Before I start this review of www.rawartists.org I’ll start out by saying how I first heard of RAW. It was around six years ago when I started a new job at Fedex office. My coworker was a spoken word artist we got into a conversation about art and how him and one of his close friends (fine artist) were showcased through RAW Artists. At that time in my life I didn’t have much artwork and I surely didn’t have enough art for a showcase, neither did I have the time. But I did manage to go on their site and get a visual of how the showcases look, including the fine artists. But one thing I did find peculiar is why my coworker’s friend didn’t continue to do more showcases with RAW Artists. Not knowing that six years later I would find out for myself.
Fast forward to March 2017, through a friend I was able to go on an all expense paid trip to Europe. I was so inspired by the art I seen in Italy and France, I made a commitment to dedicate my time to art full time. So once I came back to California I worked on art non stop, including marketing, social media and local venues that might assist me in getting my art into the public eye; generating income through my gift was the focus. Unlike before when I had my work in different galleries and establishments, I had some real direction this time.
So May comes around and RAW Artists crosses my mind out of nowhere. I figured I had more than enough art for a showcase and I was steadily creating more art. From the end of March till the end of June I created about three years worth of quality art in a span of three months. It was possible at this time to create so much art because I didn’t have a job. Jobs are and always have been arch enemies to artists, they drain energy and creativity. But back to the subject, I went to RAW’s website and created an account for the Downtown Los Angeles branch. The most recent showcase “Verse” was at the LA Exchange lounge in Downtown June 28th. One of the representatives called me and said they would love for me to be a RAW Artist (Supposedly, everybody that registers to be a RAW Artists doesn’t automatically “get in”). Me personally I believe that is a ploy RAW Artists use to make artists feel more exclusive, hype them up (common tactic in marketing). The catch was each artist had to sell at least twenty tickets to be a part of it. Each ticket was $22 dollars and all tickets had to be sold a week before the showcase (June 21st).
After weeks of begging, begging and MORE begging I finally hit the twenty ticket mark about a week before the deadline. I ended up selling a total of 33 tickets. With RAW any tickets over your quota you get $10 per ticket. However you have to wait to get the money. I’ll explain this later. Also after you successfully complete one showcase you are entitled to one free showcase anywhere in the world where RAW does showcases.
So the day of the show came and I had everything I needed, I bought all my supplies, frames and prints. Here comes the nitty gritty. I had my table set up, business cards on the table along with my email list, my portfolio so people could pick out which prints they wanted, and my big brother came with me to help set up my art on the panels. I was 150% professional. I went into the showcase thinking it was going to be at least 800 – 1,000+ people in the building (As advertised by RAW) but it wasn’t even half that amount. At no point during the four hour showcase was it packed to maximum capacity. And many of the people who actually did come were not interested in buying art. They either came for a friend or family member who were in the showcase. It was evident that RAW put no money or effort into promoting this showcase. No A-List people were there. No celebrities. No entertainers. No nothing. This is a popular venue, one of the MOST popular venues in Downtown LA, so the only way it’s not live is because of bad promoting. The tickets at the door were $30 and the drinks at the bar were $13 and up. No happy hour. And so naturally people couldn’t even get in the spending mood. It was already bad enough that the event was on a Wednesday night. At first I thought it was just me that wasn’t generating sales but I looked around, even talked to other artists, and they shared my same sentiments. Only about two visual artists were actually selling anything out of about 40+ visual artists. The other artists were fashion designers, singers, rappers and spoken word artists. And to be honest I felt even worse for them. NOBODY from the fashion industry was there to see them. Nobody was there from major magazines. Nobody was there from the local newspaper. Nobody was there from the entertainment industry. Nobody was there from prominent galleries. It was so bad it was like the artwork didn’t even belong there. It was like a club scene that just happen to have some art there that night. So to sum it up this was not an art showcase it was more like a mid week business mixer. And even that is giving RAW more credit than it deserves. I came to the conclusion that this is why RAW doesn’t charge commissions at their showcases because they KNOW they are not going to spend money promoting it and they KNOW how a Wednesday night crowd will be since they would rather SAVE MONEY and FATTEN THEIR POCKETS by renting a venue on a weekday.
Just imagine, sixty individuals sold at least twenty tickets at $22 a pop. So that’s $26,000 not including the people who sold more than twenty tickets or the people who paid $30 at the door. And a large portion of the people who bought tickets couldn’t attend so they probably made around $9,000 at the door. So just from that you looking at $35,000 plus extra tickets that were sold (which if I could take an estimated guess I’d say came close to $3,000 or more). I sold thirty three tickets. That adds up to $726. And I couldn’t sell 10 prints at $10 or four prints at $25. With $726 I could’ve paid a gallery or rented a spot to showcase my own art in Downtown LA. And I promise the vast majority of the artist thought the same thing because I talked to most them after the show. RAW Artist claims to be this “NON PROFIT ORGANIZATION” that “looks out for local artists, and put artists first” but we all know actions speak louder than words. If you go to RAW Artists website and search through their events you’ll notice that every last one of them are in the middle of the week. And if you go online you’ll see a plethora of artists who have similar, if not dead on, criticisms of RAW Artists preying on young, ambitious and starving artists. Any time I’ve sold more art on Venice Beach (which is one of the toughest crowds when it comes to fine art) than an actual ART SHOWCASE in Downtown Los Angeles it’s a problem. Hell, I was part of an art showcase two years ago at a bar in the middle of the desert where only about fifty people showed up and I made more money there than at RAW’s “Verse” showcase. And before I forget, the individuals who sold extra tickets had to wait not only a week, not two weeks but THREE WEEKS after the show to get paid!
But on the bright side I get one free showcase anywhere outside of California. And just like here, It’s the same everywhere else. No weekends. All midweek showcases. After I pay $3 – 400 for a round trip ticket, two nights stay at a hotel, food and Uber rides to and from the showcase it will come out to the same $726 I was exploited for in this show. I will most definitely PASS.
My RAW director was GREAT! I don’t have one complaint when it comes to him. He kept all the artists up to date on changes, information about the showcase, gave us tips on selling on tickets and reached out to everybody to make sure they were on the right page. When I start my own REAL non profit for artists he’s definitely someone I’d love to have on my team. Other than that RAW Artists is the biggest sham I know of when it comes to the art world and I wouldn’t recommend RAW Artists to anybody. If I was the only person at the showcase who had this experience this review wouldn’t exist. I started to not even do it but I believe this truth can help other artists dodge this bullet. It’s plenty of bad reviews online connected with RAW Artists. I hope more flood in so maybe one day RAW can be a REAL non profit, stop selling gimmicks and be more sensitive to artists who they claim are “family.”