In the era of gig work and a nationwide devaluation of the arts in both culture and education, it can be more of a struggle than ever to get by as a working artist. That’s why we have compiled this list of tips for artists on a budget. We hope that you will be able to apply these to your own art practice to help make your work more communal, sustainable, and profitable!
For more tips from Chicago artists, you can check out our interview series and more tips here.
Depending on your medium, space and equipment can be prohibitively expensive commodities for artists, but they don’t have to be! Over the last few decades, Makerspaces have cropped up in many cities to address the need for affordable facilities for artists. These spaces generally offer community use of tools and storage to members, and are much less expensive than renting out a studio space, plus they are furnished with amazing amenities like CNC printers, woodshops, and darkrooms, to name just a few. In addition to offering affordable amenities, these spaces foster community and collaboration, a breath of fresh air in a world where creating can often be a solitary and isolated way of life.
No matter where you live, we recommend checking out Makerspaces near you. If you are in Chicago, we have a couple of favorites: Avondale’s Pumping Station: One starts memberships at $40 per month and offers need-based scholarships as well. The space furnishes tools and facilities for 3D design, metalwork, photography, and more. South Side Hackerspace, located in an industrial section of Bridgeport, is a 1,200-square-foot, collectively owned space that opens its doors to artists of all disciplines, but does focus more heavily on new media and technology-based work. This facility charges members $45 per month and includes a community garden on-site.
Though not quite as widespread as Makerspaces, creative reuse centers can be found in several cities and are a great way to save money on art supplies, whether you’re planning to craft papier mache with family or looking for canvas and gesso for your working practice. Chicago’s TheWasteShed is beloved by local artists as a place where nearly any material can be found.
They are also dedicated to reducing waste, and founder Eleanor Ray calculates that they saved over 45,000 pounds of supplies from the landfill in the last year alone. The Humboldt Park storefront also offers free art supplies to teachers, who must often spend their own money in order to supply classrooms. TheWasteShed is only offering curbside pickup at this time, so peruse their online store to see what’s available.
It can be frustrating to spend time and money preparing a collection, then run into expensive application fees from galleries and journals when it’s time to find a home for our work. Sites like Artrepreneur and Submittable’s no-fee section can help you to search for journals, galleries, and even residencies around the country which currently have submissions open and do not require a fee to apply.
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