Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween! Here are some spooky pics from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. How many can you identify?

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The Wage is Too Damn Low

October 23rd, 2014

“Artists rarely make a decent wage, even when they manage to practice art and have it be their main source of income,” says a recent Washington Post blog post.  How much should artists get paid? Working Artists and the Greater Economy (aka W.A.G.E.) has a few answers.

This month, W.A.G.E. introduced its W.A.G.E. Certification program. W.A.G.E. Certification is a unique “self-regulatory model” meant to resist the “exploitation of cultural labor” within arts organizations. The W.A.G.E. program will establish payment standards for artists and publicly acknowledge the non-profit arts organizations that uphold those standards.

Reaching this breakthrough took three innovative ideas.  First, W.A.G.E. classifies artists as “cultural producers” who provide content, just like vendors and contractors provide services and products.  Second, W.A.G.E. identifies the problematic symbiosis between the art market and the non-profit realms: non-profits don’t have to pay artists for shows, because those shows might increase market demand for those artists.  However: “The promise of exposure is a liability in a system that denies the value of our labor.” Third, W.A.G.E. offers clarity in place of ambiguity and ambivalence, which includes a handy fee calculator.  In that sense, W.A.G.E. Certification is the first model for artist compensation in the U.S.

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The W.A.G.E. participating institutions could include 501(c)3 museums, advocacy organizations, professional societies, and more, with emphasis on those organizations with exhibition schedules.  These include MoMA, with annual revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars, and a vast range of smaller institutions, such as the The Center for Book Arts, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Performa, and even The Society of Illustrators.  The participation of institutions like The Studio Museum in Harlem could help remedy deep-seated inequities in the art world.

W.A.G.E. Certification categorizes artist fees as “units of content or services commonly supplied by artists in a visual arts context.” Thus, solo exhibitions warrant a different artist fee than group exhibitions, commissions, and performances.  The amount of each fee is also based on the Total Annual Operating Expenses of the institution.  This model is split into a three-tiered calculator with a simple logic: the greater the TAOE, the greater the artist fee.

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Detail from the W.A.G.E. fee calculator

However, W.A.G.E. also sets a maximum fee. From the W.A.G.E. website:

“Institutions with TAOE of approximately $15,000,000 and over must not exceed a specified maximum rate of compensation. …’Maximum W.A.G.E.’ compensation…is capped at the average salary of the institution’s full-time employees. An average salary varies from institution to institution, but has been estimated at $30,000; W.A.G.E. will use an institution’s actual average salary when working with it during the process of certification.”

So far, Artists Space is the only W.A.G.E. Certified institution for 2014. What forces will be needed to expand the influence of W.A.G.E.?  In the meantime, W.A.G.E. is accepting donations here.  Read more about the greater, organized struggle for artists’ income here.

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Pros and Con

October 10th, 2014

New York Comic Con is the mega-spectacle now under way at the Javits Center.  It’s the biggest pop culture convention in the East Coast and second biggest nationwide. Last year, it attracted more than 133,000 fans (Armory Show: 65,000; People’s Climate March: 300,000).

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New York Comic Con at the Javits Center

Visitors pay $65 for a three-day ticket or $35-50 dollars for one day, making admission comparable to the Frieze Art Fair.  (Unlike Frieze, NYCC issues high-tech Radio Frequency Identification Badges containing unique microchips. By “activating” this badge, badge holders permit NYCC to track them – or with the flip of a switch, incinerate them.)

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The Dark Horse Comics stable

Most NYCC exhibitors come from the worlds of comics, animation, gaming, toys, movies, TV, and publishing.  A tight schedule of daily panels, autograph sessions, portfolio reviews, and sneak preview screenings can bring fans closer to their favorite creators and projects.  On top of all that, NYCC has its own beer, a DJ spinning all weekend long, and speed dating gatherings all weekend long, and that doesn’t even count the afterparties. So if you can’t get lucky at Comic Con, then maybe Sailor Moon is not the look for you.  NYCC is also part of New York Super Week, a weeklong pop culture festival that will turn NYC into “a playground for super heroes, villains, vampires, zombies, geeks and passionate fans of all sizes.”

NYCC is a great place to be an artist, and emerging illustrators can set up shop in Artist Alley, alongside the legends who inspired them.  Artists sell drawings on the spot, alongside limited edition prints and copies of their comics.

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SVA’s own Nathan Fox with colleague at Artist Alley

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(l-r) Artist Matt Kindt, writer Hunter Fine

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Young artists at Artist Alley

But NYCC is also a branding blowout.  Some brands feel relevant, such as Wacom or Simon and Schuster, who occupy vital positions in the production and distribution of a project, but why do we need Chevy, Sprint, and Geico?  And isn’t the cross-marketing of 50-Cent and Star Wars a bit of a burden on a pair of headphones? Last year’s Frieze Art Fair partnership with Gap looks quaint, comparatively.

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(l-r) Fans line up for Chevy, Azog urges you to watch his movies

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(l-r) Pioneers of digital and print

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Fans line up to be marketed

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From Death Star to rap star

For owners of small businesses, NYCC looks like a great a place to expand their audience.  Conversely, it’s a way for aspiring creators and makers to learn more about making.  For example, there were several booths offering 3D printing machines, or animation software.

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(l-r) Making prints on a 95-year-old printer at Sidekick Lab; a USS Enterprise “docking” ring at RockLove Jewelry

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“This one says it’s ‘amazing.’”

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“You’ll poke your eye out, kid!”

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3D printing with Solidoodle

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But not everyone is here to do business.  Some are here for pleasure and play.  The costume scene is incredible, setting a very high standard for Halloween ambitions, among other things.

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(l-r) A very convincing Gambit; villains on vacation

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“We just saved a bunch of money on our car insurance by switching to GEICO!”

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Available for children’s birthday parties and bar/bat mitzvahs!

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Heartbreakers taking a breather

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Cuddly continuum

As seen in our original video above, some costumes are so sexy that you might reassess your childhood interest in certain heroes (or villains). But lest we forget…

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Then again, some people aren’t interested in those attractions. They get their kicks on joysticks.

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Having some “me” time

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These couch exhibitionists played games in front of a semi-interested audience.

And despite all the radical self-expression, there are some dominant modes and styles. For example…

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Go goth or go home!

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NYCC feels bustling with creativity and entrepreneurial drive, and it’s full of clever wit and hilarity…

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…though it’s not a laughing matter to everyone, like this “Death Dealer” sculpture:

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Amidst the crowds and overstimulation, Comic Con can be overwhelming. It makes you feel crazy, or exhausted.

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But the Guardians of the Comic Con are always one step ahead of you.

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Even the toughest heroes need extra maintenance.

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