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Should Artists Paint Murals for Free?

Welcome to Jackalope Ranch's Questionable Content, where local creatives and experts sound off on topics posed by New Times staff blogger Claire Lawton and the community. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail Claire.Lawton@newtimes.com.

Dave Quan painting his ooze on the Chocolate Factory on Grand Avenue. Note: Quan was paid to paint the mural in March, 2011. Read the full story about Quan's Blue Ooze here.
Dave Quan painting his ooze on the Chocolate Factory on Grand Avenue. Note: Quan was paid to paint the mural in March, 2011. Read the full story about Quan's Blue Ooze here.
Photo by Claire Lawton

See also: Mural City See also: Tag, You're Art: Local Street Artists Are Tagging Over Murals and Calling It Art

This town has a lot of thank you notes to send out to the artists who make its buildings a little more colorful -- especially if they're doing it pro bono. Artists have painted walls since they've had paint and a tool with which to apply it to a wall, and the history of being paid to paint a mural on the side of a building dates back to the beginning of advertising.

So when it comes to local businesses asking artists to cover their walls with their signature characters, landscapes and typography, is it hurting their own value to paint for free?

Should Artists Paint Murals for Free?
Joseph "Sentrock" Perez

Joseph "Sentrock" Perez Phoenix Artist

Well in general, I would love to see more local artist creating murals and spreading the arts by any avenue. I think it's pretty awesome the more opportunities that are arriving, and locations that are desiring art on their buildings. Ideally I would like to see more business support the arts, by support I mean pay artists, as any other professional in their craft would get paid for their services.

I understand though, at times art is a luxury and is not apart of the budget, so artist will donate the time to allow the experience to express their art in the city they live in. I think though as an artist, we have to create the value we wish to see. Phoenix needs more of a monetary value on the artist, to allow artist to grow and develop as professional artist. We have almost no, actual full time, serious galleries here in Phoenix, I believe that is due to people don't frequently spend money on the arts. Which is in return to many artist not creating that value.

I have donated my time for murals, or taken a really low pay because I know sometimes the businesses cant afford the costs. I think as up and coming artist you feel that what You should do, or that is the norm, but there should be a much more importance place on the art and quality that is going on in our city. I believe that quality of our scene is the reflection of what value we have created for ourselves.

DOSE Phoenix Artist

Depends on what the artist is trying or wants out of the deal. If they're looking for exposure, OK. But if a local business wants something other than what a specific artist does then they should expect to pay. It all depends on the circumstance.

 

Betsy Fahlman Professor of Art History Arizona State University

While it is always nice for artists to be paid, and nothing annoys me more than to receive a request from a commercial entity wanting free art. I am always assured that will give the artist "exposure" or something for their "portfolio." Well, it costs the artist money, as well as time. These folks would never ask a furniture store for free chairs with the idea that it would give them "exposure." Artists are asked again and again to donate work for benefits (though some now give them a percentage of the sales price).

But for an up and coming artist just beginning to establish a reputation, a large mural on the side of a public building might just be worth doing for the exposure (once), if materials, hamburgers, etc., were part of the deal. But here is my bottom line: businesses, which are for profit, wanting decoration for free are cheap. They willingly pay for other professional services, and should regard the art work that will give their building visual lift part of the cost of doing business. Many artists are actually very reasonably priced.

Thomas "Breeze" Marcus Phoenix Artist

This is a loaded question. I believe it all depends on the individual. I personally think if an artist is going to provide time and skill to create a piece, they should be compensated in some way shape or form, whether it being monetary, recognition, trade or all of the above.

Business owners and artists should educate themselves on how to recognize and value mural/public art.

If a large business requests an artist to create a piece of work, that business should take responsibility to treat an artist fairly, especially if the mural/ art work is going to have high visibility, generate attention and business. Also, artists should not sell themselves short. Again its all up to the individual.

When it comes to community outreach and community based projects, then sometimes there are exceptions in donating or doing work for free. I believe in donating time artistic skill to give something back into a community in order to create as well.

Then you have completely unsanctioned work. Illegal art, graffiti etc. Because of social taboos and censorship, some art work needs to be created without any sort of permission, compensation etc...usually because its either complete defiance of boundaries, complete freedom of expression and or it is sending a message that no business or sanctioned public wall will allow.

Compensated, community based, and unsanctioned art ... I think they are all relevant and have a place. Shit, the more art the better.

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