Monday, April 27, 2020

Giving to artists survey results

I promised to share the results of a survey that I made earlier this month with zero expertise in making surveys. I wanted to know how people felt about being asked for money from artists and what incentives would help them donate. I was considering reactivating fiscal sponsorship, but because that requires that I pay a set amount each month/year to a 501(c)(3) and give them a percentage of any funds raised through them, I wanted to know: how important is that tax deduction? I built this survey in a matter of minutes and only after I made it public did I see its many flaws. But everyone has to start somewhere!

The above graphic shows responses to the first question, and overwhelmingly most people are open to being asked to support artists financially (my assumption is that they are okay with the ask, not that they all donate—but this is a framing flaw. Also, there are many other reactions to being asked for money besides yes and no). I first asked people who are invested enough to receive an email from me each month. Unsurprisingly, they answered 100% of the time that they are happy to support artists if they are able. After a few days, I opened the survey to a book arts listserv and that is when the 5 out of 115 responses arrived saying that artists should not ask for money.
The second question gets hairy because I made up reasons that people might donate money, and allowed people to choose as many as they liked. Many people chose more than one incentive. Where I offered "none," I meant, "I don't need an incentive to donate money to artists, I just do it." But that may not be how people read it—another flaw. What I found interesting is that tax deductions are NOT the most important incentive, which aligns with my own personal donation philosophy. When I was younger I wanted the deduction, but as I learned who gets to write off what and why, it became much less important to me. Guess what people want the most? Rewards! After that, the option to pay by credit card. Then, exclusive donor access to the artist in some fashion.
The most responses after exclusive access was "Other," which I left wide open, and these are the typed-in responses. I won't even try to analyze them but you can see a big range of ideas from respect for the artist's work, donating to artists you know or only to those in visible financial need, subscriptions, and so on. After "Other," tax deductions came into play, then anonymity, and way down on the list were not needing incentives and public acknowledgement of donations.

I'll show the breakdown first of my smaller network (28 people) and then the total blob after it was opened to a larger group (87 additional people) in the order of most to least clicked incentive (# of clicks in parentheses). Yes, I'm aware that the second list contains the first, so that's also a flaw. The question was, "What incentives help you donate to individual artists? [You may choose more than one.]"

People who are subscribed to my monthly updates responded:

67.86% (19) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
46.43% (13) Credit card payment options 
39.29% (11) Tax deduction
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
25% (7) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
25% (7) Anonymity
14.29% (4) None
10.71% (3) Public acknowledgement of my donation

The entire cohort, which now includes people who are subscribed to a book arts listserv, responded:

65.79% (75) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
49.12% (56) Credit card payment options 
34.21% (39) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
28.07% (32) Tax deduction
25.44% (29) Anonymity
7.02% (8) None
5.26% (6) Public acknowledgement of my donation

I regretted the survey's shortcomings from the moment it went public, but I am still glad I tried. It opened insightful and meaningful conversations with people I might not otherwise have connected with. Also, I am not a scientist, and approached this idea the way I approach my art. I'm sorry for my mistakes but am grateful to the 115 of you who indulged me. For years, my work and thoughts have been interested in notions of what is official and not, who has authority and what that looks like, and many gradations of impostor syndrome. For sure, I am an artist. All the other identities I inhabit fall on a scale of perfectly tailored fits to Yikes Who Let Me In Here.

Special thanks to Maureen Cummins for pointing me towards Why Are Artists Poor?
Also, if you want the pdfs rather than the jpgs here, let me know!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Up or down

Yay: This was the one thing I knew was a good idea even if it meant moving a couple of doors. There was no way I wanted to move things in and out of a studio that had 2.5 steps from the back door. This is the start of the ramp I requested.
Boo: these deer... Yay: my foil is thwarting the robin that was pooping on my ledge and slamming into the window.
Yay: ANOTHER yucca! Boo: my lawn guy today took the liberty of cutting down the seed pods. I didn't know until after he left and I was confused by what was missing. The season is over for them, but all I needed was a mow. Losing this upright changes the entire feeling of the plant. Also, I had wanted to see if there were any viable seeds left in the pods to plant myself but I'll never get that opportunity. The sad yucca is in the background. I hope it comes back to life.
Yay: a new plant to draw.
Boo: cooped up inside. Yay: Velma's sweet papers. Also, a long drive yesterday to see a friend couple and get some herbs. We took a hike to the waterfall and the river and Diane pointed out all kinds of wildflowers so I learned a TON. And I love walking on slate, seeing the way it crumbles in its special way. Lots of mud and a wild dog (he's a herding mix so very intense, high energy, grabbing every stick and branch possible and running full speed with them only to knock into us or other vegetation), but a gift to get out for a bit. Driving home in snow was not so fun but cooking an omelette full of fresh chives was.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Broken bits for now

