Business and Legal Services for Artists

Art supplies. Photo by cottonbro.

Business and legal volunteers for the arts bring their knowledge and resources to your arts practice or creative business.

Lean on our business and legal experts for advice so you have more time to dedicate to your creative practice. Pittsburgh-area professionals volunteer their expertise in law, financial and strategic planning, marketing, information technology, human resources and more, all while helping ensure your project is a success.

For more information or if you have any questions, please email Larry Castner, manager of volunteer services, or call 412-391-2060 ext. 229.

Client ApplicationEligibility GuidelinesPayment

Access Our Business or Legal Volunteers

Application fee: $35 for Arts Council members, $50 for non-members

The Arts Council’s business and legal assistance programs are for artists living or working in Southwestern Pennsylvania who are experiencing arts-related business or legal issues.

Business assistance is available to artists regardless of income. However, legal assistance is limited to low-income artists. See the Eligibility Guidelines above.

If you’re seeking business or legal assistance, please submit the following items using the links above or print and email the completed application:

  1. A client application detailing the type of assistance you’re seeking.
  2. Tangible confirmation of your current gross income and financial situation is required. This may include a copy of your most recent tax return with your social security number marked out. Your gross income includes income from Social Security, public assistance, unemployment and any other income-producing activity, whether or not generated from arts-related activity, for all members of your household. Your application will not be processed without some reasonable confirmation of your financial situation.
  3. Payment of the application fee - $35 for Arts Council members and $50 for non-members. Not a member yet? Visit our Membership section to learn more. The fee can be paid using the payment link above or by check payable to the "Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.” 

Once your materials are submitted, we will take the time to understand your unique needs and requests so that we can connect you to a volunteer for the arts who will help you accomplish your goals. At the end of your project, we will ask you to provide feedback via a short survey.


Business and Legal Issues Covered

Business Plans

Receive hands-on guidance through the process of writing a business plan for your art business. Business plan development typically includes strategies for implementing a new product, service, or business venture, OR assessing the viability of current program offerings in the local market. The plan will identify goals both for revenue and artist statement fulfillment.

Communications Audit

A volunteer consultant will perform an audit of your communications materials, including identity pieces (logo, letterhead, and signage), brochures, advertising, print and electronic newsletters, tickets and envelopes, websites, social media, press kits, email marketing, and press releases. The volunteer will recommend changes that will improve clarity and consistency of your design and messaging.

Contracts

Have a legal volunteer review an arts-related contract - either yours or one you’re considering signing - to ensure you fully understand the terms and conditions.

Copyrights and Trademarks

If you’re encountering issues with copyrighting or trademarking your artistic content, a legal volunteer can assist you in the appropriate steps to protect your creative property.

Dispute Resolution

A volunteer attorney will provide advice regarding disputes in the arts community. Volunteer attorneys emphasize resolving disputes with negotiations and mediation rather than adversarial lawsuits.

Human Resources and Employment Issues

Gain advice on employment law policies and practices such as employment contracts, independent contractor status, and employment disputes.

Marketing Plans

A volunteer consultant will guide you through the process of writing a strategic marketing plan, which defines communications goals, objects, target markets, creative strategies, and the most effective communication vehicles for your art business.

Social Media Plans

A volunteer consultant will help you write a social media plan that identifies goals and measurable objectives for each platform. The volunteer will also train you and any other partners on how to use analytics tools as necessary.

Marketing Plan

Receive hands-on guidance through the process of writing a strategic marketing plan, which defines communications goals, objects, target markets, creative strategies, and the most effective communication vehicles.

Nonprofit and For-Profit Startups

Receive assistance in identifying the appropriate legal entity for an artist and preparing the formation documents. The volunteer attorney will also provide advice about good governance practices. Volunteer attorneys can also assist in the preparation of the application to the IRS to qualify for nonprofit status.

Have a Different Need?

If you have a different business or legal need, please suggest it when you apply or contact Larry Castner to discuss.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to apply?

For individual artists, there is a $35 application fee if you are registered as a member of the Arts Council. Membership in the Arts Council is free for artists but you must register via our membership page to become an active member. For non-members, the client application fee is $50. The fee can be paid online or by check payable to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

How do you assess an artist’s financial eligibility for legal assistance services?

We base financial eligibility for pro bono service on 250% of the poverty level, as defined every January by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Proof of income, such as a tax return, must be submitted with the application in order to verify eligibility.

What types of cases are eligible?

Our business and legal assistance programs are available only for arts-related matters for clients located in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

What types of cases are not eligible?

The Arts Council retains the right to decline any request if we determine that it is not consistent with our vision, mission, or values. Accepting an application is not a guarantee that the Arts Council will be able to secure a volunteer to help.

Our business and legal assistance programs do not provide help for individuals who live outside of Southwestern Pennsylvania nor for individuals with non-arts related matters. These may include personal matters such as fundraising, landlord/tenant matters, divorces, unemployment compensation, criminal cases, where you have a statutory right to a public defender, and/or cases in which monetary damages/attorneys fees are recoverable.

If the damages you are seeking to recover are less than $8,000, you can represent yourself without an attorney in Small Claims Court before a magistrate. For matters where damages exceed $8,000, you may need to hire an attorney on contingency. To find an attorney, contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the Allegheny Bar Association.

Will I have to pay anything for this help?

The time and expertise of our skilled volunteers is free. However, you may be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses directly related to implementing your request or project. This may include printing of marketing materials, cost of advertisements, filing and copying fees. Your volunteer will review any out-of-pocket costs that may be involved in your request.