For every Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons who are making millions from their art, there are millions of artists who struggle to get by.
Take the Detroit sculptor Sarah Wagner, who has had what many people would consider concrete successes in terms of getting her art seen by the public. For instance, she has an exhibition of her installations, “Vegetable Lamb of America: The Art of Sarah Wagner,” on view at Michigan’s Muskegon Museum of Art through March 18.
But she also has a job in construction. “Anyone who makes art, you have to figure out how to make a living, too,” Ms. Wagner said. “Very few people do that from their art.”
Then in 2014, she won a $25,000 grant from the New York-based Joan Mitchell Foundation, which was established by the abstract painter. For most artists, getting a substantial cash grant is an event that can transform their creative lives.
But once it’s obtained, what comes next? Should they fund a current art project or pay down debt? Should they rent a studio or buy one? Should they sit on a beach and think of great ideas or get health insurance?
In other words: More money, more problems.
Ms. Wagner was not sure what to do, but the foundation also helped her to get advice. The organization provides financial counseling to its grantees, a trend that is gaining traction among nonprofits that make similar grants.