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  • Aerial Cheryl

Do you want a piece of art, or a piece of work…Thoughts on paying for art(ists)

Aerial silks performer, Aerial Cheryl, aerialist in arabesque

Many years ago, I requested a talented artist friend of mine for a custom piece of artwork as a gift for my husband. When it was completed, she told me the cost and I was shocked. I had not anticipated how much it would be and we hadn’t talked about it ahead of time (BIG learning moment for me). It was clear to her that I was surprised and she explained the equation she used to determine her pricing: it was based on the size of the painting, the number of hours put into it and the detail I had requested and then because we were friends, she cut it in half. Once I understood the detail put into valuing her work, I had a much better understanding of the costs and why she was asking what she was and I happily paid it.

Artists do what they do because they have a passion for something about their art. It might be for the attention. It might be for the creative aspect - the ability or desire to make something or express something. It may be for the impact it has on others or it may be an emotional or mental release. One thing it is rarely about: making money. Although I’m sure many of us have dreamed of getting famous for our work and making millions (I know I have), this doesn’t mean that our work shouldn’t be monetarily valued.

Our most precious resource is our time and that makes it valuable. Any piece of work, whether it be a painting, a table, a program, or performance piece takes time - a lot more time than most people realize or think about, particularly when it comes down to the client. I happen to think it’s important to have candid conversations about the value of this work. In my world as an aerialist, you may be hiring me to perform at your dinner reception as an atmosphere or ambient performer. This means that nothing specific has been set for the music or the choreography and you get a more interactive experience. On the outset, it seems easy. I show up, hang my apparatus (how hard can that be), and perform off and on for a couple of hours, or just a single routine. Why does it cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars?

Short version: as a client, you are not only getting what you see during your event. In order to rig an aerial apparatus, we are usually the first ones to arrive at an event with super tall ladders or a scissor lift of some sort in order to reach a rig point and get set up before banquet tables and center pieces and other decor come in. We are also one of the last to leave as taking everything down requires the same type of access. All of this to say, even though you may be asking for 2-3 hours of performance time, an event usually takes up an average of 8-10 hours of work on the day of for at least 2 people.

The rigging knowledge and expertise that comes with this type of business is incredibly difficult to come by as lives are literally hung by it and it is expensive and difficult to insure. Professional aerialists and riggers typically carry their own insurance policies that are separate from health insurance to cover the venues they perform in and the guests at their events, just in case something were to happen. Our apparatuses also cost hundreds of dollars to have custom manufactured and they need to be replaced often depending on the type of materials and how often we use them.

Everything I’ve mentioned above is inclusive of the costs of your event, not to mention travel to and from, training, experience, and costuming for a professional aerialist. A less experienced aerialist will often charge less for a variety of reasons, and you will typically receive less of an experience. Next time you’re hiring an artist (or for any type of service really) ask what’s included in the pricing - there may be room for adjustments, you’ll understand what you’re paying for, and you can speak confidently to the costs associated with what you want and (hopefully) the value you’re receiving in the end.

Are you hosting a highly visible event or one with a lot of moving parts? Do you have a specific theme, song or look in mind? Send us a message and let’s get talking about how to make it happen.

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