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2007/2/27 20:57
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Financial Advice for Artists at JC Museum on Saturday

By Jon Whiten
Jan. 8, 2009

?Money is a four-letter word in the art world, it?s taboo,? says Jersey City Museum program coordinator and artist Brendan Carroll. ?Why discuss what I do not have? I?d rather eat ice cream and go to the movies.?

It?s likely to be a little cold for ice cream this weekend, and the movies are kind of pricey, so artists who usually shy away from personal finance might want to check out the ?Cash Flow: Trickle or River?? workshop at the museum on Saturday afternoon.

The program marks the return of a series of professional development workshops for artists put together by the Museum and the the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development (HCOCHA). The series successfully debuted last year with an average of 90-100 people at each event, so the two organizations decided to give it a go again this year.

Saturday?s workshop will be led by accountant and artist Susan Lee, who hosts and produces ?You and Your Money? on WBAI-FM. She covers everything from managing your taxes and increasing your income flow to more esoteric matters having to do with money, creativity and lifestyle choices.

Carroll, who saw Lee?s presentation and recommended her to be part of the series, says that her advice is particularly powerful because it ?was grounded in her personal experience.?

Lee had a day job as a cab driver when she realized that she was good at doing taxes, and didn?t mind doing it. She left the five-day-a-week cab driving gig for a three-month-a-year tax preparing gig, and giving her more time to concentrate on her art.

With the economic downturn reducing the grantmaking capacities of charitable foundations and hurting cultural institutions, Saturday?s panel should help artists fine-tune their financial strategies at a time when we all have a little less money to work with.

The HCOCHA?s Meredith Lippman says that is no accident. When designing this year?s workshop, the organizers took the pulse of the local arts community to find out what kind of professional development might be most helpful.

?The state of the current economy is a primary concern,? Carroll says. ?From East to West Coast, the nonprofit world has been devastated by the financial collapse.? He adds that like many other Americans ? artists or otherwise ? he has no financial safety net and lacks health insurance.

?I live paycheck to paycheck. If I miss work, I can?t pay bills. If I need to see a doctor, I have no insurance,? he says. ?This is scary.?

While Long Valley, N.J., artist Buel Ecker says she hasn?t been profoundly affected by the economic downturn, she does say that she is looking forward to learning some specifics at Saturday?s panel.

?I hope to get information I need to more routinely and efficiently organize my record keeping,? she says, ?and some information on what is and what isn?t allowed for income tax purposes.?

Ecker, who attended last year?s workshops as well, says that artists often find it hard to talk about money because it ?gets into the whole philosophical discussion about process and product? and the age-old question of the relation between art, commerce and authenticity.

?The bottom line,? she says, ?is that each artist makes their own choices of why they create and then must make the personal choice of if and how to sell their creations and how to fit art-making into their lives.?

Carroll says that, for him, that was the takeaway from Lee?s presentation: learning how the ?rest? of an artist?s life affects his or her ability to make art.

?It was an epiphany. I began to see how my lack of finances, and my refusal to grapple with my finances, dictated the type of work that I made,? he says. ?I guess I figured that I would find a bag of money on the side of the road, and that would be that. Magical thinking. Well, I have not found that bag of money.?

Cash Flow: Trickle or River?
The Jersey City Museum
350 Montgomery St.
Saturday, Jan. 10
2-4 pm

For more info on Saturday?s program and the rest of the series, visit the Jersey City Museum website*

*On the museum?s site, it says that RSVPs were needed by Wednesday, but the HCOCHA?s Meredith Lippman tells us that anyone can just show up. She says about 40 people have RSVPed so far.

Jon Whiten is the Jersey City Independent's managing editor, and one of three trustees of Jersey City Independent Inc. He is also the editor of and the managing editor of NEW magazine. In 2006, he co-founded City Belt, and has written for the Jersey Journal.

Posted on: 2009/1/8 14:39

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