HIRE A P.R. FIRM
Manage Your Art Career With Outside Help
By C.M. Schmidlkofer
Published in Professional Artist April/May 2017
Artists can find themselves burning the candle at both ends at any point in their careers. Both emerging and established artists struggle managing time, money, marketing and productivity. Adding family obligations and outside employment to the mix increases stress resulting in potentially costly mistakes, repetitive efforts and missed opportunities.
It doesn’t have to be that way. For a price, there are services available to help lighten the load of artists.
The traditional route is gallery representation. Best case, your gallerist is a collaborator. Yet a gallery can be difficult to obtain and limited to its own brand and clientele.
Artists may seek out a public relations manager for more exposure. Or another alternative is obtaining a business manager. Those who are dedicated to visual artists can provide financial and career planning, social media management, support and workshops and connection to galleries and exhibitions.
“I decided to seek out management services because I felt like I needed help promoting my work,” Said California installation artist Erika Lizée (erikalizee.com). “I teach full time and am mother of two, so my time is stretched thin. The management services help me to stay focused on my art career goals, while
also helping me to feel more connected to the art world.”
Lizée is one of 18 contemporary artists who are clients of Los Angeles-based Shoebox PR (shoeboxpr.com).
She said the management company’s services have helped her gain press for her work, connected her to critics and writers that she normally would not have approached on her own as well as sending out calls for art- something she considers a great resource that aids her in finding new grants and exhibitions to apply for.
“In general, their services help to keep me on track and moving my career forward,” she said.
“Artists are seeking alternative ways of getting exposure,” Kristine Schomaker, director of Los Angeles-based Shoebox PR (shoeboxpr.com), said.
“A manager can help artists stay organized and direct them where to apply or show work,” Schomaker said. “The artist manager knows the art world. They can guide you through doors you had no idea where open.”
Also represented by Shoebox PR are artists Dani Dodge (danidodge.com) and Susan Amorde (susanamorde.com) who use Schomaker to promote their work.
Dodge relies on Schomaker for guidance when it comes to which shows to apply to and which to hold off on.
“This is invaluable when I have so many great opportunities in front of me and I’m like a kid in a candy store,” she said. “Kristine and I meet regularly to discuss my career and where it is headed. She also listens when I think I might need a certain kind of coverage and does everything she can to make it happen.”
Dodge said in the past she has paid mentors to help steer her career in the right direction but Shoebox PR is her first experience with a business manager.
STYLES AND PAY STRUCTURES
This help comes at a price. Shoebox PR offers services ranging from $100 for a subscription to its call for art/grant/residency list to $1800 for event/exhibition promotion. Its management package requires a monthly retainer of $900 a month and includes social media management, business coaching, marketing, event and exhibition public relations, workshops and more.
“We don’t work with percentages or commissions as our goals aren’t to sell the artist’s work, but to give them the resources and support to help them sell.” Schomaker said. “We aren’t dealers or consultants in that regard, but have worked with them in the past.”
It’s not unusual for a manager to take a percentage of retail sales rather than a flat fee, and the percentage and terms will vary from manager to manager, Leo Weinstein, co-owner of Weinstein Art Management (warm-art.net), said.
Weinstein and his wife, Julia, represent artists all over the world, charging 15 percent of the retail sale to cover management expenses.
The percentage can be significant depending on the sale price of the art, Leon Weinstein said.
He shared an experience where a longtime client’s paintings sold for under $5000 and just recently one was sold for $70,000.
“You can structure it in a different way – 30 percent of any money that are coming in to the artist’s way with a manager’s help and from his agreed exclusive territory,” Weinstein said.
Located in Woodland Hills, California, the couple market globally and offer specialty services in addition to publicity and career advice for their clients, which typically range from 35 to 40 artists at one time.
Weinstein seeks out retail opportunities for artists not only in galleries, but also auctions and licenses artists’ images for posters, limited-edition prints or merchandising.
“We are creating marketing materials, helping galleries to advertise and participating in organization of exhibition,” Weinstein said.
“We collect money, handle their visas to the U.S. when required and advise on a variety of other matters.”
The business started in 1989 whilst helping an artist from Georgia (formerly part of the U.S.S.R.) negotiate a long-term contract with a Japanese gallery. Soon they were representing artists in ex-communist countries who didn’t understand marketing, especially in the United States.
The Weinstein’s accept established as well as emerging artists for representation. They ask for at least 12 images to consider by email with a biography or a link to the artist’s website. Artists are judged by taste, ability to change and what Weinstein calls “sell-ability.”
“Just to receive advice is not good enough,” he said. “Like singers, actors and musicians, visual artists need guidance in how to present their art, to whole to present it, how to build credentials and what galleries, dealers or other art professionals not to work with.”
The Weinsteins collaborate with artists who work in realism, impressionism and photorealism art.
