How do Cincinnati artists make a living in a year without performances, gallery shows?

Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 11, 2020

CINCINNATI — The list of people affected financially by the pandemic continues to grow. Artists of all kinds, most of whom would normally rely on an audience or art exhibition to bring in cash, are on it — but some have found creative ways to keep a stream of revenue in place.

In 2018, Antonio Wooten created Artists Need Lunch Money, an online brand that’s dedicated to helping artists from all mediums make a little extra money by selling apparel and merchandise.

“My friend who is a painter, his medium is dealing with mostly acrylic paint,” said Wooten. “So, when it comes to translating that to physical goods, there is just like a lack of knowledge and awareness.”

The idea started when Wooten and a friend hosted a POP-UP art show and chose to sell T-shirts and hoodies at the event.

“Artist Need Lunch Money, the name, it just stuck because it’s real,” he said. “I think that we are all very much familiar with the starving artist narrative, sometimes pridefully so. ‘If I’m not struggling, I’m not doing it right.'”

Wooten works mostly with painters and photographers. Recently, during the pandemic, he’s helped musicians get their work digitized so it can be printed on apparel and merch.

“At least with apparel, if you sell enough hoodies that can equate to what may have been worth a painting," he said. "You are still able to create some sort of income and continue your craft."

The team at Artists Need Lunch Money is selective about who the brand collaborates with. The money raised in sales helps those artists who’d otherwise need a live audience to promote their work.

Another artist who understands the toll the pandemic has taken on creatives is Dylan Graves.

“I feel like this whole pandemic is just a big wave, and we can let it crash us or we can ride it,” he said.

Graves is a fine artist and a creative director. He originally planned to release his latest work, "The Chrome Collection," this fall at an in-person exhibition.

“We thrive off of having those experiences,” said Graves. “Having our audiences be able to see the work in person rather than just on the screen.”

He says the pandemic forced him to adapt and take a look at pushing that work online, creating a virtual gallery show set to be released later this month.

“The pieces stand out on their own but it’s also about being able to see it in a gallery setting,” he said. “I wanted to achieve that virtually so it’s going to be a 3D room with all of my pieces in it.”

Virtual guests will be able to click on the art and navigate through the room taking a look at the collection, which re-imagines the goddesses of Liberty and Justice.

When the gallery is ready, you can check it out here. In the meantime, follow both artists on social media to find out about their latest projects.