Saturday, November 29, 2008

Contracts And Why You Need Them - No Matter What The Job Is

Here's the thin, I may sound cold about this but I'm speaking from experience and want you to make the SMART decision when it comes to taking on jobs, now matter who they're from.
I recently took on a job for my local library. It was a volunteer job and was planned out and was going to take several months both due to its size (a mural to be painted on the backs of some books cases) and I had to work it in between paying jobs. Now I went to the Broad of Trustees about how I'd have to work this out and no one said that it would be a problem. No deadline was given. I had expected this to take a while, with myself and my friend and fellow artist Shawn Myers ( ) working on it. Soon after we had started, problems began to rise. First the Broad of Trustees (BoT) wanted to place a plaque right on the art itself as opposed to placing it on any of the other places where the art would not be damaged. This wouldn't have been a big deal had they not been planning this without talking to either Shawn or myself, as that we would have made room for it. So we were shocked and the BoT did what every group of small minded, power hungry, egoists would do: They denied everything. Ok. So next thing that came up AFTER they had approved every drawing and Shawn and I had been working a few months, they had told (we found out about this almost as soon as it happened) the librarians (both of whom are at the whim of these beasts from Hell, i. e. the BoT) that someone had complained that one of the figures was showing too much skin and wasn't appropriate (see image below).

This lead to Shawn and I starting to seriously question why we were even doing this in the first place. Now I want to stress here that we were both proud and excited to be working on this project until this came up. The fact that the BoT had done this behind our backs for nothing other than to show they had power and could play with people's minds. Now, we couldn't understand why they'd do this other than to show they had power because I had two NAKED wood nymph's didn't even get them to BLINK (see sample of one below)!

This lead to the BoT holding a special meeting to “talk” to Shawn and I about the piece in question. You know what? They came and spent about ten minutes with Shawn and I as they went over all of the art and claimed that THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY OF IT!!! At this point, they became the WORST people that I have EVER had to work for. Shawn an I agreed that all we wanted to was to get this job over with as fast as possible. A couple of things happened to slow us down. One was that we both ended up having car trouble and couldn't get to the library. When my car was repaired I went back to work, despite coming down with what the doctors had thought was Lyme Decease (I'm getting better, but that isn't what I had and they don't know what I had/have). I ended up asking them to time off so that I could feel better. I was feeling totally exhausted and couldn't get my own wok done and had fallen behind. They all agreed and even went as far as to promise (that word was used, in front of witness') me that I would be able to complete the job when I got better. Well about two weeks later I get an e-mail from a friend telling me that they were “doing things” to my art and I should check it out. I ended up going a week later as that driving was a feat. What I saw horrified me. They had gotten someone else (who couldn't paint) to come in and FINISH my work WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. Now any artist worth their weight will know that despite that the bookcases are owned by the library, the art is MINE. This is covered under VARA. Ok, so now I'm pissed and have a lawyer working on it. If I chose to take them to court, I plan on suing them for every penny I can get and making sure that the BoT and library staff is completely replaced by people who would actually work FOR the library (the BoT has done such a wonderful job, hiding the times of the public meetings so that no one knows when they're held, wasting money that's marked for the library on needless things like expanding the parking lot- instead of the library-, holding back fact they're supposed to be getting $10,000 a year that's supposed to go towards building a new library and either not getting it, asking for it, or... , playing power games with the library staff and forcing them to work off hours and having to take work home – a no-no in anyone's book- threatening the staff with being fired unless they do to things that aren't library related or making them keep things quite that the public and Town Selectmen should be made aware of – young adult books dealing with sex and violence in graphic manors in the CHILDREN's section and often right next to books little kids can get to with no warning of any kind and so on).

Now the point in all of this is this: Make sure you HAVE A CONTRACT, even if its a volunteer job and you don't expect anything in return. A job is a job, no matter what it is and you make sure that you backside is covered. I didn't do this and if I had a contract, I would have been laughing my way to court right now. Instead, I've been stressed over this like very few other things in my life have ever stressed me.

More on how you need to treat friends and family when its comes to any job in my next blog.

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