**scroll down to bypass updates and read my initial post on my experience, if you'd like.
UPDATE: (1/2/2014): I received an email from an anonymous internal RAW source (signed Snowden). The email provided a link to a photobucket library of various screenshots of internal RAW information. This includes pictures of their showcase revenue, info on director retreats to Mexico and Costa Rica (lodging and recreations payed for by HQ) and all employee meetings that touch on my "stupid blog" and ridding search results of my post here. Unfortunately, I cannot share this information publicly on my website at this time. You are entitled to your own opinion about RAW and a well rounded one. I will just offer my take:
- I am not here to start an "I hate RAW uproar". I am a successful emerging artist in my community and please, let me give you my definition of successful emerging artist: I continuously book a growing number of shows from year to year (including one solo a year for three years). I have created dozens of commissions for individuals and companies valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece. I have exhibited at Miami's Art Basel with commissioned work by Art Basel sponsor Perrier. I have a solid network/community of gallerists, handlers, artists, bloggers and photographers. I have been published online and in print. I have done gallery lunch-ins, panel discussions and docent events where I discuss my art and answer questions. I am in no way trying to toot my own horn with this definition. I am simply giving more information about myself and my background as a working artist. Additionally, I would like to quell any thought that I am sour, bitter or have any other motivation behind this besides giving back to my community and offering my experience to those starting out. It most certainly IS hard for me to find the time but I feel as though it's a good thing to find the time to do. I think it's valuable for people in the community to give back to that community and this is exactly what I'm criticizing RAW for not doing. Nothing in my post is false because it is an experience and I am entitled to it. No, I didn't participate in RAW because my experience in marketing and in the art world caused red flags in my mind. I'm also allowed to talk about it and have a fair traffic rating for it. After all, it's artists' instincts that are causing them to search and taking them to my page. It seems their gut feelings are what's giving me this traffic that RAW would like to suppress.
- FACTS: RAW does not give artists grants. RAW makes revenue from ticket sales to events ($300 an artist, online sales plus door sales). There is no evidence to suggest that RAW keeps that money within the community where their showcases occur in order to foster a growth in the arts in that community. In fact, my source says it most definitely does not occur. RAW is now Incorporated. They take retreats to Mexico and Costa Rica. They do not sign a contract with artists despite artists being their biggest investors. They do not insure for loss or damage of your artwork. They spend useless time trying to suppress search results on this page. They drop RAW award nominees if they cannot pay their balance - despite being nominated by their own community.
- My suggestion to RAW is simple: Give back to the community. Perhaps spend time developing relationships with collectors and gallerists in your showcasing cities. Host a networking event in your showcasing communities in order to actually foster a network within the community. No party, no booze, no nightclub, just art FOR FREE
- *Some things to remember: any respectable and reputable gallery will work for your money. They only get paid when you sell work. Their job, then, is to promote you and their art to their community of collectors. Galleries have networks of people who buy art - they know collectors, they go to dinners with them, convince them to buy art. Galleries and owners are art DEALERS, not party planners.
UPDATE: (1/10/2013) LA Weekly Blog asked me for a short interview regarding RAW for their two-sided article about the Organization. Here is the article for more of your information about them.
A couple of years ago, I posted something about my bad experience with a company called RAW Artists somewhere on the internet. (I would link to their site but really don't want to give them any traffic). I said that RAW Artists is a scam. There is nothing more about my experience and people end up emailing me through my website, Tumblr and Facebook about details. Some people are artists themselves that have been approached by RAW and want to know more. Others have been journalists looking for a well rounded view on RAW for various articles. I hope that by posting my experience here on my website, people can find it during their search and I don't have to write more emails. Or at least I could just link to it if I received another. I would like to be able to give advice to any emerging artist when I have it and I do feel this is an important experience to learn from.
I was approached by RAW. They are a social/profile based artist website that throws events with art, fashion, photography etc etc. It looks like a loud, poorly designed and curated dance party/art show. They actively email and approach artists online to participate in the site and try to get them to pay money to be involved in their event. As an artist, I don't want to show my work in a hodge podge art show/club environment and neither should you. Galleries that ask you to pay to show with them, in most cases, are a red-flag. Trust me, you want a gallery that will represent you on a commission based agreement with clear expectations of what each party brings to the table (in other words, IN WRITING). RAW's event is obviously an attempt to put a bunch of things together and make it as sensory overload as possible, (they have a freaking VJ who's Jersey Shore to the max). It seemed to me that they were using artists to promote them instead of the other way around. You are paying them to be the entertainment. Questionable, at the least.
When I was in talks with my contact (I will not disclose any names), they proposed a show date to me and said they had a great clothing designer in mind to pair my jewelry with. They suggested the date and I said I had certain reservations about it because of my schedule at the time. I asked for a clear proposal/agreement for the show. They ask you to pay to be involved - I can't remember exactly but you either pay around $200 or commit to selling a certain amount of tickets to the event....can you say weird? This is not normal for the art world. Since I would have to invest, I wanted to know what my return would be - what does "homepage feature" on your website mean in terms of traffic? Most artist don't spend their days doing online marketing, nor should they be expected to, they are in the studio making art. I do suggest that more artist learn about it because, I happen to know, through some good old days doing online marketing, that you can't just tell a potential "partner" or someone investing a certain amount into being involved with your company "we will give you a homepage feature" and not tell them what that means.
