Written by Patrick Guilford 

DeFINE Art held a panel entitled “Creating for Whom?” on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the SCAD Museum of Art. It addressed the common stigma of “starving artists” and asked the question, “Who benefits and who loses in the different spheres where artists have to exist in contemporary times?”

The panelists, lawyer Daniel McClean, and curators Tracey Riese, Richard Brikett, and Joseph del Pesco, work in art museums and with art organizations. “We are a panel of non-artists, all of whom work with artists in different concepts and in different ways,” Brikett said about the panelists’ experience. Many of the discussions aimed to prepare SCAD students wanting to enter the field.

Susan Hapgood, the mediator, warned attendees about the culture shocks artists may endure in their residencies. “Many artists are able to find residencies in other parts of the world and when they do go to these residencies, they have to be prepared for vastly different cultural context, and to be pigeon holed as coming from a specific culture.”

Brikett, board member and curator of the Artist’s Advocacy Group, then discussed the problem of low- to no-wage labor during art exhibitions. “It’s been apparent since the 1960s. The artist has been the precarious exemplary of working conditions and self-exploitation that has come to define neoliberalism and…has been the bedrock of globalization…It’s all the more imperative to look at artists and artwork not as exceptional, but as embedded into the matrix of labor relations.”

Riese gave tips, in an effort to help artists grab curators’ attention. “I think the first thing you really have to think of is your identity: who are you and what are you going to stand for.”

McClean told a cautionary tale concerning the need to pay attention and avoid exploitation when dealing with curators. “In a wider, challenging sense, I think the kind of problems that are emerging when an artist is treated as a commodity,” he said. “What are the lessons that can be drawn from this? I think just it really is important when you as an artist just establishing your careers. You are vulnerable, and it’s really interesting for me to see how wonderful artists are exploited by merciless… agents that come along and collectors that buy their work…So I think you need to think about strategies in which, if you are engaging with collectors, which is part of your audience, to try and manage that relationship.”

Del Pesco concluded on a positive note, discussing possible origins of artists’ inspiration. “We were interested in artists who lived in one country and moved to another, and how they use their country of origin in their work,” he said.

“Creating for Whom?” was filled with precautions and guidelines when it comes to conducting business and receiving proper credit that helped prepare students.