Artwork IS work. That is the credo many artists inherit. Artists learn not to give away their art or services, and good art lovers should know not to ask. Yet all artists have been approached to donate to a charity auction or volunteer to photograph an event, usually with the promise of great exposure and a free meal. But even an emerging, hungry, do-gooder artist like me knows the “I give it away for free” brand of exposure can be a slippery slope. A few rounds of generosity could gain me the reputation as an “artist philanthropist” and the requests for handouts—and the fear of decreased artwork values—that follow.
Even among artists, there is an expectation that certain art should be free (or at least on certain nights of the week, for students, seniors, practicing artists, friends of arts administrators, or library card holders.) Free events often come under the auspices of increasing arts access, though unfortunately busy and broke people with limited access to art (and transportation) may not have “Free Nights” on their radar, may feel uncomfortable attending, or may not be able to get there. The arts aren’t happening where they are, so making art free may not change the equation.