Jenny, Thanks very much for sharing that anecdote. Your letter to the
station sums up my feelings on the issue in a concise and articulate way,
and I really like your analogy about asking restaurants to compete. Kudos
to you for speaking out! Also, I wasn't familiar with that Tim Kreider
article so I appreciate the link.

*Emily S. Damstra*
natural science illustration
Guelph, Ontario
(519) 616-3654
*[log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>*
Twitter: @EmilyDamstra

On Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 12:36 AM, Jenny Keller <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Here's an anecdote:
> Our local public radio station, KAZU, recently invited artists to enter a
> contest to design a mug that will be given to donors as a thank-you gift
> during their on-air pledge drive. I wrote the station a letter (the text of
> which is included, below) explaining why these contests are unfair to
> artists. I was pleasantly surprised when the manager of the station wrote
> me right back and asked to talk on the phone. I'm happy to say that he
> listened attentively, and said he hadn't really thought of things this way
> before. When he asked if I thought that paying the winner would fix the
> problem, I said that it would certainly help the winner of the contest, but
> that it didn't get at the root of the problem -- i.e., all the other
> artists that would have done the work for nothing. I told him what would be
> better would be to simply hire an artist and pay him or her for their work.
> During our conversation, I used the analogy that it would be like asking
> restaurant businesses to compete to donate *food* for the pledge drive.
> As in, "Okay, you guys go ahead and make the food you want to donate, bring
> it all over, and then we'll look at all the donations and pick the food we
> like best. Be sure to do a nice job, because this is a contest, and if you
> win, we'll mention your business on the air! If we don't pick your
> donation, however, then tough luck -- you'll get nothing for all your
> trouble. Sorry, too, for all the wasted time, effort and resources you'll
> have put into it." This analogy (as well as a few key phrases quoted from
> Tim Kreider's wonderfully-articulate NYT op-ed article:
> -- helped get the message across!
> The station manager and I agreed that it'd be awkward to go on the air and
> cancel the contest at this point, but he did agree that KAZU would not hold
> any more such contests in future.
> Here's to small victories. (And I didn't even have to cancel my
> membership!).
> Jenny
> *my letter to the radio station*:
> Dear KAZU,
> I've been a proud member of KAZU for over a decade, but I am writing to
> tell you how dismayed I was to hear that KAZU is holding a "design
> competition" to acquire free artwork for a mug that will be offered to its
> subscribers.
> Citing such incentives as "we want to involve you in what we do" and "this
> is a way you can leave a lasting impression on KAZU Public Radio", KAZU
> is, in fact, asking any number of artist/designers to spend their valuable
> work time and creative energy on something that, for all but one of them,
> will result in no (absolutely zero) reward, and which for one "lucky"
> winner will result in "significant on-air mentions during the Fall 2015 and
> Spring 2016 membership drives" -- or, in other words, no monetary
> compensation whatsoever.
> These types of contests are inherently unfair to artists who, despite the
> myth of "getting paid to play all day", are actually highly-skilled
> professionals who work long hours, often for modest pay. By holding a
> "design competition", you are taking advantage of a large number of
> creative people, (slimly) rewarding only one of them, and acquiring your
> very own custom mug-design for free.
> This is completely different from a situation in which you might approach
> an artist whose work you like and ask them to create *and even donate* a
> design you fully intend to use. In such a case, the artist would at least
> know from the outset that his or her work would end up being used for its
> intended purpose, that it would not have been created for nothing, and
> would -- presumably -- reach an audience the artist has deemed valuable to
> the development of his or her business.
> As mentioned above, I have been a member of KAZU for many years. This
> issue is of such moral and professional importance to me, however, that I
> regret to say I will not be renewing my membership. Until I'm assured that
> the station will no longer hold "competitions" that endeavor to induce
> creative people to work purely on speculation, I'll not only withhold my
> own membership but will strongly encourage my colleagues and illustration
> students (as well as their friends and associates) not to support a radio
> station that endeavors to take advantage of people in creative professions.
> For additional discussion on how spec work harms artists/designers as well
> as the outcome of design projects themselves, please read more at
> (a site with which I have no personal affiliation).
> I look forward to a response from KAZU regarding this issue.
> Sincerely,
> Jenny Keller

Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at