Dear CAST Artist:
One would think that after more than 35 years of lawyering I would know how to communicate effectively, however, that was certainly not clear last week when CCAS sent out its 2012 “call to artists” for the 2012 CAPITAL ARTIST’S STUDIO TOUR.
When CCAS announced its 2012 CAST Studio Tour last week I was looking at the big picture, but I failed to fill in the background details which would have made the picture much clearer, so now I am going to try to do that.
Starting with the big picture; CCAS believes in and strives to support the arts in our greater Sacramento region. While CCAS is primarily focused on visual arts, it fully supports all of the arts. CCAS wants to enhance community support for all of the arts. It is no secret that support for the arts has declined over the past few years. According to a study done by Americans for the Arts, historically support for the arts follows the business cycle and the business cycle has been down the past few years. Randy Cohen, with Americans for the Arts, spoke in Sacramento recently and he confirmed this bad news.
On the other hand he also had some good news. He reported that “there is a renewed interest in business support for the arts as it relates to building the 21st century workforce. Businesses are using the arts to inspire employees, stimulate innovation and foster creative collaboration.”
Mr. Cohen also listed 10 reasons to support the arts, such as: 1) arts are an industry, 2) arts are good for local merchants, 3) arts are a cornerstone of tourism, 4) arts are creative industries, 5)arts in schools = better SAT scores, 6) arts help improve academic performance, 7) arts help improve the 21st century workforce, arts benefit the healthcare industry, 9)arts help build stronger communities and 10) arts help develop true prosperity.
CCAS believes CAST is a critical part of bringing the arts to the public in Sacramento. CAST is the biggest public arts event in this area. It draws the biggest crowds and it puts local artists in the spotlight. It is intended to be about local artists and for local artists. In fact it cannot succeed without the participation of local artists.
This will be the seventh year CCAS has hosted CAST. When it first started, in 2006, it involved less than 30 artists. In 2011 there were over 150 participating artists. As most of you know CAST was the brainchild of former CCAS Board President Cheryl Holben. Cheryl has nurtured and grown CAST for the past six years. In 2012 Cheryl decided it was time to find a new challenge, but before moving on she hand-picked the person she trusted to take over CAST. Cheryl hand-picked local artist Lisa Fernald-Barker to chair CAST. Lisa was approved by the CCAS board of directors in late 2011. Lisa added several other local artists to her committee, along with several CCAS Board members, several local marketing specialists and of course the CCAS Director and staff.
Lisa immediately undertook a survey of how open studio tours are conducted in six other California areas; Santa Cruz, North Coast (Humboldt County), Sonoma County, Marin county, SF Open Studios, Arts Obispo (San Luis Obispo). She learned a lot from this survey. First of all she found that participation fees for the artists in these other six areas ranged from a low of $95 in Humboldt County to a high of $390 in Sonoma County. The average charge was $272! Five of the six studio tours used a printed catalog or Studio Guide, plus tons of social media and in many cases paid media advertising. Several have dedicated websites. All of them operated for at least two weekends and several were open 3 to 5 weekends.
Armed with this information the 2012 CCAS CAST Committee began meeting in December 2011 to plan the 2012 CAST Studio Tour. The committee studied the results of Lisa’s survey and developed a plan for 2012. The committee also reviewed the survey responses from 2011 CAST participants. It considered the complaints about large venues which were not studios; it considered the sales and marketing issues raised by last year’s participants; it even met with local non-profit marketing guru Gordon Fowler at 3-Fold Communications to discuss a complete rebranding of CCAS and CAST. After evaluating all of this information the Committee settled on several major requirements for the 2012 CAST Studio Tour.
First, the committee wanted the tour to last over two weekends. This was due in part to the request of artists, who complained they could not see other studios because they were tied down over the same time slots. Also it was based on audience survey responses where our public audience complained that there were too many studios to visit in one weekend.
Secondly, the committee wanted a top quality, professionally designed and printed TOUR GUIDE, in a magazine format, with Studio listings, artist information and an image from the artist, along with the tour map.
Third, the committee wanted a dedicated website to support the TOUR.
Fourth, the committee wanted all artists’ studios in the Sacramento Metropolitan Area to participate, not just the mid-town/downtown artists. So it decided to expand the range from within 4 miles of the Center to within 10 miles of the Center.
Fifth, the committee wanted more hands on interactive sites in 2012, where the audience would be allowed, in fact encouraged, to participate directly in the creation of works of two and three dimensional art.
Once those five basic decisions were made the committee had to develop a budget for the event. The criterion set by the CCAS Board of Directors is that CAST must pay for itself and generate some income to support the underlying mission of CCAS. Simply stated CAST will be in 2012, and has always been, a fund raiser for CCAS. The 2012 CAST budget is approximately $50,000. That includes the cost of putting on CAST, including administrative overhead (the cost of CCAS staff, space, insurance, etc.), advertising , promotion, website development, printing, signage, art supplies for interactive projects, advertising sales, tour guide production costs, hiring additional staff for some events, and anything else associated with making 2012 CAST the biggest and best so far.