Two weeks ago I mistakenly thought that a productive and sunny weather week meant that I could return to some kind of half-decent routine. Last week that idea was smashed by a single letter that set me on a trail that I'm still on, informing me vaguely about Korean nationality laws that changed a decade ago and could derail a lot of my very hard work. It's too complicated to even comprehend (partly because it's so outrageously ridiculous) but meant that even today, I needed to get out of my head. Looking over a bridge at broken slate pieces in a bank of water made me want to jump in and gather them but like lots of things these days, was not a real option!
This greeted me at the start of my favorite loop in the woods. I tried to figure out where this tree was when it was still standing, and from which angle it fell (it took out part of the wooden railing of the wood bridge that starts and ends this trail). It is a new fallen tree and today I noticed that these are always very common and regular in the woods. I guess I never thought about it until now, that this is a normal cycle of life and death and the slow composting of each tree feeds all the new ones.
My 6-yo niece has started to draw comics to my great delight, and yesterday while very glum I started to trace them, as Lynda Barry recommends. I picked the character that I most relate to (it notices a drooping flower and then gets yelled at to water it). While on the phone with Velma today, I made more versions of it. Today I was able to see her on my screen as she drew another hilarious comic about a girl sitting in a chair with a piece of toast that she eats all at once. She did the entire face-full-of-food look! I laughed and laughed.
You can't tell in this picture, but these were the first flowers (not yet blooming but nearly) that greeted me at the entrance to the dirt path from the parking lot. I was so excited to see the small flowers beginning to blanket the floor of the woods. [now I know these yellow ones are trout lily...]
I didn't bring my real camera and I'm not a nature photographer but they really made me feel better. I was extremely cranky for the first 15 minutes of my walk but then forced myself to continue onto a different trail even though it was muddy and I'm so glad I did.
It's wonderful when it gets cold like this because people stay inside and I can feel like it's me all alone surrounded by bleached dead leaves and fallen trees and so much life all around and above and below. I am being reminded that the confidence I felt before everything came crashing down again was a mistaken sense that I could ever have a certain life. I'm used to a certain level of uncertainty but this is something bigger altogether. Good things happen, like an artist relief check coming in the mail from a complete and generous stranger. Bad things happen, like a massive bureaucracy telling me that a grant I worked very hard for might be revoked simply because I was born to Korean parents.
Nothing happens in the order that I'd like. I should get more used to them hitting harder each time, maybe because my ambitions are big. Once in a while I wise up enough to go outside to learn and re-learn gratitude, like this broken bit of path meant to help us over with a little more grace. The residue of helpful people in these nature preserves gives me as much hope as the tiny flowers that rise up to say hello when all the others are still sleeping.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Tiny bits precarious in the wind

Every day brings a new curveball, each spinning harder than the last. Somehow, this home remedy from a couple weeks ago has held to an extent and keeps robins away from my ledge (and from flying into the window). Just bits of foil on twist-tie material.
I'm not doing my best job at managing my stress in response to these challenges, but the biggest balm has been a more pointed effort to engage with my "land" (almost exclusively my border). A dear someone found an excavated yucca and brought it over to me!!! I've wanted one forever. If it does okay, I can even collect leaves for papermaking. Ideally, I'd have more than one plant to do this, but I have to start somewhere.

Trying to find great solace in small pleasures. Here is an incredible show by Lissa Hunter and Jo Stealey that I can't see in person but the theme is deeply resonant. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Fine connecting threads

I'm learning a lot about the limitations of pre-made colors (and especially appreciated Hannah Hinchman's observation about how greens are especially limiting when straight out of the tube, etc.). But mostly I'm learning about the importance of trying to draw my rhododendrons every day, or most days. It's a simple but grounding exercise and extremely satisfying to see these plants accumulate in my book.
Yesterday I had to check something in the studio and was amazed to see how it is coming along. This shot is misleading because of the lens so this front space is not as huge as it looks, but will be the storefront gallery.
This space in the back will be the beater room, which explains why the floor is torn up for floor drains. Thank god this contractor is smart enough to have dug into the lowest point in the floor so that it will eventually rake to the drain (fingers crossed).

I'm now deep into writing an essay about a seminal figure in the American hand papermaking revival. It was slow going at first, but I am excited now. As an added fire to get me moving, I promised him and his wife a draft by end of week. I also reached out to his past employees/apprentices, and that outpouring of love and respect made me so happy to be able to honor his legacy. The most important bit is that it made me feel connected to other people by this act of writing, which normally feels solitary and isolated. These days, I need all the connection I can get.

In that vein, I sent an email newsletter this morning with a survey I created about giving to artists. I always struggle when asking people for money, and by people I mean individual human beings. When there is a formal process of approaching funders through grant applications and the like, I have no qualms. But when asking fellow people, I wonder how they feel about the ask. I'm not a pro survey maker and already see problems in its framing, but if you're interested, it only takes 45 seconds [edit: I've closed the survey after getting a decent sample size]. I will share the results and have been fascinated by the responses so far. Thank you for participating—even this helps me feel connected.