The Artist’s Legacy Workbook
Published by Bryan Memorial Gallery, Jeffersonville, VT, 2015

Supported by an Innovations and Collaborations Grant from
The Vermont Community Foundation

Buy the Workbook: 32 Pages, printed, with worksheets and samples. $12.95 »Buy Now

Download the PDF: Easily downloadable format. $8.00 »Buy Now

For the Artist

What you get in this workbook?

Amidst the responsibilities one has to oneself and one’s family, the legacy of any given artist has its own peculiarities, as unique as you yourself. Whether you are an artist who has been painting your entire life, or whether you picked up the brush in recent years, by now you have created your own particular niche within your community and the cadre of artists who make up your tribe.

Some of the questions in this workbook may have been asked of you already. Perhaps you are among the lucky few. The Smithsonian or some other research facility, or your alma mater may have reached out to you; perhaps all your work has sold, or your family has spoken for all your important paintings, or a foundation has been established in your name.

Otherwise, this workbook proposes to help you frame some questions to ask yourself. You may want to adjust the procedures in your studio, making life not only easier on your heirs but also on yourself.

Step 1. Inventory the work.

You know you need an inventory, and your heirs will need it even more. Since it becomes the authorized document about your work, regular entries will not only be essential to your heirs but also will be an important tool for you to utilize while you’re making art. It can also be helpful to the current dealers of your work.

Google “artist inventories” and you’ll be dazzled at the array and breadth of suggestions available for keeping an inventory of your work. This workbook simplifies this activity for you and offers insight and suggestions. Included is a list of must-have information to keep for each peice of artwork.

You can find a sample inventory page here

Step 2. Care for your work.

These recommendations are written artist to artist. This is not legal advice. Its content is personal, even emotional, touching on the considerations about the contents of your studio that you don’t put into a will. The suggestions are straightforward, and you can tailor them to meet the needs of your personal situation. For example, they are addressed to visual artists producing two and three dimensional objects. If a variation on this advice applies to your discipline, please make the application for us.

Advice is given that allows you to experience the joy of preparing for the next generation to appreciate and enjoy your artwork.

Step 3. Price your work.

As a living, working artist, you have some familiarity with pricing your work, and your price lists will inform your heirs about their reasonable expectations for the value of your work tomorrow. It is always wise to review your prices and your pricing structure periodically, perhaps at the same time of your annual studio purge. In some ways, pricing your artwork is a moving target, for both the living artist and for the heirs of the deceased artist. There are trends, there is availability, there are prices too high for the market place and too low to be taken seriously.

The workbook delves into many of the issues and challenges in pricing and offers practical advice. Among the topics covered are:

  • the variables to consider when determining the retail price of your work.
  • how comparable works are priced in a given locale or gallery
  • the importance of comparing yourself with yourself
  • when not to raise your prices
  • what to avoid
  • the importance of an updated inventory list with pricing

Step 4. Conserve your work.

If the long term care of your artwork strikes you as overkill, consider it as preventative medicine. Just as with our bodies, the damage from abuse doesn’t necessarily show up right away, but when it does, the effects can be lethal. The topic of conservation can take volumes, technical and curatorial, and a search of the Internet is going to produce more tangible results than this workbook contains. Whether your medium is paint or clay, fabric or metal, wood or stone, as you develop your expertise in handling materials, you also get to know the materials as living organisms. Artwork has a life all its own, and there are irrefutable and sometimes unforgiving guidelines that artwork requires in order to be sustained.

The workbook contains information and definitions that will help you conserve your work properly.

Step 5. Acknowledge where you belong in the art world.

Depending upon how long you have been making and exhibiting art, it is important to acknowledge the context in which you belong as an artist. For example, if you have exhibited your work in museum quality exhibitions, or if the gallery that represents you schedules a annual one-person exhibit of your work, you might go about dealing with your legacy differently than if your participation in group shows is occasional and local.

If you have developed a business of selling copies of your work, such as giclee prints, or products on which your imagery is licensed, you would deal with your artistic legacy differently than if you only sell original works in gallery settings or through your website.

In defining your context, you will help the executor of your estate and someone you have designed as your artistic representative determine how to value and distribute your works. For example, if you have had no relationship whatsoever with your local museum or local galleries or other non-profits, you cannot expect those institutions to offer a one-person exhibit of your work to your heirs upon your death. On the other hand, if there is an ongoing business of licensing your imagery, this is information that will be valuable to your executor and that could be profitable to your heirs.

As you consider these questions, looking back over your career and writing an artist’s biography can be helpful both to you and your heirs. Worksheets are included to help with this step.

Step 6. Identify your role in your arts community.

Artists are thought of as solitary creatures, but as soon as they want to exhibit their work or sell their work, it is necessary to emerge from the confinement of the studio into some form of society. Where an artist goes to show their work is part of their story, and can help define how the artist relates to their community in their lifetime, and subsequently. It is important to leave your heirs with an idea of those charitable institutions that were meaningful to you in your lifetime. Be it your local hospital, public television, a school, a church, a senior center, these places can benefit significantly from the gifts of your work. Using the workbook helps you ansswer questions to help you identify those for whom you care, as well as guidance for different choices.

Step 7. Choose an artistic executor.

If you are part of a family, or half of a partnership, the questions of estate planning, financial planning, living wills and health care proxies have probably come up in relation to your partner, children and/or siblings. In addition many artists provide for someone specifically to handle the artistic legacy, who can serve your heirs to their great advantage.

How? Your artistic executor has no legal authority per se but knows your work, your wishes and the art world enough to offer viable advice to your heirs and to the others on your team. The artistic executor knows they are going to play this role in assisting your heirs and your family to settle your estate and has a pretty good idea what to expect. The artistic executor is the person who will oversee your wishes for your artistic legacy.

That role is called the “artistic advisor” or the “artistic executor” or the “art relative” if related, or the “cultural advisor,” or the “legacy advisor” or one of many other terms of endearment that attempt to define the job. For the sake of this workbook, we'll call the job your “artistic executor.”

The workbook covers these items and what to prepare for in meeting with and artistic executor.

Step 8. Set up the artistic executor up for success.

Learn what is necessary to plan for success.

Do It Now

If the person you have chosen to be your artistic executor is someone intrinsic to your life, carrying out these recommendations can add a lovely dimension to your relationship. A sibling, child, spouse, classmate, or long term friend may know some of your story, but these suggestions provide the opportunity for you to enlarge upon what they already know and to learn more about them in the process.

Step 8. Clarify what you want.

Your artistic executor, heirs and survivors play an active role in realizing what you want. Whether you have a beautifully organized studio with copious inventories, or a studio that is evidence of your creative mind, the first question for you in establishing your legacy has got to be, “what do you want?” The workbook gives you some questions to consider.

You are encouraged not only to think about these things now, but also to act upon them. When an artist is constantly adding to their portfolio, there is value in making way for more new work. If an established artist has begun to consider down-sizing, these questions can help frame the possibilities. Act on your answers now, while you are an active contributor to your community and to your family. Your most recent work will add a new dimension and more abundance to what you store in your studio as it is.

Buy the Workbook: 40 Pages, printed, with worksheets and samples. $12.95 »Buy Now

Download the PDF: Easily downloadable format. $8.00 »Buy Now

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