Tool-Kit- Pop-up Research Station - Archiving

"Art is Business"

Toolkit - "Popup Research Station" - produced by Liza Simone Phantom Galleries LA, in partnership with the Alpha Bruton, Phantom Gallery Chicago Network.

Resource Toolkit San Francisco Arts Commission- 2010  

Chinatown: Hui-Ying Tsai, Eulogy on My Humble Abode, 2010.

Here are some questions that people have asked us so that they can start their own storefront program.

If you're a city entity:

If you're a property owner
If you're an artist


How did you recruit property owners to participate in the program, and approximately how many individual property owners are you working with?

We aimed to have 26 storefront installations in vacant storefronts in four neighborhoods. We worked with economic development nonprofit organizations in each area with pre-existing and deep connections with local merchants and property owners.

It still needed to be easier to get property owners to participate for several reasons.
Some property managers we approached thought it was a great idea, but the owners, many of whom didn't live in the neighborhood or City, declined.
Some property owners thought it was a great idea until they had to sign the contract. Then, a few property owners dropped out because we asked them to carry general liability insurance.

Even though we offered to clean up properties in return for their willingness to use the space, property owners should have jumped at the opportunity.

We expanded our initial concept and included under-utilized storefronts and businesses where the display windows were not utilized. We also created two exterior murals along the north and south sides of our busiest commercial corridor to add additional impact to the Art in Storefronts visual element. That proved to be a very successful decision.

Ultimately, one property owner provided five windows along a critical commercial corridor.

Are the property owners receiving any compensation for their loan of vacant space?
The property owners received several benefits for providing use of their storefront, but they should have been paid to participate. We cleaned their space before installation and left the area cleaner than we received. Property owners noted decreased graffiti on the properties where artists painted the exterior. And increased attention led to the rental of two properties.

How did you handle liability issues?
We required the property owner to carry general liability insurance. Our project manager, Triple Base, also named the City and the individual artists as additionally insured. The City used its own self-insured policy to cover the value of the art if it was damaged or stolen from the storefront. The art insurance was valued at $500, and the honorarium was paid to participating artists, even though the work had more excellent monetary value. For example, the cost of replacing video equipment would exceed $500. The artists were advised to carry their own liability and additional art insurance.

How much did the extra insurance cost?
The cost of naming additionally insured is minimal. Property owners and the project management team found that each insurance agent handled it differently. In some instances, it costs nothing extra. In other cases, it costs between $20 and $100.

How did you recruit artists?
Artists seemed hungry for a program like this, and we received almost 200 applications for only 26 slots.

We issued a press release with the MMayor'soffice to announce the project and posted guidelines online to coincide with the media announcement. We then put the word out through our agency's various e-newsletters, with a lot of traffic coming from our Gallery Program, Community Art and Education Program, and our Cultural Equity Grants Program.

Triple Base also reached out to their extensive roster of artists.
Some feedback from the Mission District was that the artists who knew about the program application were those already involved with the Arts Commission. So, for our Chinatown program, we will send out a press release (to both English and Chinese language press) when the application is posted, and we will hold an information session in Chinatown to answer questions about the program and talk about how to make a competitive proposal.

What art was selected, and is it viewed solely from the street?
We prioritized selecting artists who lived or worked in the neighborhood and whose proposals were to create new work that celebrated the surrounding community. The most substantial submissions employed inventive media or full-scale installations and engaged people innovatively and dynamically.

The installations were only seen from the street to maximize viewership and minimize liability issues.

How often do you plan to change out exhibits/artwork? Do you have your schedule already set for the duration of the pilot program?

Since this was a pilot program, we did not plan to install future work in the space. However, some property owners have made arrangements with the artists to keep the installations in the area longer than the extent of our program.

Some artists created programming corresponding with their installation by holding an art opening at their nearby studio the same night as the launch.

What was your budget?
The entire project was created for $55,000, which covered project management, design and printing of marketing collateral, web design, artist stipends ($500 each), cleaning fees to prepare the windows for installation, and minimal installation and de-installation expenses. The project budget does not include City staff time.

Do you have samples of your contracts?
Yes. Here is a link to a sample artist agreement (Word, 38 K) and a link to a sample property owner agreement (Word, 33 K)

How do I find an artist or artist collective?

Look around at local flyers and marketing materials to find artists who may live or work in your neighborhood. Next, check out art websites such as Open Studios/Art Span, SFAC or GFTA, Bayview Artists Shipyard, and Fecal Face. Then, go to local galleries and artist workspaces and inquire.

What is the minimum the property owner should provide?
The property owner should provide a clean, accessible storefront with electricity and a secure door with a lock. The property owner should also provide general liability insurance and a set of keys to allow the artist to enter the space necessary to install their artwork. It is also helpful if the artists can store supplies in the storefront until the installation is complete.

Should the property owner select the specific art?
Many artists want to install work they already have completed and want a place to display it. If an artist wants to create an original work or installation to be placed in the window, then the property owner should be provided with a sketch of the proposal.

Who pays for what?
The property owner should cover the cost of the window and site clean-up and utilities. The artist should cover the cost of creating the art and installation unless the property owner wants to help pay for some of these expenses. No matter how much the property owner agrees to pay to support the project, the artwork belongs to the artist.

How long does the artwork stay in the window?
The work should stay up as long as it is agreed upon and written into the contract.
What if the artist doesn't want to remove the art?
The artwork should be removed on the date stated in the contract.

What if the property owner wants the art to stay in longer?
The property owner should discuss this as an option with the artist, and if both parties agree to extend the exhibition time, change the dates in the contract.

What should be included in a letter of agreement between an artist and a property owner?
All agreements should be put into writing and signed by both parties. This includes installation and removal dates when the property will be cleaned and ready for installation when the artist can pick up keys to the property, contact information for all parties and participants, insurance coverage, and fees.

How do I find a property owner to work with?

Walk around your neighborhood and find the vacant storefronts that provide contact information for leasing or renting. In some instances, it may be a property management company. Be sure you have the exact address.
You can also search public records at your local tax collector's office, but storefronts with signage indicate a property owner interested in using the space. Be persistent once you make contact. Provide documentation of Art in SStorefronts'success. Let them know you are easy to work with and have their interests in mind. If you live or work in a neighborhood, you may also know an under-utilized window, which could work as well, like an insurance or accounting office.

How do you establish the value of your artwork for insurance purposes?
The best way to establish a set value for your artwork is to list all your materials and hours of labor. Also, take great photos of the work for your own record.

What have you found successful in lighting the art installations at night?
Lighting the storefronts is a huge benefit, so the installations are visible at night. For several of the Chinatown sites, artists used simple spotlighting. Clamp lights with hoods were the most cost-effective, easy-to-install, and efficient lighting. The lights can also be placed on the floor to light upwards.