Contracts and payments
Do the legal side of things first, the contract including a payment schedule.
Get some money up front (a third of the budget) and don't put your own money into the project. If it turns sour you may not be able to retrieve this money and it will spare you frustration and anger if things go wrong.
It may be beneficial to both parties to have a separate research and development phases with its own time frame, budget and payment laid out.
Communicating with the commissioners
Be very clear that initial working drawings, models may evolve/change and differ to the final work.
Language is very important. This may be obvious to you as a working artist but the commissioners are not artists and may have drawn another conclusions. Do not presume that they understand - to over explain, repeat yourself and double check is much better for all involved.
Leave a paper trail: after meetings sit down and write an email to the commissioners stating what you think was covered and agreed on at the meeting. It is a good habit to get into this as it clarifies things for both parties and it gives the commissioners the opportunity to respond if they feel there is a misunderstanding.
This type of communication can prevent the project from getting confused and derailing. It also leaves a record of communication that will be very important should the project turn sour. A file of emails can show that you the artist have kept the commissioners informed and can help you argue and prove a point.
Working with a project manager
If the project budget is big enough it is a good idea to take on board a project manager. This can be helpful for many reasons, they may:
- speak a language that the commissioners understand,
- take minutes at meetings,
- work on the paper trail, budgets, accounts, sourcing information that may be needed,
- do organisational stuff that you may not have time to do due to your focus on making the work, or things you may not be that efficient at.
The project manager can help keep the momentum of the project, which is important, and can be another body and mind with you when in meetings with four or five people from the commissioners team.
If there is a liaison person between the two parties in the project, I feel strongly that this person should be independent from both parties and that their fee should be part of the overall budget.
Liam O'Callaghan is a visual artist based in Dublin. He has had major solo exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Gallagher Gallery, Dublin and other solo projects in Ireland and group projects in England, Ireland and Canada. In 2005 his work was part of the Eurojet Futures an Anthology, in the R.H.A, Dublin and the artist had a residency at IMMA.
Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition.