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Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts has initiated a course, Law School for Visual Artists, for contemporary visual artists to protect themselves and their art projects. It is an introduction to legal issues that is designed to make “legalese comprehensible and manageable.”

The five-week lecture series, their second ever, will cover intellectual property, contracts, consignment and licensing agreements, basic business models, employment issues with studio and gallery assistants, artist websites, and issues in public art and commissioning agreements.

Last year’s course attracted applications from 150 people but there are only 50 slots to fill. This year’s series is now funded by the Agnes Gund Foundation, the Matisse Foundation, and the MetLife Foundation.

“Artists face many problems, all affecting their work productivity. The main problems we see here at VLA are intellectual property issues as they pertain to the making of their work, specificallly copyright and trademark,” says Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, an artist who practices law and teaches the program.

“In this, now old, age of appropriation and the internet, using original text, images, and audio from other copyright holders can be trecherous. Another major problem we see is the lack of written agreements between artists and galleries and museums. I strongly believe that the age of oral agreements and handshakes, as they pertain to the artworld, are slowly coming to an end. Artists increasingly engaging in large-scale costly projects. Artists must make sure that they and their art projects are protected, and that the duties of all parties are clearly spelled out. We have to keep in mind that how art defines many artistic terms differs radically from how law defines those similar terms. Authenticity, originality, creativity, fixation, appropriation, and expression are but a few examples. In a nutshell, there is a strong desire to keep artists ignorant of their legal rights. We see this course as a progenitor to educating artists and establishing a stronger foundation of artists rights.”

To register for this free lecture series, potential students should e-mail their name, e-mail address, artistic medium (film, video, sculpture, painting, drawing, etc.), and years of professional practice to Luis Nieto Dickens at before January 23, 2011, Seating is very limited (only 50 places), so you better hurry. Also, in order to be registered for this lecture series, registrants must attend all five classes. Applicants will receive an e-mail confirming their registration on January 24, 2011.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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