Most states regulate construction contractors. In California, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) was created to protect consumers by licensing and regulating California’s construction industry. Visual Artists and visual art does not usually come under construction laws, however there is one facet of the visual art world that does: Murals. Wikipedia defines murals as any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall ceiling or other large permanent surface. For instance if you are invited to paint a mural on the wall of your doctor’s office and you were paid more than $500, under California construction laws, you might need a Contractor’s License. Artists may not be aware that they could be violating California state licensing laws if they were paid more than $500 to paint a mural on a permanent structure i.e. a house or office wall, outside building, etc… The C-33 Painting and Decorating license section covers painting a mural on a permanent structure. Individuals who limit their practice to that of an artist could also be covered under either D-64 (non-specialized contractor designation) or C-61 (Limited Specialty contractor classification). If an artist is paid more than $500 (labor and materials) to paint a mural on a permanent structure, they are subject to state contractor licensing laws under the Business and Professions Code Section 7026. As of this year, there still is no license classification for specifically for an artist painting art on walls or buildings, so artists are forced to apply for the general painting contractor’s license.
Requirements for C-33 licensing can be pretty stiff (and expensive); you must pass the state law and business exam in addition to the trade exam related to painting. Cost: Initial app fee $300, App to add a supplemental Classification $75, Home improvement salesperson (HIS) registration fee $75, etc… Then it has to be renewed each year. In addition to the license itself, CSLB always requires worker’s comp insurance on most projects if anyone but you do any part of the work. Then there are the bond requirements for a General License; “D” class licenses on the other hand may be less expensive to obtain since potential contactors are only required to pass the law and business exams. However, the tests themselves are quite complicated and most potential contractors actually take courses designed to help them pass the tests (this is not free either).
I don’t know if this could affect you if you merely provided the design for a mural and didn’t actually paint it or otherwise install it. I also don’t know if this covers the donated designs.
According to the latest CSLB newsletter, an increased number of inquiries and complaints from consumers about licensing requirements for artists creating murals have caused the CSLB to tighten up on enforcement in this area so watch out for stings!
For More info: California State Licensing Board Contractors State License Board Protecting and informing consumers and contractors about proper contracting.