No one knows the necessity of affordable legal aid better than San
Francisco artist, Paul Scofield. Seven years ago, the Phoenix Hotel
commissioned Scofield to paint a mural on the wall of a neighboring
building. After receiving permission from the building's owners, Scofield
painted Leap of Compassion, a vibrantly colored mural urging acceptance
of diverse cultures. Recently, the building was bought by developers who
are intent on renovation; a renovation which includes removing the mural.
Scofield, with support of the local community, wants to protect his largest
outdoor project. Knowing that he will need a lawyer, he has contacted California
Lawyers for the Arts, known as CLA.
Founded in 1974 by lawyers and artists, CLA's programs and services are
designed to help artists understand and apply legal concepts for their
benefits. "I quickly got a hold of someone who was an expert on the issues
and understood the view of the artist," Scofield said. Through CLA's
extensive referral service, Scofield consulted with attorney M.J. Bogatin,
an expert in muralists' rights. Bogatin is currently representing
Scofield's interests in saving the mural.
CLA has networks of lawyers available to consult artists on a variety of
art-related business and personal problems. Such issues
include copyright and trademark protection, contract review and
negotiation, business partnerships, non-profit incorporation, and
landlord-tenant disputes. For working artists without fame or rich
parents, the services are affordable. The initial consultation fee is
minimal, but may be waived depending on the artist's financial
circumstances. CLA also offers arts arbitration and mediation services,
which provide efficient, economical and confidential alternatives to
Bogatin believes that it is important to "introduce artists to themes to
make their business as artists successful." These themes include educating
artists on market rates for work efforts, the importance of written
contracts, and retaining copyright to work. For example, Bogatin advises
all of his clients to have a remedial alternative dispute resolution and
attorneys' fee clause in their contracts. By including such a clause,
potential conflicts are either avoided because the party does not want to
risk losing and paying the artist's legal bill, or resolved affordably
through arbitration or mediation.
While contract issues are still the predominant problem for artists,
whether is it failure of payment or return of work, multimedia problems are
increasing. With the emergence of the Internet as a venue for visual art,
copyright and proprietary knowledge is becoming even more necessary,
according to Tadas Kisielius, CLA's Legal Services and Education
Coordinator. As a results, CLA offers educational programs
such as copyright clinics where attendees can meet with an attorney for a
private consultation as well as workshops in fundraising, licensing
agreements, negotiations, and income tax.
Providing more than legal services to artists is important to CLA's
Executive Director, Alma Robinson, who believes that both social action and
community development are essential to sustaining the local artistic
community. Developed in response to the San Francisco Bay Area's housing
crisis, CLA's ArtHouse serves as an information clearinghouse and advocate
for artists' live/work and studio space. Additionally, CLA sponsors
programs providing summer and after-school job training to youth interested
in arts, and arts-related training and job placement to low-income aid
Robinson recommends two indispensable resources for the artist's library:
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist by Tad Crawford, which includes
information about copyright, sales, and tax; and The Artist's Survival
Manual by Toby Judith Klayman, which includes a selection of contract
There are similar organizations to CLA throughout the country.
Contact your local arts commission for one in your state.