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article imageProfits of Artists Remain Steady in Depressed Economy Special

By Kim Hartman     Feb 8, 2010 in Business
Tucson - In a depressed economy, some industries -- such as fine arts -- that do not rely on the financial state of the nation still thrive. Tucson artists share their experiences, motivations and reasons for what has been successful for them.
It's no secret that it has been a difficult year for the United States workforce. The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 10 percent, and there are currently 15.4 million Americans without jobs, according to the Associated Press. National Public Radio reports that new home sales in 2009 were the weakest since 1963, down 23 percent from a year earlier.
In a depressed economy, some fields that are independent of the financial health of the U.S. remain unaffected. One such industry is fine arts.
Many Tucson artists reported no decrease in business in 2009.
"I still sell my work on a consistent basis," mixed media artist Chrissy Goral, who has sold hundreds of pieces throughout her career, said. "But I have a lot of repeat customers, and if it wasn't for that handful of people, I don't know where I'd be."
One of Goral's regular buyers Tiana Velez has bought dozens of pieces by artists throughout the country in the last four years, and she continues to purchase regularly. The first work of art by Goral that Velez bought was called "Rose," which sold at $8,000, in March of 2006. "I had found (Goral's) art online and thought it was beautiful, so I contacted her," she said.
Tucson painter Russ Recchion, whose portrait work goes for $12,000-15,000 per piece, said commission plays a big role as an artist achieving constant purchases, and he reports no falloff of his business in a tough economy.
"I get a lot of jobs through my agent and by word of mouth," Recchion said. "Long-distance portraits (work for non-local clients) are common as well, and make up a big source of my income."
The painter makes flights around the country and works for customers across the United States. "I do portraits to pay the bills, because they are popular and more expensive, and I do landscapes (which range from $900-$3000) for myself," Recchion said.
Steven Derks at Gallery 801. Photo Taken by: Charles Smith
Steven Derks at Gallery 801. Photo Taken by: Charles Smith
Tucson Open Studio Tour regular Steven Derks, an owner and artist at Gallery 801, also said that sales are still reliable at his venue.
"I've been doing this tour for about 14 years, and there has been mostly good sales and profitability, even recently, he said."
The Tucson Open Studio Tour, held twice a year, is a self-guided weekend tour featuring more than 100 artists' studios. "One good thing about being an artist, from a financial perspective, is that if you sell one piece, you're good for awhile," Gallery 801 illustrator and sculpture Bryan Crow said.
Although Tucson photographer Stu Jenks said that the economy has not affected his sales, it has impacted the cost of production. "In a hard year with this economy, supplies are much more expensive now, so the cost to make a piece is higher," he said.
Jenks said launching his Website was a major component to his success. "It was at a time when the Internet was first gaining popularity and not many businesses were doing that, so I had gotten a jump on things in that way, and things really erupted from there," he said.
In a field that is predominantly dependent on exposure and reputation - instead of the state of the economy - Tucson glassblower Will Justiniano said the media has played a significant role in the success of the Sonoran Glass Art Academy. "Getting covered by media organizations has been huge," he said. "It's led to hundreds of sales."
For newer artists, such as Peter Eisner, difficult times prove more of a challenge and lead to fluctuating sales. "Sometimes things are good, while at others, I may not sell anything for a month," he said. "Since I haven't established a regular client base yet, the economy has affected my business because people have less discretionary income."
Breaking into the art field three years ago, Eisner does metal sculpture at Flux Gallery in Plaza Palomino.
"You know, a lot of artists won't admit it, but many of them don't live off of their art alone and have day jobs to pay the bills," Jenks said. "There's an invisible income that's not talked about."
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