Thursday, January 24, 2019

So THAT'S Why It's Worth So Much!

"So that's why it costs so much?"     "No, that's why it's WORTH so much."

Yesterday I ran across a post announcing a 3-day workshop taught by a collage artist I greatly admire, whose style is distinctly different then my own. As I read the workshop description with interest, dreaming of making room in my schedule and budget to treat myself to study under this artist's tutelage, I came to the registration page and had a little shock. It was close to twice the cost of the average three day art workshop!

My first thought was one of surprise, but then I found myself calculating the entire cost of a trip like that. One where I might be able to rationalize the several hundred extra dollars for the event in relevance to what I was sure I might gain if I went.

And oh how much I wanted to go!

The chance to get an inside glimpse into the practice of an internationally recognized professional, working on a level that I currently aspire to. To learn techniques so different from my own, to have the opportunity to sit on the other side of the classroom table and glean from the instructor’s wealth of accumulated knowledge, and vast experience making art and selling it. Getting to sit side by side with other students who often bring their own fresh perspective and invaluable tips to a class environment like this. And let’s face it, as an artistic introvert, taking a workshop is my idea of a good vacation. It’s structured and organized, I get to enjoy the creative process in a pressure free zone, and still leave myself a few days to go out and explore the area while I’m there.

I didn’t wind up enrolling due to a conflict in my schedule, but the process of researching and mulling it over got me to thinking about some of the questions I’ve been receiving as my own spring teaching schedule draws near. Questions that sometimes directly, sometimes not, imply a lack of understanding of how a workshop fee is calculated and why it can be different from one location to the next, or even from one instructor to the next.

Why, you might be thinking, does it cost so much? 

It feels a little taboo to be talking about it out loud like this. And I could go on and on explaining the things that I'm privy to that the student doesn't necessarily get to see – like the difference in overhead between being hosted by an art center, or a private studio. Or the behind the scenes costs of a major art conference or retreat vs teaching at a small indie shop. I could share how much out-of-pocket is involved for the artist in each situation, for supplies, equipment, liability insurance, shipping, and travel. Students are often surprised when I tell them that my transportation costs are rarely covered by the host, and oftentimes lodging isn't included in my contract either-especially at those larger art centers and conferences. I could share that these costs don't change for me regardless of whether we have the minimum number of students enrolled or the maximum, but that my compensation changes according to the number of seats filled.

And I could share that, like many full time artists, I don't have a safety net or another source of income to support myself, so I carefully plan my budget in advance to be able to offer any early bird discounts or holiday type special offers.

I could even tell you how much work goes into creating a class and marketing it – sometimes well over a year in advance – (my 2020 schedule is shaping up to be very exciting), the number of hours required to apply, fill out contracts, create interesting content, correspond with the host site, student inquiries, record keeping of enrollment, accounting, sending out yet another 1099. Making samples, ordering supplies, keeping up with it all on social media, and last minute exchange of details with the host site, or directly with the students so everyone winds up exactly where they are supposed to be with everything they need to have a great time, all the while starting the whole process over again for the following years schedule. 

In between all of this, as a full time artist, I am also developing new ideas, working on upcoming shows, applying for opportunities, grants, fellowships, learning techniques that I need to help my own practice. When I don't create and grow, I have nothing new to show for it and nothing new to offer you. 

I could tell you all of these things, really I just did. But I know that this isn't the thing that you necessarily need to understand when making the decision to register for a class, parting with your own hard earned dollars, dipping into your own reserves of time, energy, and resources.

Last month I was listening to the radio, when the newscaster exclaimed how much cheaper it was to go see a particular team play this year due to whatever loss they had endured the year before- now tickets were “only selling for about $200 each instead of the usual $500 for a tournament."

Only $200 to sit in the bleachers for a couple of hours watching a game? What a bargain! (read sarcastically). I'm not a sports fan, the cost of these bargain rate tickets sounded astronomical to me. But people pay it everyday. Hundreds of people. Thousands even. Sports stands full of them!

Maybe you aren't a sports fan either. You may be totally tracking with me on that one, but think about the amount of money we humans are willing to spend to be entertained – sports, music concerts, going to the theater or opera, etc. We work hard and we just want to relax and enjoy ourselves sometimes. 

It's a big booming industry, the entertainment world is.

Most of these events are designed for us to participate in a very passive sort of way – cheering for our team, or band, or favorite cast members. We walk away with a souvenir program, a ticket stub, some very fine memories, and if we are lucky, an autograph or two, after only a few hours that went by all too fast.

But when you take an art workshop, you get so much more than passive entertainment.

You get personal interaction with an artist whose style and experience you admire and appreciate. You get to glean from that experience, asking questions while watching their process up close and personal. You make fun new connections in a relatively small group of people. You'll laugh and have fun, you'll walk away with a work of art or two that you yourself get to create, and you will also leave with some very fine memories. The event itself will last several hours, or even days, longer than a football game. And most importantly, you'll leave with a working knowledge of new techniques and a budding confidence in your own abilities to create. A good instructor will inspire you to grow in your own practice, whether you choose to pursue it professionally or as a hobby. There is nothing passive about the value of learning a new skill. 

And THAT, my friends, is why an art workshop is worth so much. ♥