How to trade art with your dentist

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Madeleine Dore

Research into the barter economy aims to help artists pay with art for the things they really need.

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When the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s advertised it was looking for a ‘creative and ambitious artist’ to voluntarily refurbish their canteen, artist Conor Collin turned the tables and created a viral ad that saw artists seeking a supermarket to voluntary restock their kitchens.


Artist Conor Collin’s response to Sainsbury’s went viral last week

While Sainsbury’s has since apologised for the blatant disregard for the time, training, talent and resources that goes into creative work, the request speaks to a broader devaluing of arts work both outside and within the sector. But what if there was a way of convincing supermarkets to actually restock our kitchens?

There could be a way to use your art not only as armory against requests to work for free, but also to cover the basic costs of living.

Creative Consultant and former Artistic Director of Westside Circus, Debby Maziarz, is looking into just that – how artists can trade their work with their dentists, real estate agent, perhaps even their local supermarket.

After all, arts community and artists are constantly trading within their own circles.

‘We know exactly how to help each other out – we are always trading, we are always exchanging, we are always gifting, but often there is no one you want to barter or trade with because what you really need is a dentist, or car maintenance, or a chiropractor,’ said Maziarz.

‘It got me thinking about if artists had this innate practice already and the value between artists is unspoken and understood inherently, how can we get the dental industry or the car maintenance industry to interact with an artist in an economic way?’

Selling our inherent value

After accumulating knowledge on running an arts business at Westside Circus, Maziarz has since been working as an independent consultant to help artists overcome career and financial blocks.

‘I could see so much value that artists were creating through their art and how they were living and what they wanted to do, but weren’t getting the business results that they wanted and I was fascinated with that.’

About the author

Madeleine Dore is a freelance writer and founder of Extraordinary Routines, an interview project exploring the intersection between creativity and imperfection. She is the previous Deputy Editor at ArtsHub. Follow her on Twitter at @RoutineCurator