Making art and making a living: Artists on the business

Cherry Jones, downtown artist known best for her role in the TV show "24" in the documentary series "Made Here."
Cherry Jones, downtown artist known best for her role in the TV show “24″ in the documentary series “Made Here.”

No matter how much applause you get at curtain call, it’s never been easy to “make it rain” as a performer. Adam Huttler, the founder and executive director of the arts nonprofit Fractured Atlas, says it can be challenge for performers and artists to see the business for what it is: a business.

“That is what they are — even if they don’t always think of themselves in those terms,” he says. At talks and events, the company helps guide arts organizations toward the financial and nuts-and-bolts incentives that can keep them afloat. This evening, Huttler will lead a panel for Internet Week New York, titled “Revenge of the Art Geeks: How Tech Can Help you Build Audiences and Raise Funds.”

From the other side of the curtain, actress Cherry Jones is clear about the struggles of getting paid and making art. “It’s intoxicating working downtown — then you have to pay your bills.” she says of the artsy lifestyle in the online documentary series “Made Here.” The relationship between making money and making art in the scrappy downtown performance scene is just one of many topics covered in the series’ three seasons, including health and wellness, raising a family and more.

For Jones, who is most known for her recurring role on the television show “24,” she says television made it possible for her to continue doing the work in the theater that sustains her artistically. “I don’t know anyone left who’s done just theater for the last 30 years. But I have overwhelming respect for them if they have,” she says, with a laugh.” ”I did those two seasons and I made more money than I ever thought I would in my life, and now I can work in the theater any time I want to,” Jones says of her time in TV.

The issues raised in “Made Here” dovetail with the things Huttler encourages arts organizations to address. He says artists need to learn how to “speak business.” “The word ‘customer’ tends to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths,” he says. “People think ‘McDonald’s has customers, we don’t have customers,’ but they do.” Huttler believes that arts organizations that get real about the bottom line have the biggest shot at seeing their art — and their business — succeed.

Huttler has good news for the scrappy artists in “Made Here” and beyond, though:  “For the little guy, I think things are looking brighter than they ever have,” he says. “They have more opportunities to engage with their audiences directly and they can use technology and powerful new ways.”


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