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Artists Get Creative with their Funding

Artists and organizations are paying it forward and using skills they’ve learned during tough economic times to teach other artists to get creative about building networks and financing their projects.

As a result of a “significant” special grant from the Illinois Arts Council, Executive Director of the Chicago Artists’ Coalition Carolina Jayaram, said her organization will be able to host a presentation by Creative Capital, a nonprofit that provides the arts community with financial and advisory support.

She said the workshop will cover everything from marketing to business planning. The event, which will be held at 217 N. Carpenter on Feb. 4, is free to coalition members and have a fee for nonmembers.

Since the economy crashed in 2008, artists and organizations have “had to adjust in rather significant ways” to limited funding from foundations and government agencies, said Jayaram.

In 2007, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich drastically cut state arts funding. Slowly on the mend since then, the Illinois Arts Council received only a modest increase in state and federal funding according to Illinois’ operating budget for 2012.

The council’s total budget for this fiscal year, which ends in June, is about $11.4 million—up from nearly $11 million last year.

Jayaram said that the Chicago Artist Coalition has adapted to fluctuations in arts funding  by forming partnerships and sharing resources with organizations and corporations, while also looking at innovative ways to earn money through events, such as the professional development workshop.

She said the coalition has even turned to online funding platforms like IndieGoGo, where visitors can make donations to projects that appeal to them. The coalition’s campaign to raise money on IndieGoGo for improvements on their residency was “very successful,” Jayaram said.

“Foundations, the government, they’ve all been very limited in terms of what they can do in the past several years,” said Jayaram. “The more artists can take it on themselves to fund their projects, the better it is going to be in the long term.”

Artists Casey Droege and Rebecca Mir, who comprise the arts collaborative Treaty of Iceberg and Sorcery, have turned to online platforms to fund their upcoming project.

Using, the artists are working to raise money for a series of workshops aimed at helping artists learn new and fun ways to communicate about their art.

The first workshop will take place on May 12 at threewalls gallery, 19 N Peoria St # 2D, in Chicago and will feature special guest Cameron Esposito, a Chicago area comedian.

Droege said that the project came about when she and Mir started looking for resources on social skills after “horribly botching an opportunity” at a gallery opening.

“In art school most people get a great lesson in how to write artist statements and how you use arts jargon, but oftentimes we’re not really given any clue about how to interact with people in those real life situations,” said Droege.

“There are fewer grants, and it’s harder to sell work in unstable economic times,” said Mir in an email response. “So if you can’t articulate your work, how are you going to convince someone to fund your project, or give you a gallery show?”  

Droege and Mir have until mid February to reach their fundraising goal of $4,200 in order to receive any funds from the site. They said they are hoping to use those funds to keep the workshop free to participants.

Mir said she creates sculptures, performances and artist books that explore the “perplexing character of interactions with nature,” while Droege describes her work as “text based explorations of relationships.”

Droege successfully funded her project “Tracks of My Tears” using Kickstarter and said that using the platform allows for more creative freedom than more traditional sources of funding.

Participant responses from the workshop will be turned into an art book, whose print run will be in part determined by the amount of funds they are able to raise on Kickstarter.

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