When I asked this question the first couple of times, it was avoided and other "selling points" were brought up. I asked again during our calls and I was told that the information was not in front of my contact at the time. I was offended because, as I said, when going into a call with someone who will potentially be giving you money you should always have that information in front of you. When I used to work in marketing, I would NEVER go into a call with my potential partners without that information. And yes, you as an artist getting involved with RAW can be considered a "partner" in that event/project.
When I finally saw the fashion designs I was to be paired up with, they were not a match at all. The designer was good at her craft of course but her designs simply clashed with mine. The "curator", if you can call them that, had no aesthetic sensibility. They didn't really care whether it went together or not, it seemed. When I finally brought up all of these concerns to my contact, they were met with a rude, aggressive and all caps email reply to my concerns. I was told that it was not about an investment or return thereof. This statement is outrageous for any curator, gallery or art event coordinator to say to any artist. Being an artist is ALL ABOUT the investment. We invest time and money into our art. In addition, RAW is asking us to pay to play AND, in some cases, travel to the event (I was asked to go to LA). None of my travel would have been covered, which would have been fine and an investment I would have willingly made if it hadn't been for tight lips about their returns to me.
Just to clarify - RAW asks the artists to pay to play. In the case of travel, it is made clear that the artist pays their own way for this as well. They do not willingly share their website traffic (visitors to website monthly/daily) to you nor do they let you know how much traffic your page on their site is expected to receive. In addition to this, all of the traffic for this stays within their website. All PR and Media they do for the event (which is a huge selling point for them) is not directed to the artists website or online space but to RAW's website. In other words, artists want to make sure that their websites are getting traffic and it didn't seem as though RAW had any intention of facilitating this nor did they bring it up or mention it in communication.
In addition to these being very good talking points that any sensible working artist should bring up, here are other things to consider (this is taken from a reply of mine to another enquirer):
If you have worked with RAW, do you honestly see yourself going on to display your work in contemporary art galleries that will market your work to real world collectors and provide you with more than a video and a feature on a website? Yes, there are juried exhibitions where you have to "pay-to-play", as you say, but this is paying for some of the highest respected curators, critics, artists, and grant organizations to look at your work. I absolutely do not place RAW in that category because frankly, I believe they have very little aesthetic sensibility. Their events are essentially night-club parties with a hodge-podgy mix of any type of art. Basically, anyone that is emerging, makes some type of art and will pay them to be involved can do these events - do you really, as an artist, want to put yourself on that boat? What other opportunities have sprung forward with serious, upstanding galleries?
I urge you, and all artists, to do research on online marketing and to do it for yourself - it's a great tool to reach out to art communities (this is free, you don't need to pay to network). Ask these questions: what does an online feature on your website even mean? Am I really getting a lot of exposure here? Do they reach out to third party press affiliates to get interviews for you or do they direct ALL traffic to their website? How many hits does your homepage even get and does any of this traffic get back to your website? When I asked these questions and, more specifically, how much traffic they receive, I was told they were not in front of my contact at RAW. This is offensive for these reasons: First, don't go into a phone call with someone asking them for money and the presence of their brand at your event and not have the return number, period. That's a business no no. Second, NO artist should be expected to go into ANY show without a contract ESPECIALLY if they are paying to be involved. A contract lists out the responsibilities of each party and details the return on the artists investment for making the work, traveling for show etc. This includes information on the homepage feature and answering any artists' questions about it. A simple email and phone call does not equal a signed statement. This is foolery on the part of any artists and most showing and professional artists will tell you a horror story about how they learned from their mistake. Always get a contract and know what everything means!
When I attempted to address these issues, my contact replied in an aggressive and ALL CAPS email stating, "It is not about an investment or a return thereof." REALLY? For artists, it's ALL about investment! We "pay our dues" to make our work, travel for show, websites, business cards etc - don't we deserve more than a sloppy negotiation and no contract? Or at the very least, answers to our questions? Any organization that would say that to an artist, especially when they work with artists, clearly does not know their client or their audience. They behave like no upstanding gallery would.
I urge all artists to do their own marketing and online networking. You don't need to pay anyone to be involved in a community of artists - we are all over the internet and talking about stuff. There are FREE online bulletins and forums talking about FREE Calls for Artists and Juried Exhibitions (and "pay to "plays", most ranging from $20 - $40 dollars for a one time fee. There are photographers ALL OVER to collaborate with - also, as an artist, it really wouldn't be a bad idea to invest in a camera to take pictures of your own work. There are FREE online networking websites for artists: The Whole 9, Art Slant, Saatchi Online just to name a few.
Including what I've already given you, here is some more FREE advice: if you are approaching galleries with your work PLEASE make sure to search their website to see if they are even taking submissions. Many galleries will state on their contact page whether they are open to taking submissions or not. Nothing is more annoying than when people just email galleries with attachments of their work hoping for a show. Put together a nice folder with a printout of your resume, a disk of images of your work, a business card, a printed statement for your work and send it in the mail. This shows you took time and you ALWAYS want a clean and thoughtful presentation of ANYTHING you do as an artist. If you must email, make sure your images are sent in a zip file (compressed) as a folder with your images clearly labeled as follows: "LastName_First_01, LastName_First_02, etc."
I wish everyone luck in the creative process. I hope this helps. Please elevate your standards whenever you can in your work, in the venue of inclusion of that work and the presentation of it. I don't make a lot of money as a teacher but I invest a lot in my work. You should as well! <3