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Alessandra Kelley
10-07-2012, 08:36 PM
The Free Art Machine (by Chicago the Beautiful) (http://www.chicagothebeautiful.com/pages/free-art-machine)

The above link is their official website, and it has almost no information.

However, Chicago the Beautiful currently has a Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/615529996/the-free-art-machine?ref=home_spotlight) running where they explain it:


The intrepid inventors at Chicago The Beautiful have produced a marvelous machine, a Free Art Machine. This incredible instrument, this miraculous mechanism, produces free art fantastically for just a dollar a unit! But we need your help to kickstart the Free Art Machine and keep it running...

The Free Art Machine is a project envisioned by two Chicago artists and their arts initiative, Chicago The Beautiful. The goal of the project is to produce thousands of pieces of free art made with public submissions, for distribution in various creative ways. The project will support local Chicago artists while simultaneously cultivating art appreciation. (Bolding mine)

Interesting. I was curious to learn how they are supporting local Chicago artists.


Artists can reach art-lovers via the Free Art Machine. When the art-lover finds a piece that speaks to them, they can pull it off the wall and keep it. The artist's information will be on the back of the block, putting the art consumer in direct contact with their new favorite artist. They will then have the opportunity to view and purchase more work from that artist.

Okay, that's nice, I guess. A little acknowledgement of the artists on the back of Chicago the Beautiful's wall-mounted art blocks. But surely this cannot be the extent of their "support of local Chicago artists." This is nothing more than the notorious "exposure," which as has been demonstrated elsewhere is of little merit or worth.

Sadly, this does seem to be what they mean by "support" of local artists. They certainly do not mean to pay them:


We believe art is free.

Oh dear.


All pledges are divided 50/50 between free art and the production of rewards.

- 50% toward production of free art pieces: At $1 per unit, $100 will produce 100 pieces of free art. If we meet our kickstarter goal, the Free Art Machine will produce 4000 pieces of free art for distribution in cafes, art galleries, and at unique events. As an example, if we receive $50,000, the Free Art Machine will produce 25,000 pieces of free art.

- 50% toward production of rewards: The funds received for production of the rewards includes minimal labor costs, ensuring that even with a massive number of orders our hand-made products will be delivered on time. Local Chicago artists and artisans can quickly be employed to help with the timely production of your rewards.

...

The rewards will be hand-crafted products and services produced by the two artists who first envisioned the project, plus free art produced by the Free Art Machine.

In other words, all of the money is going to pay for the making of the laminated blocks, 50% for the project and 50% for the Kickstarter backers.

No pay is going to any of the artists who are expected to provide the "massive numbers" of images these people expect to use.

This entire project is predicated on getting thousands of images royalty-free from artists. Merely acknowledging the artists somewhere in the project is hardly compensation for this.

The Free Art Machine by Chicago the Beautiful is a perfect example of a terrible deal for artists painted in the colors of altruism and exposure.

As many a rueful artist has said: people die from exposure.

Filigree
10-08-2012, 12:25 AM
Art-o-mat has been in business longer, and has actually launched careers.
I can't make anything cheap enough to profit from them, but I've seen some great pieces.

http://www.artomat.org/

Alessandra Kelley
10-08-2012, 04:42 AM
Art-o-mat pays its artists.

I'll grant you, $2.50 a piece isn't much, but it is a full 50% of the purchase price.

Also, Art-o-mat artists craft their own items and they are encouraged to produce original artworks, unlike the assembly-line laminated onto wooden blocks photoprints of The Free Art Machine. Art-o-mat recommends the inclusion of extra information about the artists and actively tries to foster relationships between artists and collectors, unlike The Free Art Machine's minimal acknowledgement of the artists on the backs of its pieces. Art-o-mat juries artists' submissions and at least gives the impression of being selective about them, which sounds very different from The Free Art Machine's focus on vast numbers.

Art-o-mat seems to be a carefully thought-out, intelligent way to get tiny handcrafted artworks into the hands of younger, newer art collectors on a budget, with a fun use of rehabbed old vending machines, a reasonable division of labor, some pay, and a sincere interest in the qualty of the work and the careers of its artists.

In contrast, The Free Art Machine sounds like a half-baked, breathlessly "cool" project dependent on hundreds of unpaid artists and two people willing to laminate photos onto blocks, or apparently dragoon their friends into helping if necessary. It sounds poorly thought out and casually cruel in its presumptuousness.

Its Kickstarter is doing well enough to show a high ranking, but I suspect this will not end well.

Filigree
10-08-2012, 07:29 AM
My thoughts, precisely.

Gale Haut
10-08-2012, 07:36 AM
That business model makes absolutely no sense to me...

Alessandra Kelley
10-15-2012, 06:50 AM
That business model makes absolutely no sense to me...

It's got over 600 backers (with 21 days to go) and has raised over $20,000, considerably more than its $8,000 goal.

Perhaps Kickstarter is its business model.

...

They have four updates so far. The latest one is asking if anyone knows where they can get a vending machine.

...

What I find truly depressing is that most of the eight comments they have (Eight! From 629 backers! The Kickstarters I have been involved in have all had way more scrutiny.) are people asking how to get their art into this project.

Filigree
10-15-2012, 07:53 AM
And my friend Vera couldn't get $5000 for her anthology project. Heh.
I have no words.

Gale Haut
10-15-2012, 09:46 AM
There is the option to report them if they are somehow breaking the rules on the site. It seems likely that a reputable company like Kickstarter would not allow a fundraiser for an idea that depends upon copyright infringement.

