Be Smart About Art

Do you ever gamble?

written by: Susan Mumford March 1, 2015 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 4128 views

Do you ever gamble?

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

There’s an unquestionable thrill in taking risk. The adrenaline flows and you see through the outcome, good or bad.

A Wild West story from my very own heritage tells the tale of gambling gone wrong. In late 19th Texas, a great-great uncle was a drunk and gambler. His wife left him, taking their baby to live with her parents. One night in an intoxicated state, he went to his parents-in-law’s house. Determined to win back wife and child, he hammered on the front door, and refused to leave without them. Eventually, the father-in-law shot dead, putting him out of his self-inflicted misery once and for all.

Obviously, we’re no longer in the Wild West, yet there is an important message to be found in this story. What if instead of gambling with one’s own life, we think about how people gamble with creative practices, projects and businesses?

It’s important to thoughtfully trial opportunities, such as collaborations, art fairs, exhibition spaces and the like, while not putting all of your eggs in one basket. It isn’t worth putting everything at risk for the sake of one undertaking, no matter how enticing the possible outcome. The outcome of many such ventures are uncertain, and thus a gamble.

Knowing how much money is needed for each project is key. If you can’t afford to not make sales, it’s imperative that you return to the drawing board and see how to make the project feasible by reducing costs, attaining sponsorship and the like.

Being realistic is paramount. Not every single project is going to be successful. Won’t this make life a bit boring? No - what you do is go into new situations knowingly taking calculated risks. You’ve done essential research, prepared and planned to the best of your ability. If the project doesn’t provide the kind of ‘success’ you seek, you know things will still be okay.

Even if you have optimized the potential for success to the greatest of your ability, things can happen that are out of your control. Collectors could practically be queuing up to purchase works in advance of a groundbreaking new show. However if there’s an economic crash or a new outbreak of war, things can change overnight. In what state would that leave you, the project and your enterprise as a whole?

You don’t want to find yourself on the porch in a desperate state, when you could have just handled things differently in the first instance. Instead of gambling, take calculated, knowing risks that don’t necessitate a lucky turn of the slot machine. As a result, you put yourself in position to enjoy good luck from time to time, maintaining a viable enterprise regardless.

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