Log In

Reset Password
Arts and Entertainment

What’s the million dollar question in the art biz?

Brenda Macon

How do I price my work? This is one of the most commonly asked questions in the art world. It’s the business of art ... and the art of business. I’m not an accountant and this isn’t legal advice, so please don’t sue.

  • Be serious about your business and price your work according to your value. Figure out what it costs to do what you do. Did you invest in training? Rent a studio space? What is the cost of your materials, and ultimately, your time? Try writing it down and practice presenting your pricing to friends. Listen to their objections (and your instincts) and formulate your own way of presenting what you do.
  • Pricing your work depends on how much you know about your industry, and your place within it. Do you read Art News, Artist Magazine or Art Review (all available at your public library), take classes regularly, engage in your community? What makes your work or your service unique? That’s what you’re selling.
  • Figure out how much you need to earn – this can help determine your prices. Artists often don’t like to talk about money, but I don’t like the “starving artist” moniker at all – it’s been doing us a collective disservice for far too long. Anyone with 10,000 hours in their craft deserves to earn a living. One approach is to list your expenses and figure out what you need to make each week to pay your bills, and go up from there. Determine what your value is and set an hourly rate for your time. Then get busy.

You’ll notice I didn’t say “it depends on how good you are.” Salvador Dali was one of the first wildly successful self-promoters in the Western art world, and the early work that he sold wasn’t the best out there – and it didn’t have to be. He was good at sales, and he sold his brand. One notable local artist who excels at promotion through his line of clothing and website is Tad Smith, who won first place last year at the Durango Autumn Arts Festival. His brand extends to the palette of colors in his paintings and once you meet him you want to own his work, for he is as kind as he is talented.

People often buy you, the artist, and then they buy your product. If they like you, they are more likely to invest in your business. A strong digital portfolio and online presence helps tell your story and gives a relatable platform to your future patrons. Your patrons are investors. They are hoping to enjoy your work for years to come, but are also hanging their hat on the possibility that your work will increase in value. More people are investing now than ever before because art is accessible, and the global online marketplace has opened up a new world to creatives and buyers. According to the Statista Research Department, Americans spent $1 trillion shopping online in 2022. Worldwide, shoppers spent nearly $6 trillion. As an artist, you could enjoy a piece of that pie, but how much of it is up to you.

Business plans can help. Visit the library and spend time in the business section. I especially like “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries. Creatives make excellent business people because they’re passionate and also great at problem-solving.

We all have a vested interest in seeing to it that Durango keeps its creative forces strong and successful. When you’re ready to show your work, call me – I know of just the place to help you get started.

In the theater
  • A Night of Improv with Cindy & Mary: 7 p.m. June 9. Tickets: $10/$15.
  • 13th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival Readings: 7:30 p.m. June 16. Free.
  • Youth Theater Performances of “Mr. Groundhog Wants the Day Off” and “How to Survive Being in a Shakespeare Play”: 7 p.m. June 23-24 and 2 p.m. June 25. Tickets: $10/$15.
  • Durango Playfest: Various events and showtimes begin June 27, see durangoarts.org for tickets and passes.
Art classes and gallery events
  • The Looking Glass Collective exhibit “Art Inspired by Nature” featuring 14 established local artists, runs through June 16. Free.
  • Call to Artists for the Member’s Exhibit. $35 application fee. Must be a DAC member to apply. Join or renew and submit online.
  • Shop the Artisan’s Market: pen noon-6 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.
  • Adult summer classes from painting to improv, and youth summer camps are open for online registration. Scholarships available.

For more information, visit DurangoArts.org or https://linktr.ee/durangoartscenter.

Brenda Macon has been executive director of Durango Arts Center since 2018.