Leon Weinstein offered advice when seeking a business manager: “A good manager will help you by showing you great and successful artists who he wants you to study and understand what makes them popular.”
He added that together, the manager and artist can discuss the artist’s uniqueness that makes the work immediately recognizable and desirable.
To find such a gem, Weinstein suggested artists investigate potential managers to see who they represent, find out what artists have to say about them and visit galleries where they have placed their artists. Educate yourself before hiring their services.
BE CREATIVE WHEN CHOOSING MANAGEMENT
There is no one size fits all when it comes to business management. Some artists find success combining services from different sources for a custom fit.
Massachusetts artist Steve Lyons (stevelyonsart.com) hired a business mentor and personal friend to manage his day-to-day affairs, a studio assistant and several studio helpers for his day-to-day management. He hired an outside public relations firm to promote his work.
Lyons’ work is rooted in expressionism, and in 2016 he was recognized as one of the top five abstract expressionists painters in the world by American Art Awards, tied with artist Christine Alfery.
“As my career took off I knew that It was necessary to have someone do the day-to-day management and to look for and seize opportunities at other galleries and exhibitions – cultural center, museums, et cetera,” he said.
His current staff makes it possible for him to focus more on his paintings and spend more time with family, as well as seek out and secure venues for him in the U.S. and Europe.
He depends on PR for Artists (prforartists.com), a California-based public relations firm, for media exposure. PR for artists “Built interest in my creative life one publication at a time… They know what to do with information surrounding my life as a painter – whether it is announcing a recent award, new work or a new association with a gallery or exhibitor. That is a great relief,” Lyons said. PR for Artists cofounder Anthony Mora, said artists are charged a monthly retainer fee based on specific needs. Services include public relations, brand development and gallery representation.
Help with developing a prospectus and presentation to galleries is also available. Lyons said he works hand-in-hand with PR for Artists for many of his business and publicity decisions.
“The big decisions require communication between everyone involved in my career,” he said. “We often reach out to PR for Artists for their opinion about decisions, such as exhibitions and shows.”
Mora is the author of two books, Spin to Win: The Essential P.R. Guide for Business and Career Success and The Alchemy of Success: Marketing your Company/Career through the Power of the Media for Achieving Unlimited Success.
A few years ago, Mora and his vice president, Aubrie Wienholt, expanded his 1990 communications business Anthony Mora Communications, Inc., which focuses on authors, filmmakers, musicians and others, to include a division – PR for Artists – concentrating on fine visual artists.
“PR for Artists represents anywhere from 15 to 20 artists at a time and has helped clients be featured in media outlets such as Time, Newsweek, The Today Show and more,” he said.
“That helps stimulate interest and creates buzz. You can then use the media exposure in any and all of the marketing outreach.”
Before considering outside public relations, more recommends artists to do what marketing they can on their own.
“Create a website, get on social media.” He said. “Put their foot in the water. We can help them on all those fronts, but it’s important that we see the artist is making an effort to build a bridge between their art and their audience.”
Mora advices when looking for help, artists should find out exactly what services are being offered.
Look for someone who knows the field, but someone who they can then communicate with and talk to. “You want someone with a track record,” He said. “Someone who has worked in the field for a while.”
If you can’t hire a public relations company, start small by doing your own public relations.
“Do your homework and write a press release, create a media list and start reaching out to the media,” he said. “If you have some funds to invest in your marketing then do it. Don’t go it alone of you don’t have to, bring in a savvy team that is on your side, knows the media, knows how to present you and your work and is prepared to help take you and your career to the next level.” (PA)
7 TIPS TO FIND AND WORK WITH A MANAGER OR PR FIRM
1. Know what you want– Kristine Schomaker, owner of Shoebox PR in California, advises artists to have a clear idea of what they want a manager to do, to set a budget for public relations – be it for an exhibition or management – and have at least 15 to 20 pieces of work to present
2. You’ll still have to work – “Be prepared to work,” she said. “It could be photographing your work, applying to shows, doing interviews, traveling and more.”
3. Research the firm – Scrutinize websites and avoid those with too little information or who haven’t posted on social media in recent days, weeks or months.
4. Research the artists the firm represents – “Make sure the artists are legit, professional and serious… make sure a contract is in place.”
5. As friend for recommendations
6. Tap into social media– “Facebook especially is a great place to ask the collective hive mind for recommendations or information on specific artist management companies.”
7. Be easy to work with – “I can’t stress this enough. If you are easy to work with, curators and gallerists will want to work with you too.”
C.M. Schmidlkofer is a journalist who has been a staff reporter at newspapers throughout the Midwest including The Chicago Tribune. She has written for The Crafts Reporter, Fibromyalgia AWARE, National Paralegal Reporter and Stone Voices Magazine.