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What makes a scam a scam?

As a continuation in the spirit of my column on fair trade means fair trade -- I want to first alert artists to a scam that has come to my attention. Apparently now artists need to be very vigilant about people posing as collectors buying their work over the internet via artists websites. Recently, a so-called collector wanted to buy several works from an artist and sent several money orders that looked authentic. The collector then contacted the artist saying that he paid her more than she quoted him and asked her to return the difference. She caught it in time -- the money orders were forged but one must take note that the treasury department does not look favorable on those who have forged checks. Nor does this department seem to care if one got these innocently. I would recommend that one check with their bank on how to protect themselves from forged checks, the Better Business Bureau and also keep this website, snopes.com handy for other scams that are out there. (Special thanks to Joyce Linehan, Ashmont Media/Ashmont Records for bringing the above scam to my attention). Also of note is a current credit card scam making the rounds.

If you need legal advise and/or representation, contact the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

The second area I wish to address is the practice of galleries/arts organizations charging entrance fees to artists to enter group shows. Personally and professionally I am against such practices. I will not jury a show if an entrance fee is charged. I would rather forego getting a stipend for jurying (I offer this as a way for me to still jury) than to see artists get charged a fee for me to look at their work. Nor will I ever enter a show that charges a fee. I think it is just plain wrong to do this practice. I have had spirited discussions with my colleagues on this practice and with several of them we have had to agree to disagree. Artists already subsidize the art world and this practice just adds to disrespecting and exploiting artists as far as I am concerned. If no one entered these show or if we all boycotted them- the galleries/art organizations would have to find another way to raise their money to cover their called costs (like selling art work, grant writing, and other types of fundraiser/income generation).

I am, however, often asked when speaking to classes and publicly to comment about these calls for art that charge a fee. I offer the following advise:

1. Don’t enter these shows.

2. If you do enter these shows don’t throw away your money. Be strategic in the ones you enter.

2. Research and make sure the gallery/arts organization is legit and has a good reputation (ie: it exists, treats artists fairly with prompt payment when work sells, the work is insured when in the gallery - if the work is not insured in the gallery DO NOT enter the show - this is a red flag that the organization is not up to par.)

3. Only enter if the juror or jurors are well known and respected in the professional arena and you are keenly interested in them seeing your work.

4. Make a copy of the check you send along with the entry form for tax purposes.

5. If you are juried into the show, write a thank you note to the juror(s) but only if you can find out their contact info via the web/normal public channels. Also put them on your mail list.

Image found here.

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