Random thoughts about the hidden costs of being a teaching artist

I have been having a lot of fun with not only the “Buy Local” project, but all teaching artist projects in which I have been involved over the past few years, but one topic which I am still sloshing through is the subject of how to put a dollar figure on my supplies–being both fair to myself and to my funder.

One common trap that most well intentioned adventurous artists such as ourselves fall into at the beginning when we just start out as teaching artists is that of overlooking all the hidden costs of a program.  We are eager, well intentioned and we don’t know what we don’t know.  We get a job and think “Oh, this is so much fun, who cares if I fire the kiln a few times just for this class…who cares if the average kiln firing takes 2 hours to load, 12 hours to fire, 12 hours to cool and $15 in electricity?”  How do we put a dollar amount on exactly how much glaze is used in dunking 17 or 20 or 30 tiles for a class when the vat of glaze is 5 gallons and dunking that number of tiles only drops the amount in the vat by a small bit?  At first my response was always, “Oh I won’t bother calculating in that cost or the cost of the underglazes I used in class, or even the box of clay,” but that is selling my self short which does not feel good to me–and I assume to my employer as well.  I hope that anyone who know me at all, knows that I am not looking to squeeze out every last penny in any situation, but this is where we artists must remind ourselves that we are also business people.

Lucky for me, I have several great mentors to whom I can turn and toss this subject around.  From Stephen in VSA, to Glenn in “Buy Local,” to Chris, my Math-type husband, we have all discussed the importance of not selling ourselves short as professionals, and we have all discussed how easy it is for all of us to do it anyway.   Even such things as mileage (which is not covered in “Buy Local” but is still deductible as a business expense) adds up quickly.  My school for the “Buy Local” Project is Geneseo…a mere 5 miles round-trip from my home.  To date, I have already put 50 miles on the car.  The federal credit for mileage is $.50/mile, so that is $25 already.  Many other artists in the “Buy Local” Project are putting many more miles on per visit, and I do too when my residencies don’t happen to be in my home village.

I am not sure if writing this will spark any reflections/reactions from my fellow artists, or if you have already figured these dilemmas out in your business and have moved beyond, but I would be interested in hearing from others how you reach an equitable solution to this topic in your world?  Thanks, Sharon

Geneseo tile extravaganza update

May 25, 2010 Well,  lots of great work has been done in Mrs. Offords 4th grade class over the past few days and weeks–(probably great work has been done all year, but I can only write about the Buy Local part).  Since the last time I was in the class room with the students, I […]

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Buy Local: Geneseo

Although this is my first blog posting, it is by no means the first activity related to the Geneseo Buy Local project. May 10, 2010 Glenn, Amanda Offord, and I met for our lesson planning meeting, and we got not only a lot of work accomplished, but we also got each other very excited about […]

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Hello world!

Welcome to Buy Local/Build a Future. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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