A Word on Respecting Your Creative Community

By Brandon Alpert

On Friday, February 16th, SUNY Albany hosted four renowned creative artists/authors in the University Art Museum.  It was a small affair, which consisted of a few rows of dedicated fans and artists encircling the panel. The audience’s eagerness was palpable in the room while they waited with anticipation for the event proper to begin.  Finally, the honored guests were introduced, there was illustrator Robin Mørk, poet Sam Cha, and photographer and media artist Danny Goodwin.  Christopher Castellani was also expected to be in attendance but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute.  

They were all dressed modestly, adding to the uncondescending air that surrounded the three artists and made each of them approachable rather than the common perception of the talented untouchable. They were quite clearly ordinary people of the craft, the everyday human, separated from their audience only by their credentials. No red tape or fame distinctions created a divide between the two sides of the room.  Sam Cha in particular seemed to exude a certain modernist collegiate chic, as he came dressed in a black leather jacket, tight black jeans, and a messenger bag festooned with so many buttons the brand was no longer identifiable.  He was the newest to the world the three of them shared, and his love for the craft had yet to be dampened by the hardships of attemping to make it in his field.   

The topic of discussion revolved principally around such hardships, which have and continue to plague all artists in the modern world.  Of particular interest was the recurring phenomenon of artists being approached by would-be customers hoping they will work for free.  Mørk was notably experienced with such individuals and shared her own philosophy on the subject.  She implored any freelance artists to institute a “kill fee”, to ensure that they are paid for lost wages in the event that the client decides on a whim to simply cancel the project.  “Do not work for free,” she said before adding humorously, “exposure is how you die in the woods.” After each story of artistic hardship, the other two artists would chuckle and nod along in time.  There was a distinct synchronicity to their movements, and it was painfully clear that no one story belonged just to the speaker. Each artist had felt the same sting and wanted only to warn and help those who followed in their wake to know how to protect themselves from the same difficulties.

Though they each had their golden nuggets of wisdom to share (one in particular that they all agreed upon was that having a dog was highly beneficial to the artistic process), it was clear that Robin Mørk had the most to say on the subject of making it as a freelancer.  It was for this reason I sought her out after the event.  After sharing a laugh at the irony of my writing this very article for free** after all that had just been said, I asked her whether she had any thoughts or advice to share with an audience of young and upcoming creatives.

Robin Mørk: “Never feel ashamed of having to work a day-job to support yourself.  There’s this fine-art stigma that only people that can afford to make art should do so. I wish more people were proud of their day jobs.  Remember, pursuit of your artistic quest is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.”

** This review is being written for free as an internship with NY Writer’s Compendium. The goal of this organization is to provide professional experience to students for their resumes before entering into the working world. In addition, NY Writer’s Compendium provides free services to authors to help offset the requests that they themselves receive for free services and to help with the cost of promotion for those with or without day jobs.