With the budget set the committee had to decide how much of that cost would be charged to participating artists. Recognizing that in the past an artist could participate in the tour for as little as $25 the committee was concerned about establishing a fair price. While it is true an artist could join the tour for only $25 in the past, the average cost for most artists was substantially more than that. In 2011 if an artist wanted to participate in the marketing package they paid an additional fee of anywhere from $15 to $30, so their 2011 costs rose to $40 -$55. Most artists paid about $55 last year. Given the rates that surrounding tours charge, all of which were higher than what CCAS has been charging, and given the increased size of the tour in 2012 the committee felt an increase to $125 was justifiable for 2012, with an opportunity to get in for as little as $99 by signing up early.
The Committee hoped to raise $10,000 through participation fees, which would guarantee the hard costs of the tour. The committee is aware that this is a significant increase over 2011 and past years. So it decided to add some incentives, such as full Patron level membership in CCAS included in the registration fee. This will entitle participating artists to receive two CCAS membership cards with the NARM sticker. The NARM benefit is significant because it gets you into over 500 museums nationwide for free, including museums in San Francisco and Sacramento such as the DE Young, Legion of Honor, Yerba Buena, Crocker, the Railroad Museum and many more.
You also get a SAM pass, which allows you and your family one free admission to any of the 28 local museums in and around Sacramento who belong to the Sacramento Association of Museums, including the Zoo, Crocker, Railroad Museum, Auto Museum, Museum of Air and Space, the Sacramento Children’s Center, and many more. These benefits alone will more than make up for the cost of participating in the 2012 CAST Studio tour. Then there is the tour guide, with a listing and an image, which will be printed in 25,000 copies. Then there is the ad campaign which will promote the tour and will promote sales during the tour. Then there is the community support for the arts which will make your name more known and recognized. Then there is the general benefit to our community standing and recognition as a quality arts region.
There is one area where we really failed to communicate. CCAS knows there are a number of artists who work together in one location. In the past we have always had a special pricing structure for those groups and we intended to do that in 2012, but we never told anyone. We did say that if an artist from outside the 10 mile radius wanted to participate they could try to find a studio within the area who would share space with them and we would give the two a discount. The price for the two would drop from $125 each to $175 for the two. As a practical matter we really do not care how the fees are divided up. That plan will work well up to about six artists and it can be applied to artists in or outside the area. So, for example, three artists sharing a single studio location would pay $300 ($125 +$50+$125) or if they all register before the early-bird deadline, April 30, $222 ($99+$24+$99). Four would pay $350 ($125+$50 for the first two and $125+$50 for the second two / or a total of $246 by April 30), five would pay $475 and six would pay $175 x 3 or $525 and remember, in all cases the $125 would be reduced to $99 if they sign up before April 30th, 2012.
At seven or more we adopted a different price point. If you are in a collaborative with 7 or more artists, all at one location, then the Collaborative can enter CAST for a flat fee of $500 and the collaborative will be listed in the Tour Guide with one image. If any of the seven or more individual artists want to be listed individually in the Tour Guide, along with an image, they can do so for an additional $30 each. The individual artists in the collaborative will have the option. They can all sign up and be listed or any portion of them can sign up. In the six or lower grouping all the individual artists will be listed in the Tour Guide along with an image. It is just for the larger groups where individual artists can opt in or out of the individual listing for a fee. For example, VERGE, with its 27 artists, can participate in the 2012 CAST Studio Tour for $500. In the Tour Guide we will list VERGE, with its address, and one image submitted by VERGE. We will say there are 27 artists in residence at VERGE but we will not list the 27 by name. If an individual VERGE artist wants to be listed by name and have an image in the 2012 Tour Guide he or she can do so for an additional individual fee of $30 each. The same would be true for Arthouse or Brickhouse or Kennedy Gallery or Panama, for instance. There may be others. If you are not sure call CCAS and ask. We will be happy to work with you.
In closing, the bottom line is CAST is supposed to be all about the ARTISTS and that is the detail we thought we were paying attention too. If we overlooked or failed to explain our rationale for why the price increased this year I hope you now understand. It is really only another $44 dollars for most of you, so it is less than double, and it is for a good reason. It will cost a lot more to put this event on the map this year, but we think we have a winning formula and this will be the biggest and best CAST to date. I feel so strongly about this that I am willing to offer you a money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, after CAST is over, I will refund your individual participation fee. I believe you will see increased traffic, sales and enthusiasm this year and I am willing to stake your participation fee on it. That said, I hope I have answered your questions. If you have more questions, please call or e-mail me.
Phillip M. Cunningham