Erin Pankratz: A freelance artist’s journey to better banking
By ATB Financial 15 May 2019 2 min read
The wonderful world of freelance budgeting
Erin Pankratz is a spreadsheet queen. She’s also a mosaic artist with a big public art contract, a creator of fine art, a mom, a sole proprietor and an art instructor who teaches around the world. She stays on top of it all by meticulously tracking her income and expenses (and we mean all of her expenses—from her kids’ shoes to Italian ceramic tiles). She says she spends just as much time on her computer as in her basement studio.
So why did Erin have a tough time getting the financing she needed as a freelancer to sustain her life, her art and her business?
A bank for artists
Well, it’s pretty simple. Erin was turned down when she approached regular banks because—despite artists’ proven financial track record—most banks aren’t set up to work with artists. That’s why we opened The Branch for Arts + Culture. We saw a need to be met, but we also saw an opportunity to partner with some of the most innovative, dedicated and responsible people around.
Creative problems, creative problem-solving
When Erin started banking with The Branch in the spring of 2018, she was in a tight spot. And because of her spreadsheets, she knew it.
“I think the thing that people don’t realize—especially with the public art, because the pieces are very large-scale—is that the materials cost a lot of money. So I’m buying a lot of the substrate the mosaic goes on, the mortar, the grout, the specific tiles (especially if it’s an exterior piece—they’re more expensive). And you have to plan for all that and buy it all ahead of time.”
When Erin won an international public art call for a large exterior mosaic in Edmonton, the money to “buy it all ahead of time” (plus continue to pay her family’s living expenses until she was paid for her work) just wasn’t there.
“I saw this desert in my financial situation at the time. I had money that was going to come to me—the big project—but it was delayed. So when I heard about The Branch helping artists, I ran there.”
Not only was Erin able to get a loan to help her bridge the gap, her banker at The Branch (who’s also a stage manager) set her up with low-interest financing to help her consolidate her existing debt and make sure she wasn’t drowning in interest payments.
The non-tortured artist
The future of banking for freelancers looks bright.The ramifications of a little bit of banking support have spread from Erin’s cash-tracking spreadsheets to her art practice.
“Having a much more secure financial situation means that I can apply for residencies. I can take the risk to develop an evolving body of work, when I otherwise would be using that time to create more work in the same style because that’s what people know and that’s what sells. But if artists are given the opportunity to grow and take risks, then new stuff comes out of that.”