Artists Earn Their “Lunch Money”

Lucy Gellman Photo On a plank of wood that almost looks soft, there’s a discarded quill, bent like a fern. Ink still wet and velvety at the tip. Beside it, the inkwell. Its mouth beckons, shallow cap flung open while the well of black liquid suggests there’s more inside. Beside them, a letter opener, and a sense that the table could go on forever.

It comes with a note. If you want to take it home and keep looking, you can — and not for the small fortune usually associated with buying art.

Mike Angelis The work — artist Mike Angelis’s Captain’s Desk — is part of a new initiative called “Lunch Money Print” that seeks to teach young people about collecting and to connect local artists and their viewers in the process. In monthly or tri-monthly subscriptions, subscribers can try out different levels of collecting — all introductory — then watch tutorials about how the work was conceived and made.

At an official launch party Saturday afternoon at Westville’s Studio Feruvius, founder Chris O’Flaherty explained that “Lunch Money Print” began with him struggling to earn lunch money himself. After graduating from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2014, he noticed two things. First, it was really hard to be a printmaker and painter when rent was due, groceries needed to be bought, the car maintained. He had almost no time to practice his craft. Gigs as a full-time house painter and part-time event contractor left him exhausted, and barely making enough to get by.

Second, he noticed that friends outside of the art world seemed intimidated by the idea of viewing and collecting art. They assumed that it meant waiting for a fat tax refund, or borrowing hundreds of dollars that they wouldn’t be able to pay back. For them, he realized, there was no difference between buying a one-of-a-kind oil painting and a limited-run woodcut print. They both seemed prohibitively out of reach.

He began to wonder if bridging the two worlds was the key to sustaining his career. Printmaking, to him, was the perfect medium to do so — prints are made in multiples, which means that they have wider channels of distribution than paintings, and are usually less expensive as a result. The processes by which they are made — carved or etched on a block or copper plate, and then inked and pressed — thrilled him. If he could teach his friends about appreciating prints, he thought, maybe he could earn just enough “lunch money” to be okay as an artist.

“Artists aren’t looking for a lot of money — they’re just looking for enough to make it sustainable,” he said. “They’re getting little bits to keep them going.” And “there are so many serious artists out there who are just waiting to be discovered,” he added.

So he got together a dedicated group of artists, friends from his time at Lyme Academy, visits to Connecticut studios, and an apprenticeship with lithographer James Reed.

Saturday, the artists began to spring from from the woodwork. Standing at one end of the room beside her work Abuelo, printmaker Adriana Prado recalled how difficult it had been to find work after graduating. When she found a job at an art materials store in New York City, she jumped into it eagerly — but had to move back in with her parents in the city. 

“My first thought was: How am I going to survive as an artist?” she said. “I feel fortunate to have found work. But I don’t have that much time to be working on my art. So my hope through this is exposure — being able to reach more people with what I’m making.”

Lunch Money Print Photographer Kevin Corrado agreed, noting that his work Neither Here Nor There could give viewers a sense of layered imagery and multiple exposures. In the photograph, a figure looks out on a city street, the criss-cross of telephone wires barely visible above his head. The sky is washed out; there’s no horizon line. Except there is, inside the figure, where sea, sky, and sinking sun meet each other within the outline of a person.

Pondering over it, artist Daniel Eugene — who has not yet put his work into the “Lunch Money Print” rotation, but opened his apartment and exhibition space for the show — explained that he thought this was the power of the series: works that made viewers look twice, and start thinking about the image as something they might want to hang onto.

“This is about the relationship between artist, artwork, and space,” he said. “It’s encouraging regional artists to build a reputation in the community. Their images, I think, facilitate a tradition of human consciousness.”

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posted by: Bill Saunders on February 14, 2017  3:12pm

While it would be an awesome world if every artist could support themselves with their craft, it is really a disingenuous proposition.  If you are teaching young people how to rely on their art to support themselves, you are leading them to an Eviction Notice.

Teach the young people to make art because of what’s inside of them, the internal rewards come first, the connection with the community follows—monetary exchange is nice when it happens, but when that becomes the focus, the art, the community, and the human spirit is compromised.

posted by: GS on February 14, 2017  6:28pm

To the Mr Sanders in the world. A college student who’s taken ECON101 would be able to tell you that art is a luxury, food is necessity. You need to take care of necessity before luxury.  What’s so disingenuous to try to find a way to make sure artists can feed themselves in order to finally create art and achieve your proclaimed “internal rewards”? 

Your statement is what I consider disingenuous. It is truly fanciful and laughable. Next time before you go so quickly into the realm of “internal rewards”, go take Econ 101 and make sure you understand the difference between necessity goods and luxury goods.

Rating of your comment: 1/10. Try something more intelligent next time.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 14, 2017  7:30pm

Wow, must have hit a nail on the head…..

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 14, 2017  8:13pm

I don’t think art is a luxury, I think art is a human imperative, a cultural expression, rather than a commodified resource of the college art educated crowd.  Artist isn’t an ‘entitled class’.

I would have liked to hear less about ‘the struggle’ and more about ‘the passion’. 

I would also like to urge these artists to do something of social value that directly impacts the community over the course of the exhibit.  An art raffle maybe, that directly benefits a local community group…. 

This is where both the art and artist have legitimate social power. 

There are two kinds of artists in New Haven. 
The Ones who thinks of others, and the Others who think of themselves.

Use your Creative Power for Positive Change, I say.  The rewards follow.

Try and insult me all you want, GS, but I am never going to apologize for having a philosophy.
I understand that makes me threatening, but listen to the message rather than reacting to the ‘insult’.

Best.

posted by: Jobsfin on February 14, 2017  10:25pm

Saunders says, “There are two kinds of artists in New Haven. 
The Ones who thinks of others, and the Others who think of themselves.
Use your Creative Power for Positive Change, I say.  The rewards follow.”

I say insert any job title for “artists” and you’re nearer the spirit of citizenship. And as for creative power Im with Chuck Close:  “Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 15, 2017  4:24am

For what it’s worth, I am glad there is finally a discussion going on about art, artists, and the social value of the enterprise. As I said, I must have hit something…...........

posted by: OhHum on February 17, 2017  1:29pm

If you’re trying to earn a living from your Art in New Haven you’ll have to teach. To teach you’ll need a BS, MS in education or the Holy Grail, MFA. If you don’t want to teach you’ll have to marry someone who is willing to support you. I’m unsure which of the above will be tougher. In any event, if you’re really serious about your art move to an a major metropolitan center (please don’t think that New Haven is that place) work your ass off, try really hard to get a gallery to show your Art.  When the realization that Art is a commodity bought and sold by the wealthy for really ridiculous amounts of money becomes apparent to you (and you’re not the one selling it at the gallery du jour) think about getting a degree that will afford you the money to buy it. Art: It’s all fun and games until someone get hit in the mind.