The secret of how to make money in the contemporary art industry

Becoming an artist is very much like being a prospector in the Yukon Gold Rush.

Tens of thousands and thousands of hopeful individuals rushing towards a dream of glittering wealth and fame. As we all know, the gold rush for the vast majority of hopefuls was a narrative of broken dreams and disappointment. With a generous helping of romanticism. Pretty much like the fantasies many people have of being a professional contemporary artist.

I get asked sometimes about how have I managed to make a living as an artist. Well, the answer is that that question is fundamentally erroneous. I don’t make a living as being an artist but I do make a living in the arts.

See, I realized a while ago that wealth was generated the gold rush not by digging for gold but by selling shovels.

So I learned web design after graduating from art school in 1996. In every single opportunity in every arts organization I have worked at has occurred because I knew how to make a website. The knowledge of marketing and how to build a website is my shovel, what I sell to artists. It has led to administration, marketing and writing.

I also get asked often about how do I make a living as web designer – everyone knows a bunch of friends who have designers who are having a hard time finding work. My answer is that I specialized in the arts because I’m an artist.

Neither area is particularly lucrative for most, especially when you solely focus on that area. Perhaps that’s because if you just focus on making art you’re boring and if you just focus on making web designs then you’re not a very good communicator. Both areas need something more.

Not the answer you were hoping for? Regardless, that’s how I make a living as an artist.

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