Tips for young artists

By RUDY CHEEKS  |  July 13, 2011

DO TAKE BUSINESS COURSES. What you really will need to know is how to do business. When I do something well, my friend Phoebe Legere, who is not just a visionary artist in a number of mediums but a wise observer of the art world, will sometimes tell me that I've done "good business." This is high praise, as she realizes that the usual state of affairs is that the artist will create something and immediately be ripped off or given chump change for some holy piece of work. To "do good business" is to demand attention for your art by insisting that you be paid — in respect, at least, if not in shekels. Of course, most of us prefer the cash. Too few artists have studied how the world of business works. This leaves them vulnerable to rapacious assholes who will seek to "represent" them or be their agents or managers. Indeed there are some good agents and managers — and you are truly fortunate if you have one — but when you are starting out, there are far more shysters who are more interested in being cool because they're involved with art or, if you do start making money, conspiring to take most of it. And if you are just starting out, chances are you have very little bargaining power. So learn how to do business for yourself while keeping an eye open for someone who really "gets it" and maybe even loves you and what you do.

DO SOMETHING. This is self-explanatory.


I received quite a bit of feedback concerning last week's column on the schedule changes being proposed by RIPTA. People on the street mentioned their opposition to the proposed changes and a couple of bus drivers thanked me for speaking out. I have the sense that I am uniquely positioned to write about this because I am probably one of the few "public figures" around here who actually does ride the buses on a regular basis.

I remember a conversation I had with some callers on talk radio 15 years ago questioning whether or not the wheelchair lifts were operable on the buses. Some callers were confused, but I wasn't. I had been in Kennedy Plaza many times and witnessed buses pull up to a person in a wheelchair only to have the driver inform the person he would have to wait for the next bus because the wheelchair lift wasn't working (the wheelchair lift problem was addressed successfully years ago).

My old Pawtucket friend, Jeannine L. Chartier, executive and artistic director of VSA Arts of Rhode Island, wrote to extol the virtues of the American with Disabilities Act and let me know about "Roots, Rebellion & ADA" at the Roots Café on Thursday, July 21, from 5 to 9 pm.

VSA is a statewide nonprofit organization that "provides programs and opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities to actively participate in the arts and cultural community of Rhode Island." This event commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the reception is free. You can reach VSA at 401.725.0247 or email According to Jeannine, the exhibit will feature "a unique exhibit of recent artwork created by artists with disabilities [and artists of] diverse race, ethnicity and gender whose contributions are often marginalized."

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