HELP DESK: What to Give ‘Em

Welcome to HELP DESK, where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to–contemporary art. Together, we’ll sort through some of art’s thornier issues. Email helpdesk@dailyserving.com with your questions. All submissions remain strictly anonymous and become the property of Daily Serving. HELP DESK is co-sponsored by KQED.org.Merry Hanukkwanzmas and Happy New Solstice Apocalypse! ‘Tis the season for gifting, so this week I’ve prepared a list to make your holiday shopping easier. My suggestions are based around the idea of advice—this is an advice column, after all, and who doesn’t need a little wise counsel now and then? For those on a tight budget who still want to share the love, I’ve thrown in a few items at the end that don’t rely on the almighty dollar.

For the Art School Student: I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette

As the title suggests, this edited collection of essays explains the social mores of the professional art community. From studio etiquette to what to say and do at openings (as well as a fun essay on how to dress!), this sometimes-serious, sometimes-tongue-in-cheek volume will have you nodding in (weary) agreement. There are also a few juicy sections by anonymous authors that supply a bit of keen insight into the workings of our little world. Warning: thumbing through will only make you want to keep it, so order a copy for yourself and a copy to give away.

Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment (2012). 128 pages, perfect-bound

For Your Favorite Art Teacher: Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment

As with I Like Your Work, this book is also a collection of essays edited by Paper Monument. While the title makes it sound a bit dry, the contents are actually quite touching and amusing. Some articles are written about professors’ own attempts to teach their students, and some are written by former art students about the relative efficacy of the assignments they received. As you might imagine, the pedagogical tasks described herein run the gamut from Zen-koan-like simplicity to arduously complicated, making this a winner for both the seasoned instructor and the neophyte. One personal favorite is Kevin Zucker’s tragically comic essay, “Seemingly Innocuous Assignments that Will Lead to Improbable Calamities: Cautionary Notes for Teachers, Unfortunately Based on Personal Experience”—as far as I’m concerned, this one alone is worth the price.

Stamps of Disapproval, by Heather K. Phillips/Schooled

For the Critique Leader/Art School Program Director: Stamps of Disapproval

Okay, it’s not a book (but it is text) and it’s not really advice (unless “I’m not convinced” counts), but this set of six stamps is a great gift for anyone who has anything to do with art—they’re easily presented to everyone from your Art History T.A. to your pal the freelance graphic designer. If you don’t already have someone in mind for these babies, they’re cheap enough to keep on hand in case you are ensnared in one of those last-second gifting situations: Oh, you got me a gift? Well, here’s something for you.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, co-author (with Roberto Sifuentes) of Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy

For the Budding Performance Artist or Instructor: Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy

Here’s another slim volume chock-a-block with fun and exciting things to do. Though it is specifically about performance, I found some of the information adaptable to other kinds of classroom settings where you need to get people moving and thinking—or when you just need to shake things up. Written by long-term practitioners Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes, this book is replete with honest, playful advice for artists and it walks the reader through a series of step-by-step exercises that create public spectacles, circumvent convention, and question all kinds of borders and boundaries.

For the Aspiring Gallerist: How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

Godblessum, that Edward Winkleman. Not only does he write a blog that offers advice to artists (and contributed to this column), but he’s also penned an in-depth look at what it takes to found and maintain a successful art gallery. From writing a business plan to finding and renovating a space to promoting the gallery and representing artists, Edward has you covered. If you’re thinking about opening a gallery, don’t miss out on his hard-earned wisdom.

For Your Favorite Advice Columnist: Dear Asshole: 101 Tear-Out Letters to the Morons Who Muck Up Your Life

Even enthusiastic writers get tired of having to pen correctional missives, and this book steps in to fill the void. The publisher’s info says, “Ever wish you could leave a nasty note for that jerk in the Hummer who blocked you in, or the idiot who didn’t clean up after his dog? Now you can! Dear Asshole includes 101 letters to all of the assholes you encounter on a daily basis, each letter conveniently perforated so you can tear it out and give it to the desired offender.” Amazon reviewer shadowcat410 says, “The book covers almost every type of moron out there,” and I’m hoping that means there’s a note for the frosty gallerinas who grudgingly and disdainfully hand over a press release—even after I tell them I’m reviewing the exhibition.

For the Absolutely Broke:

Need to give a present, but you’re totally skint? Consider a gift of your time and energy. Certificates for your time and assistance are always appreciated: a little drawing or collage in a nifty envelope costs next to nothing, but means a lot to those who are short on help. Here are some ideas:

Build a Website

This one is definitely an undertaking, so save it for a loved one. There are quite a few template-based sites out there, but you’ll have to pay for hosting, which runs about $8/month. If you use Weebly, you can build and host a professional-looking site for free. Check it out.

Make a New Mailing List

If you’ve got a pal who’s not very organized, you can offer to help her by taking all her little scraps of paper, random business cards, and neglected Open Studios mailing-list-sign-up sheets and inputting them into a useable system. This person will be singing your name to the heavens when she has to mail postcards or send an email invitation for her next solo show.

Studio Assistance

We could all use a hand in the studio now and again, whether it’s to construct a project or just clean up and rearrange the furniture. A gift certificate for a set number of hours is a wonderful way to support your favorite artist without spending a dime.

 

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