Should Artists Paint Murals for Free?

Welcome to Jackalope Ranch's Questionable Content, where local creatives and experts sound off on topics posed by New Times staff blogger Claire Lawton and the community. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail

Photo by Claire Lawton
Dave Quan painting his ooze on the Chocolate Factory on Grand Avenue. Note: Quan was paid to paint the mural in March, 2011. Read the full story about Quan's Blue Ooze here.
See also: Mural City
See also: Tag, You're Art: Local Street Artists Are Tagging Over Murals and Calling It Art

This town has a lot of thank you notes to send out to the artists who make its buildings a little more colorful -- especially if they're doing it pro bono. Artists have painted walls since they've had paint and a tool with which to apply it to a wall, and the history of being paid to paint a mural on the side of a building dates back to the beginning of advertising.

So when it comes to local businesses asking artists to cover their walls with their signature characters, landscapes and typography, is it hurting their own value to paint for free?

Thumbnail image for sentrock_in progress_550.jpg
Joseph "Sentrock" Perez
Joseph "Sentrock" Perez
Phoenix Artist

Well in general, I would love to see more local artist creating murals and spreading the arts by any avenue. I think it's pretty awesome the more opportunities that are arriving, and locations that are desiring art on their buildings. Ideally I would like to see more business support the arts, by support I mean pay artists, as any other professional in their craft would get paid for their services.

I understand though, at times art is a luxury and is not apart of the budget, so artist will donate the time to allow the experience to express their art in the city they live in. I think though as an artist, we have to create the value we wish to see. Phoenix needs more of a monetary value on the artist, to allow artist to grow and develop as professional artist. We have almost no, actual full time, serious galleries here in Phoenix, I believe that is due to
people don't frequently spend money on the arts. Which is in return to many artist not creating that value.

I have donated my time for murals, or taken a really low pay because I know sometimes the businesses cant afford the costs. I think as up and coming artist you feel that what You should do, or that is the norm, but there should be a much more importance place on the art and quality that is going on in our city. I believe that quality of our scene is the reflection of what value we have created for ourselves.

Photo by Claire Lawton
DOSE on the Seed & Feed Warehouse in downtown Phoenix
Phoenix Artist

Depends on what the artist is trying or wants out of the deal. If they're looking for exposure, OK. But if a local business wants something other than what a specific artist does then they should expect to pay. It all depends on the circumstance.

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Asking someone to provide a service, talent, art, or whatever goods or services for free is presumptuous & is taking advantage of others valuable time.  Anyone who is in business for themselves knows quality is not free & anything worth value does not just come instantly.  If your asking someone to produce free art to enhance a business for the likes of a consumer experience or to brand the culture of your business it is only natural to assume compensation for a true Artsist's time talent.  Besides as a true business owner you & the Artist will not only have a respectable Art mutual but a huge sense of pride by empowering each other's successes & working together. Are we not trying to improve the economy?  To take advantage of anyone's precious time,  Artist or a Bank Teller's is not acceptable especially in today's world.  Given the current economics it seems that I want for free consideration has become more so disregarded, &  the fine line of customer service & wanting things for free all by working non stop to provide a decent livelihood is become some what out of hand.  Pay the Artists & value everyone's time & talents!  Besides in the long run.. we empower each other by doing good by others.  


If a business or someone is requesting Art to chance their business, the Artist should be very well compensated for their value of time & talent.  You get what you pay for, therefore if one wants quality well respected enhancements to their business.  I would never think about asking someone to work for free..that would be just rude! 

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