The Significance of a Contract or an Agreement

In a studio space, Mario Martinez is visible from the neck down, next to a table filled with paint canisters and brushes, and a painting on an easel. To the right are utility shelves, holding sever long rolled canvases.
CALL Artist Mario Martinez in his studio in Brooklyn, 2018. Photo by Reginald Eldridge, Jr.

“Throughout your art practice, in addition to your dealings with clients, agents, and fellow artists, you will no doubt engage a number of professionals who will provide services to you (accountants, vendors, suppliers, contractors, etc.). And as with any business transaction, it is in everyone’s best interest to document these relationships. You will typically do so by a contract or agreement.”

Following the main chapters in Career Documentation for the Visual Artist: A Legacy Planning Workbook & Resource Guide, we compiled advanced tools, resource listings, and other supplemental information to assist artists and their support teams in legacy planning. Included in this section is an expert opinion piece penned by Jim Grace and Luke Blackadar of Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston entitled “The Significance of a Contract or an Agreement.” The text below is excerpted from their contribution.

Contracts go by many names and appear in many forms. However, the ultimate purpose of a contract is to document a relationship. (And not just a business relationship—a contract can set the expectations for personal and familial relationships as well.) The contract that will best suit your needs is one that:

  • accomplishes your business goals and the goals of the specific engagement;
  • reflects your relationship with the other party; and
  • states deal terms in understandable, unambiguous language.
About 20 paintbrushes of various sizes and shapes are clustered on a paint splattered table.
Painting materials in the studio of Mario Martinez, Brooklyn, 2018. Photo by Reginald Eldridge, Jr.

As experienced attorneys and leading educators on estate and legacy planning for artists, Grace and Blackadar address some common legal issues that arise when entering into various types of contracts. These include the importance of getting your agreement down in writing; specifying the scope of work, fee structure, and ownership of deliverables; and clarifying the nature of the relationship (for example, is this work for hire or are you an employee?). Grace and Blackadar also explain common language included in contracts to manage risks, including indemnification clauses; waivers, releases, and covenants; and assumption of risk.

You can download “The Significance of a Contract or an Agreement” below, or find it in the Career Documentation for Visual Artists workbook.

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