NORTHAMPTON, MASS. — FEW people believe that it pays to be an artist. But a variety of services are offered free or at discounted prices to visual and performing artists, including accounting, consulting, legal advice, materials, housing, medical treatment - even personal loans.
For example, USAir, the Washington-based airline, has had a policy of offering $20,000 in free tickets to performing arts groups in the nation's capital for promotional notices in these companies' playbooks.
New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs has a Materials Donation Service where artists and arts groups may pick up for free such things as paint, office supplies, tools, lumber and metal, or anything else that institutions and corporations have discarded.
Many art supply stores provide discounts of up to 25 percent to artists. Lots of lawyers, medical personnel, appliance dealers, and even hotel operators are willing to trade their goods and services in whole or in part for works of art.
``We currently have 44 doctors cooperating with us,'' said Jacqueline Humphries, director of the New York-based Doctors for Artists, which refers visual and performing artists to specialists who have agreed to discount their fees by 20 percent or more. She says that Warren Neidich, the group's founder and president, got the idea from his attorney, who is a member of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
There are 39 volunteer lawyers-for-the-arts chapters in more than half the states of the country, providing free legal counsel and representation in arts-related cases. If there is litigation, the money that would normally be the attorney's fee may become a donation to the volunteer lawyers association.
Volunteer Accountants for the Arts organizations exist in Cleveland and Houston. Business Volunteers for the Arts has chapters in 15 cities around the country, including Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington.
Membership organizations to which artists belong may also provide them certain reduced-cost services, such as group-rate health insurance, discounts on art magazine subscriptions, and free job referrals.
The New Organization for Visual Artists in Cleveland provides free help to its members in correctly filling out grant applications to the Ohio Arts Council. The Chicago Artists Coalition holds an annual tax and record-keeping seminar for only $5.
Both the Foundation for the Community of Artists in New York and the Washington-based Artists Equity have credit unions for their members - which make it easier for artists, whom banks often believe to be poor credit risks, to obtain loans. The most all-encompassing organization is Actors Equity, which acts as a union to negotiate contracts and provide health benefits and pensions for its members.
For most artists, regardless of their age and type of work, money is the key concern, and services specifically for them have their wallets in mind.
``Some artists have insurance policies that will pay the fees, and I do try to set my fees quite reasonably,'' said Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener, director of the Medical Program for Performing Artists at Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
``I shouldn't say this, because it might put me out of business, but I have yet to refuse to see anyone because they don't have the money.''
THE Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the Kathryn and Gilbert Miller Health Care Center for the Performing Arts of Roosevelt Hospital in New York, and the university hospital of the University of California at San Francisco all provide free or low-cost services to artists.
There are also organizations that put money directly into the hands of artists.
The Artists Welfare Fund in New York provides interest-free loans to artists who have medical emergencies. The Artists Foundation in Boston raises money for and manages the Artist Emergency Loan Fund, which provides no-interest and low-interest six-month loans of up to $2,000 for artists who are in need.