, an excellent post.

It's not just art, as I say. Renee Wilmeth was complaining about the same thing in food in today's Star.

Blogger sees need to demand quality options in Indy

Jeffrey Cufaude said...
April 26, 2009 at 10:15 PM

I'm not sure the phrase "high end design products" would have clear meaning for a lot of folks so interpreting the meaning of their responses might be a bit muddied.

With the Arts Council President position now open as Greg Charleston moves on, it is an important time to consider what type of leadership the movement needs.

Gerry Bossier said...
January 11, 2011 at 9:31 PM

Great job! At works like these, I don't understand why people think that artists are actually losing a lot of money from this profession. Artists make tons of money by designing and selling
furniture. Indianapolis in Indiana State are filled with artists who makes a living this way.
I don't see the reason why anyone would think that they are losing money, seeing as there are a lot of them. Go take a look at furniture stores in Indianapolis
and see for yourself if they are really having a hard time. Maybe you should start doing concrete art too!

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