Man in a suit smiles in a studio space
Associate Director
Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston

On March 23, Jim Grace, Executive Director of the Arts and Business Council, delivered a workshop on negotiation and copyright as part of the professional development series co-hosted by NEFA’s Creative City program, Now + There’s Accelerator program, and the City of Boston’s Artist-in-Residence program. This series seeks to give artists practical tools and knowledge to continue building thriving practices. Previous workshops in the series focused on taxes, accounting, insurance, and budgets. A thread that connects these conversations is value – for all to value the work of artists and for artists to be clear on the values that shape their practice.

Photo by Jeffrey Filiault/NEFA.

Copyright is one key way that artists and their artistic products are valued. Artists who create work have ownership of the work as a form of property (with exceptions and caveats if they’ve entered into agreements with others or are developing work collaboratively). That ownership comes with a bundle of rights, like the right to make and distribute copies, perform, display, and make derivative copies of the work. Protecting and exploiting these rights is one way, but certainly not the only way, that artists can assert their values and generate value from their creative expressions.

But artists do not create their works in a vacuum. They work with others in various situations that they need to negotiate with and come to agreements. In these contexts, artists need to know the value of the finished work and the value of the time, effort and materials that go into the making of it are important considerations for the artists involved. A few highlights of what Jim shared about negotiation:

  • Negotiation is all about relationships and values. In public art projects in particular, finding common ground with community partners, fabricators, funders, teachers, public sites and venues and a range of other stakeholders is an essential part of the process.
  • Negotiation isn’t just about winning. Many of us have learned that negotiation is all about winning, being right or at the very least not losing. But, in public art, artists’ needs are often balanced with the needs of the many stakeholders involved, so this win/lose mentality isn’t really an effective way to achieve the goals of a project.
  • Negotiating creative projects can benefit from what some call principled negotiation (think of Getting to Yes).  In this style or approach to negotiation, the aspiration is to ensure that the interests or needs of all parties are met in ways that strengthen relationships and produce a valuable outcome for everyone involved. Developing options and communicating from a place of shared values is key to making this win-win approach to negotiation successful.

We’re excited to continue creating spaces in which artists can have these kinds of conversations.

Through the professional development program we’ve developed with NEFA, the City of Boston, and Now + There, our fellowship programs, the Creative Entrepreneur Fellowship and Walter Feldman Fellowship for Emerging Artists, and our work on the national initiative, Artists Thrive, the Arts & Business Council is deeply invested in empowering artists with knowledge, tools, and networks that help them to flourish in ways that recognize the value of their work and the values communicated by it.