Alessandra Kelley
10-15-2012, 03:14 PM
There is the option to report them if they are somehow breaking the rules on the site. It seems likely that a reputable company like Kickstarter would not allow a fundraiser for an idea that depends upon copyright infringement.

I'm not sure they're technically breaking any rules. I don't think it counts as copyright infringement if the artists donate their artworks to be freely reproduced, which is what they are being asked to do.

Gale Haut
10-15-2012, 03:50 PM
Okay. See, I did misunderstand. :-/

That's definitely not cool.

muravyets
11-05-2012, 05:24 AM
Art-o-mat pays its artists.

I'll grant you, $2.50 a piece isn't much, but it is a full 50% of the purchase price.

Also, Art-o-mat artists craft their own items and they are encouraged to produce original artworks, unlike the assembly-line laminated onto wooden blocks photoprints of The Free Art Machine. Art-o-mat recommends the inclusion of extra information about the artists and actively tries to foster relationships between artists and collectors, unlike The Free Art Machine's minimal acknowledgement of the artists on the backs of its pieces. Art-o-mat juries artists' submissions and at least gives the impression of being selective about them, which sounds very different from The Free Art Machine's focus on vast numbers.

Art-o-mat seems to be a carefully thought-out, intelligent way to get tiny handcrafted artworks into the hands of younger, newer art collectors on a budget, with a fun use of rehabbed old vending machines, a reasonable division of labor, some pay, and a sincere interest in the qualty of the work and the careers of its artists.

In contrast, The Free Art Machine sounds like a half-baked, breathlessly "cool" project dependent on hundreds of unpaid artists and two people willing to laminate photos onto blocks, or apparently dragoon their friends into helping if necessary. It sounds poorly thought out and casually cruel in its presumptuousness.

Its Kickstarter is doing well enough to show a high ranking, but I suspect this will not end well.
I once sold 250 miniature artist books through Art-o-mat and made a profit on each unit because, as an experiment to see if it was possible, I designed the objects specifically for the price-point. I did realize good exposure through Art-o-mat because I was able to present my work, my way, with my packaging and information, and it was placed in venues where people with art interests would show up -- galleries, etc. I still have that mini-book on offer in other venues where it does fairly well, and I would love to offer another item through Art-o-mat.

However, I wouldn't touch this Chicago project with a ten-foot pole. The difference between the two is that "We believe art is free" line, which renders everything the Free Art Machine people say self-contradictory.

It's free, but they're raising money for it, not self-funding. It's free, but the art costs $1.00/unit, only nobody seems to be paying that, and the artist doesn't get anything... seriously?

I don't really mind if some artists just want to give away their work, but I do wish more artists would take themselves and their work more seriously, and not feel the need to sign on with other people's vanity projects. That's what this sounds like, frankly. I have a really strong feeling the people involved with Chicago the Beautiful have no clue what they're talking about and think they are being very high-minded and idealistic and pure, when in fact, they're just counter-balancing intellectual emptiness with ego.

As for the Kickstarter money they've collected, that's both the funniest and most galling irony of the whole thing. Over 600 people are willing to pay a total of that much for the privilege of getting art but not paying for it. Why don't they just call it the Free Brain-Screw Machine and have done?

Alessandra Kelley
11-05-2012, 05:45 AM
Thanks for your insights, Muravyets. I'm impressed with your Art-O-Mat experience.

Exploitative projects like this one drive me spare.

I went back to their Kickstarter, which is in its last 16 hours. It now has over $26,000 pledged from 813 backers -- and still only the same 8 comments it had 21 days ago.

The incuriosity depresses me terribly. Doesn't anyone have questions?

Filigree
11-05-2012, 05:54 AM
That their backers probably deserve to lose their money?

muravyets
11-05-2012, 06:00 AM
Actually, that lack of commentary from the donors raises a big red flag with me. I've looked at other projects on Kickstarter, and there are usually more donations than comments, but the ratio is much better, with comments expressing the donors' interest, enthusiasm, questions or, if the project allows earmarking of pledges or different levels of donors, comments relating to that. Something strikes me as hinky if that much money is being raised publicly, but no one is talking about it publicly. I would not have bothered going past the project description on the home site even to see the Kickstarter page, personally, but if I had done, that lack of activity on Kickstarter would have put me off signing on with it.

Also put me off donating to it, even if I did hate the idea of paying artists so much that I'd pay good money not to have to do it. :D I suspect the artists are not the only suckers who will end up being taken on this one.

ETA: Basically, my take-away on this would be, if someone in breath-1 tells you this art is free and in breath-2 asks you for money for it, keep moving. There's nothing you want to be involved with there.

frimble3
12-04-2012, 10:23 AM
Thanks for your insights, Muravyets. I'm impressed with your Art-O-Mat experience.

Exploitative projects like this one drive me spare.

I went back to their Kickstarter, which is in its last 16 hours. It now has over $26,000 pledged from 813 backers -- and still only the same 8 comments it had 21 days ago.

The incuriosity depresses me terribly. Doesn't anyone have questions?
So, based on this post: They have $26,000 and 813 backers. As long as they produce 813 prizes - sorry- rewards, for these backers, and maybe 50-100 pieces of 'art' to put out at a couple of locations, who is going to audit their claims?
If there are two of them doing this, they could conceivably crank out most of the 'art' themselves, saving a lot of trouble and expectations.
Is there a list of places that they'll be putting the artworks?
Of the artists involved?
Two people splitting, say, $24,000 doesn't sound like a bad deal.