studioNOTES: support for artists/ideas and information

Number 24

March - May 1999

Nita Winter
Native American Girl Dancer
black and white
7 x 5 in.

Nita Winter, Native American Girl Dancer NITA WINTER was looking through the Selected Opportunities section of studioNOTES last August. It's one of the first things she does when she gets her copy because "lots of times the deadlines are tight so you have to read it immediately. Otherwise you can miss something." A listing for the Utah Arts Council caught her eye. It said they were looking for artworks for a new children's clinic. That seemed right up her alley because, she realized, "my work [photos of children] has been used a lot in children's hospitals." She called and asked for a prospectus.

A few days later she received a four-page packet that contained a layout of the site, a description of the building's use, and an outline of what was required from each entrant. "They wanted a written description, including the location of the art, the form of the art, the color, the surface quality," and supporting materials. After carefully studying the documents, though, she still had some questions. So she phoned the contact person, who "gave me more of an idea of what their thoughts were in different spaces." After much planning and preparation, but in time to meet the Sep 29 deadline, she sent the Council a two-page proposal which gave them several options for sizes, number of pieces, and types (black and white, color, or hand-tinted). Each possibility had it's own budget, which ranged from $16,000 to $30,000. She also submitted color and black and white slides (they had requested 10), samples of black and white, color, and hand-colored images, a résumé, and a self-addressed envelope.

About a month later, a few days before the official notification date, she received a letter saying she had been named a semifinalist. As such, she was expected to develop a proposal for a project that would cost about $16,000, and make a presentation in Salt Lake City to the Council and representatives of the clinic. If she found all of this agreeable, she was supposed to sign and return a contract and then would receive an honorarium of $1000. Her immediate reaction was, "Oh, what do I do with this?" But she called the program coordinator again and "he was very helpful and he said 'Well, we sort of had the idea of this person's work going in the waiting room, this person's work hanging from the ceiling in the rotunda, and your work going in the hallway.'" She thus realized that she had actually been chosen for a commission, not just to compete further. "It's really important to ask questions," Winter pointed out, "because if I hadn't called and asked him, I might have been developing work for a space they already had another idea for. And they didn't make that clear to me in their letter.

"It turned out that the Utah Arts Council has to buy original one-of-a-kind pieces," she continued, "so the only way for me to really do that was to go to hand-colored. . . . I work in collaboration with another artist, Thea Schrack from San Francisco. She and I have been collaborating for over 12 years-on different exhibits, Children's Defense Fund calendars, and commercial projects."

To stay within the budget, Winter had to "work it backwards, to say, OK, what can I give them for $16,000 in original pieces?" It soon became clear that not only were fewer, larger pieces more cost effective than a lot of smaller ones, but such an arrangement would be more attractive and dramatic in the particular location.

Her appointment with the committee was set for Dec 15. To it she took the following : A one-page proposal which specified eight pieces each 27x40" (37x50" framed); a 30" scale model of the hallway, made out of mat board, onto which she had put miniature versions of the images she thought would work best; a series of 11x14' matted original hand-colored pieces ("to give them a sense of what an original looks like" and provide various images to choose from); some black and white photos; a few hand-colored alternates; and some slides.

The committee, which also included the architect, "loved the work", Winter said, but wanted to make some small changes. For instance, they preferred a certain picture of a family rather than a group of girls she had shown on the scale model, and they opted for different sizes for a few other pieces. While they didn't officially tell her at the meeting that everything was a go, she sensed that it was. The next day she got a phone call from the coordinator confirming her best suspicions.

Because of the alterations-two images will be smaller and one larger-she has to rework the budget and then sign a contract. Next, she will receive 40% of the entire price, less the $1000 honorarium (which she had not realized would be charged against the total). After the first payment there will be three more at 20%, the last to be made after the project is completely installed.

The clinic opens in September. By then she has to have the images blown up and get them colored. Because of the logistics of handling and manually coloring large prints, though, she will probably scan the images, manipulate the colors in the computer, and then have them printed out as ink jet prints at Trillium Graphics in Brisbane CA. After that, she'll still have to frame them, ship them and make sure they are installed correctly. As to the last two tasks, she and her husband, photographer Rob Badger, might just load up the work, drive the 748 miles, and do the installation themselves.

Nita Winter's photographs can be seen in publications such as The Children's Defense Fund Calendar (CDF, 25 E. St NW, Washington DC 20001). They are also on view at Gateway Shopping Center (Marin City), The West America Bank (Larkspur CA), The Women's Foundation (SF CA), and in Kaiser Hospitals, such as those in Oakland and Vallejo, or at her studio (415-339-1310) by appointment.

Marin City CA 01.19.99


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