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Artists Find It Pays to 'Demonstrate' Their Art

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Every artist has heard it. Masonville, Colorado sculptor Daniel B. Glanz certainly has heard it. Someone looks at one of his small bronze pieces of animals or human figures, sees the price and asks, "Why does this little sculpture cost so much?" He has an answer to this, but sometimes it is easier to show people, and for that reason he offers demonstrations of the process of making a sculpture several times a year at the galleries that represent his work (there are three in Colorado and one in Texas) and, occasionally, at a museum.

The demonstrations last a couple of hours each. Some visitors stay for the entire time, while others go in and out. Talking through each stage of the process, Glanz brings a lump of clay, a wax figure, an armature, a mold, the bronze piece and the bronze after it has been smoothed and patinated in its final version. He will do something with each of the stages to reveal what is involved. "People have no idea how labor-intensive the process of producing a bronze is," he said, and his demonstrations usually elicit lots of questions: "Why do you do it this way? Why did you make that decision?" By the end of the demonstration, he noted, the why-does-it-cost-so-much question "often becomes, 'There is so much work involved. How can you afford to do it?'"

Chalk the modest expense of setting up a demonstration, and his time doing it, to the cost of marketing. "I do it for promotional reasons, to educate people about what goes into making a sculpture," Glanz said, "and get them to thinking about buying one." These demonstrations have resulted in purchases right at the site of the demonstration -- he brings a number of fully made artworks to sell -- as well as commissions to create other works down the road, in addition to visits to his website, where other pieces are on constant view. (He also makes sure to bring flyers, postcards and other promotional material that lists his website and studio address in Loveland, Colorado for visitors to take with them.)

Hunting up prospective buyers is not the only benefit for artists to demonstrate how they work. Karen Nastuk, a watercolorist in Danvers, Massachusetts, has been asked by a number of art associations to present demonstrations of between two and five hours for their members (she has been paid between $75 and $250 per demonstration), and it is from these gatherings that she has found private students. "In a lot of these associations, you may have one or two people with advanced skills," she said, "but most of them are more like Sunday painters, and they really appreciate someone showing them how to do certain things and explaining how to do it at the same time."

At other times, a demonstration may offer no immediate payback but, instead, serve a public service function. Many of the arts and crafts fairs in which Albuquerque, New Mexico ceramicist Sandra Lipka has taken a booth feature demonstrations by some of the participating artists, and Lipka often has shown visitors how to throw clay. "It is truly touching to see a child's eyes light up when you take a lump of clay and turn it into a bowl," she said. "It gets them, and their parents and other people, too, to realize that bowls don't just come from big box stores, that you can make them yourself."

Opportunities to hold a demonstration are abundant, at art galleries, arts and community centers, and at many art museums. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles are just two institutions around the country that offer regular series of artists' lectures and demonstrations for the public. Last April 28, Glanz held a demonstration on bronze sculpture-making at the Loveland Museum & Gallery as part of the state's annual Governor's Invitational Art Show and Sale (a work of his was selected to be in the show). Of all the places to hold a demonstration, Glanz liked the museum the best. "It's much more comfortable than in the shows where you set up a booth and have to show people things within a cramped space," he said. Other benefits include meeting "a lot of potential clients" and getting the event written up in newspapers and magazines.