Tips For Choosing An Artist

A good artist will help your ideas take shape

The skills and expertise of an artist can help you shape the project or event and plan the detail. These are artists who have chosen to specialise in passing on their skills to others. They often have a great talent for stimulating people, making interesting connections between very different ideas and guiding groups towards devised projects that are exciting, achievable and memorable. A good artist won’t take over and dictate to the community – they’ll tease out ideas and help them take shape

Finding The Right Artist For You

It’s important that you, your steering group and your community feel comfortable with the artist and you need to identify what skills or experience you want or what kind of input you want from an artist.

An Artist Can Play Many Roles

You could commission an artist to produce a work of art to celebrate an aspect of your community – a sculptural way-marker, a digital archive or a piece of public art – around which you could build a community celebration. You could invite a writer/director to write a play about an aspect of local history or legend and then stage it using local people and settings. You could contract an artist to teach specific skills that will enable local people to complete a project – a community mural, a book, a pop up gallery or a street performance. You could invite an artist to help shape and define the project, run workshops for the community, advise the steering group and coordinate certain aspects of the project.

The Cost Factor

An artist is not in it for the money! However artists do have to earn a living, they have expertise that is of value and they may have spent many years training and building up their experience. If you’re doubtful about what is an acceptable fee, call your nearest arts development officer/manager or agency or alternatively visit the Artists Information Company webpage on artists fees and payments

Ten Easy Steps To Choosing Your Very Own Artist

1 Decide what you want, for example – a public artist to design a new community play area for children, a digital media artist to develop an oral history project working with older members of the community; a writer to work with a youth group on a creative writing project about the neighbourhood; a visual artist to lead a drop-in session in a community space where people can try their hand at art and craft skills and contribute ideas for a larger scale project; a film maker to teach local people how to use a camera and advise on making their own documentary.

2 Contact your nearest arts development officer/manager or agency for advice on where to advertise for the type of artist you are looking for and names and addresses of artists who have appropriate skills.  You can also check the directory of Cambridge Arts Network. Make sure you take up references before entering into any agreement and find out about their previous projects.  If possible go and see their work or talk to people they have worked with.

3 Speak to a number of artists, explain what you’re doing and give an indication of budget, what you want from them and find out if they are interested, available and affordable.

4 Send those that are interested an outline of what you are proposing and ask them to let you know how much they would charge, the kind of thing they can offer and to send you some examples of recent work or recommendations from other communities/projects. You may want to meet them in person and arrange interviews for a larger project.

5 From the information you receive, decide which artist you want to engage.

6 Agree some possible dates and ask them to hold these dates for you until you have finished fundraising – if you are not able to raise the finance, make sure you let them know as soon as possible.

7 If they are going to be working with children or vulnerable adults you need to make sure they have been police checked.  CRB checks are now called DBS checks – Ask to see a copy of their certificate or if they do not have a current one, contact the Disclosure and Barring Service. For more information please visit our safeguarding section for more information.

8 Think about funding. Your local council or arts development organisation may fund a proportion of your project costs through a grant aid scheme (please see the Finance section for further details). You will have to raise the remainder from other sources – your own reserves, fund raising activities, Awards for All, Arts Council England, parish councils, business sponsorship or a local charity.

9 Once you know you can cover your costs, finalise the dates with the artist and send a letter, in duplicate, confirming the arrangements with them regarding their responsibilities, time commitment, fees and expenses, and your own role and responsibilities. Ask them to sign and return a copy to you. Further guidance, including example contracts, is available from your local arts officer.

10 Publicise the event well and make all necessary arrangements. Be there on the day, evaluate its success and talk to the artist about any follow up or longer-term plans.


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