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Work Exchange: Bartering Artists (DFW)

10/31 Arts & Culture - Bartering Artists
(credit: Thinkstock)

During a time when excess funds are scarce and few of us find justification in spending 75 dollars for a haircut, or over 100 dollars for a massage, artist Patricia Rodriguez addresses our problems by reintroducing an idea from the past: bartering. Rodriguez was inspired to create the Facebook group "Bartering Artists (DFW)" after her status on needing a hair cut, but not having the extra cash to spend, sparked the idea of taking money out of the exchange.

"Bartering Artists (DFW)" is a group for artists in the Dallas / Fort Worth area to barter their artwork with others who will offer other services in return. Artists are exchanging with hairdressers, masseuses, chefs, gardeners, medical professionals and anyone who is ready to put their offer on the Internet table. We caught up with Rodriguez to get some more info on the origins of the group, the artists participating, and where she plans to go from here.  When starting the group, what were your main objectives and your personal investment?

Patricia Rodriguez: As a "starving artist" in a hard economy I have always had to be a creative thinker in getting the things I need without money or with very little money. The very idea behind Bartering Artists came out of a need for me to get a haircut-quite simply. I have been freelancing and trying to find work and hadn't had a haircut in almost a year. I simply posted a status update on Facebook about the need for a network of people willing to barter services in exchange for art before light bulbs went off over my head and I just started the Facebook group. My personal investment has been my time and my art-which I have successfully bartered for a haircut and a massage. As an artist with no car (I get around by bike) I have always had to ask friends for rides and I really saw a need for creating a supportive network of people who wanted to barter their time and skills for others. A place where you didn't need to feel bad to ask for "favors" you simply traded your skill and work for someone else's.

10/31 Arts & Culture - Bartering Artists - Facebook
(credit: Patricia Rodriguez)  What kinds of artists were initially involved with Bartering Artists?

PR: It seemed at first we had a good amount of "artisans", (knitters, crocheters, painters, potters) and we seemed to have more artists than "service people".  Art for art trades seemed prevalent, which is wonderful because as artists you always want to support your fellow artists but most likely can't afford to collect art.  How has the variety of artists and members grown since then?

PR: The variety of people in the group is very exciting now! We have everything from web designers, videographers, chiropractors, lawyers, home repair professionals, galleries, chefs, scuba instructors, tattoo artists, massage therapists, yoga instructors, tutors... a vast array of services and artists who are all there to barter with someone else for something they need or want.  As the idea grows is it remaining true to your original objective?

PR: It is and it is also taking on a whole new life of its own. The basic idea is to bring people into a network where bartering is acceptable and the value is placed on people as resources and not cash. Add into the mix that the group is founded on Artists and the opportunities to be creative seem endless. We are planning live bartering events, which help people network their art and business/services. People are collecting art and supporting each other's businesses. Galleries are offering their spaces to show art, there is a great air of community emanating from the group that I would like to channel into greater things. I am hoping we can get enough exposure to get much needed health and dental services integrated into the bartering group. There is so much that is needed that people go without because they can't afford it. I want to change people's perceptions of doing "business" and help cultivate a mindset of cooperation, not "competition"- which seems so present in the art and business world.  What kind of response have you gotten from those who have bartered successfully?

PR: The response has been wonderful! People are very excited to get the things they wanted and needed without having to open their wallet. It has sparked people to start creating solely for the purpose of bartering. It has created an awareness of the value of their work and skill- something that probably gets overlooked at "work". Everyone seems to have a newfound meaning of their job on this planet as having some worth. It has been very special for me to hear the stories. One of the members of the group who has MS has been able to successfully barter her handmade goods for a much needed massage. Another member just decided to donate artwork to a tutor-if the tutor agreed to tutor a child in need. Seeing artists collect other artists and be supportive has been great because there is a great deal of "self preservation" and "self promotion" in the art world- because the art world is uber competitive. Artists are offering art shows to other artists. It is great to see the flip side of that.  What kind of problems have you run into?

PR:  Well, much like any "new" thing there have been the initial bumps in the road of people not really understanding the possibilities of the group or "the bigger picture" so to speak. Some people have been used to only using Facebook to self promote - just dropping their link in or shouting out they have an art show somewhere- and that is not what the group is for. It will take a while to change that but I am being vigilant and setting up some real life "meet n greets" so people can meet each other one on one and feel like they have a community they can rely on.

Also, people need to realize that you will be taxed on your barters so good record keeping is a must. Hopefully we get some great tax preparers in the group to help facilitate tax time!

Other problems have just been the Facebook group format itself. While it lends itself to fun social networking- and I think that is part of the draw- it also takes a little patience to look through the feeds for what you might need.

I also run the group on my own time and don't get paid. Which is very hard considering I'm unemployed and most of my time needs to be focused on making, painting, selling to pay the rent and utilities.

These obstacles are pushing me to fix that problem and I'm looking into building a fresh site with photo galleries and barter success stories - an easier directory for finding the service you are looking to barter for. Problems just force me to think more creatively and I welcome that challenge.  Are you looking into expanding to other cities?

PR:  Yes actually I am, right now I have $9 to my name and money (the lack thereof I should say) hasn't stopped me before. I see through the success of the DFW group that there is a great need for this. I am hoping to see this grow beyond my city and have people collecting art and trading services everywhere. Getting health and dental and much needed services can be a reality the more this thing grows so I want it to expand as far as it can. If I can get this thing moving I am going to feel like I have achieved something pretty wonderful -you don't have to feel "poor" because you don't have money. You should feel rich because you have skills and talents that are needed.

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