Applied Arts

An Update on Artists' Services
Re-evaluating our Artist Placements

Re-evaluating our Artist Placements

by Carson Salter, Dena Yago

October 2022

The following is part of a letter to those artists who had signed on to participate in this agency experiment in 2021. This letter described a pivot in strategy for our artists' services.

(We devour these kinds of documents — memos describing the real inner-workings of art & commerce projects — and we hope this 'note' will catch another collaborator, colleague, client who is on the same path...)

An Introduction

We (Dena and Carson) have taken some time these last few months to reflect on what is working, and what isn’t with Applied Arts after 2.5 years in operation. We’ve decided to make some changes to the way we present our work and yours. As you may also be feeling, it’s becoming clear that some things are getting more traction than others. Below is an explanation of what we mean, and some information about where we want to go from here.


As you know, the initial approach we took to artist collaborations focused on manifold practices across a range of media — eg, photography, choreography, illustration, creative direction, etc. In addition, we offered our strategic services, oftentimes as a way to sell through artists' work. While this accurately represents the breadth of our practices and offerings, it also came with a few challenges:

  1. Inbound Bias. The initial client interest we received was almost completely seeking strategic services, and this particular client set was less familiar with (or not seeking) artist collaborations.
  2. Unbalanced Bandwidth. As we responded to the inbound demand, the strategy work grew more quickly than artist collaborations, and admittedly our outbound new business lagged. In other words, we were overwhelmed by our work and didn’t make time to get much work for you, the artists.
  3. Multihyphenate Confusion. For clients who were interested in artist collaborations, the complexity and breadth of our artists' practices didn’t match their expectations for a more specialized agency, e.g. a narrowly-defined video, photo or music agency.
  4. Artist Availability. AA artists were not always available, and sometimes turned down work due to conflicting priorities or the public nature of a collaboration.
  5. Our Own Hybrid Practices. We work on Applied Arts between 20-30 hours per week each, and with that time have had to prioritize inbound work.

Given these learnings, how can we (Yago and Salter) create more opportunities for applied work, while continuing to embrace the fundamental value of strategically-minded, complex artist practices?

Proposed Change

We think that we will find more success securing applications for artists by shifting our focus, bringing AA artists' offering more in-line with our (Carson & Dena’s) services of strategy, research, insights and consultation. Shifting from an artist-representation/agency model to an artist-led strategy group.

This means a focus on applied knowledge, expertise. We will engage artists and other niche experts as partners in strategic projects.

An Artist-led Strategy Agency.

HIGH-PRIORITY engagements:

As a result, our business development priorities will shift away from traditional creative services (photography, work-for-hire illustration, etc.) and direct placements, and toward these higher-priority areas:

  • Artist/Strategist Consulting — for services of brand and creative strategy, special projects ideation, research & insights, content ideation, creative direction.
  • Artist Enterprises/Commercial Projects — in which we support Artist-initiated projects.

Along with this shift, we will also be investing more in AA-initiated projects. More on this soon… Thank you for being with us so far!