Legacy planning is not a conceited act.
Rather, it is a necessity. It is vital to have a plan in place that will serve as a guide to your heirs for protecting and preserving your artistic legacy. Don’t you want a say in how you are remembered?
But, estate planning is a daunting task that is often ignored or put off by working artists.
Luckily, CERF+ created a workbook, Crafting Your Legacy, to demystify the process and break it into actionable steps. The resource also focuses on non-artistic assets since we often forget to inventory and track the value of our studio contents.
The 22-page workbook includes eight case studies, checklists, and resources to help studio artists think about and plan for the fate of their tools, equipment, materials, library, archives, and other art-making assets as part of their creative legacy.
Curator, director, potter, and writer Mark Leach authored the publication. We picked Mark’s brain to gather more insights about legacy planning.
Why did you and CERF+ create Crafting Your Legacy?
CERF+’s mission is to help artists by providing core services such as education programs, advocacy, network building and emergency relief.
The goal is to assist artists in thinking more holistically about their career and the steps that are essential to maintaining a vibrant creative life. And, at the same time, a need to prepare for the afterlife of their creative work and possessions.
CERF+ staff are occasionally contacted by family members (or others) after the death of an artist who worked for years in the craft field and who had important collections of tools and equipment. When an artist’s estate plan does not exist, families find themselves confronted with the daunting task of making decisions that reflect their loved one’s life, career, and reputation.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Artists can provide a more authentic sense of who they are as creative makers and human beings. They can show how they got where they are by documenting their processes and results and digitizing it all.
Why is preserving an artist’s legacy important?
To ensure that the artist’s life and work are remembered.
In your opinion, how should an artist’s legacy be preserved?
Preserving an artist’s legacy has to do with authenticity. It’s all about capturing and documenting the maker’s perspective; that's where it all begins.
Today, artists have an opportunity to record their process and what they are thinking as they create their work. This approach leaves neither question nor prompts speculation on artistic ideation, concept and result.
We can learn so much more if there is a record and a deeper knowledge of the artist.
Rockwell, de Kooning, Motherwell, they all had their lives under the microscope. Whereas most artists work in solitude, can maintain a commercial livelihood or they teach and mentor our future creatives.
We must think about legacy in a more comprehensive way.
Authentic artistic legacy is reflected in and through the artist’s actions, words and thought. Together, these provide the public with a close sense of the artists’ peculiarities of style, technique and inspiration.
Vision, technique, process—they are all essential to understanding an artist’s lifetime and legacy.
Let’s consider an artist who made his own tools. Borne out of necessity, these creative acts and those which follow through the use of such implements provide a unique perspective on and insight into the creative’s inspiration, innovation and artistic resolve.
What do artists often not think about when it comes to estate planning?
Artists are focused on their day-to-day life and the act of creating.
Legacy isn’t a predominant thought. Perhaps it becomes one when an artist witnesses the impact of its absence on a peer’s or close personal friend’s family. To see heirs and/or loved ones struggling to honor the creative life of the deceased, the importance of developing and providing a roadmap is made all the more clear.
What is something that an artist may be surprised to find in this resource?
Artists, in general, are more alike than they are different. They have career discipline, a work regimen. They have relative successes and failures.
And, that there is a script, a pathway for this process. The workbook provides artists with a rough outline to accomplish what they need to build an estate plan.
Why should artists pay attention to non-artistic assets?
Artists’ tools and their possessions, whether they are brand new or not, possess value. Even as the tools age, they are worth something.
Artists can benefit by creating an inventory and keeping a rudimentary level of insurance to replace their tools and other assets. A disaster, a fire, hurricane or tornado, for example, can be devastating. Rebuilding a studio and replacing its contents can pose insurmountable obstacles without essential protections.
Additionally, tools provide insight into an artist’s process.
Gerhard Richter turned a squeegee into a massive, emotive instrument. There’s a documentary detailing his innovative process. But, most artists don’t have the benefit of such documentation.
Information that details how tools are used to create an artistic result has some bearing on what we think of an artist’s capabilities, mastery and durability or legacy.
How can artists tell their story?
Digital media can be faithful to the creative journey and used as a tool for artists to tell their own story.
For example, you can capture an audio file that details an ideation conversation that takes place. Or, you can create a video of yourself working in a particular way that is unique to your medium or work.
Digital media can show the fierceness of someone’s vision.
What is the one thing you want artists to take away from this publication?
This is doable. I hear artists say, “I don’t have time for that—I have a business." But, it’s important to make the time.
If you really believe in your work then estate planning is an absolutely essential step to take to ensure that you and your loved ones are prepared to take the steps to protect and preserve life’s work and the values that it embodies.