I want to begin this by utterly demolishing any straw men that may be in the room. As you may know, I am an artist, yes. I always have been. Though I sell my art and consider Altar Ego to be a business, I still believe that art is priceless. I believe that we hold the power and control as individual artists to know the value and worth of ourselves as creative individuals who contribute to our communities far and wide. That said, I do believe that our culture truly needs to take a deep hard look into the mirror, and for the sake of staying on topic, in this case, to understand and delve into the True Value of Art. During this strange time in our history, it has been intriguing to say the least how everyone has managed individually and communally, hasn’t it? Some may have faltered while others may have forged themselves into stronger forms than before. Regardless of where you identify, one constant has been occurring so often and so blaringly loud that it has compelled me to write about it to get it all out into the open. To raise my voice and make it known how much we need art, yes, but also how much, even subconsciously, we deeply rely on it. I’ve seen a lot of people speaking to artists and artists speaking of themselves to “Step up; Be the Inspiration” the other half of the sentence, though rarely admitted and never spoken aloud, is “...So we may leave you unpaid with bills stacked high when art no longer serves us as our distraction of choice.” It’s more than just a sin, for lack of a better term, it’s cheapening the very thing that we as a community, as a society are flocking to to nourish our very souls, our creativity, our very inspiration to still exist and be heard... Even to continue to go on some days. The starving artist is a myth that has become a beast of reality that we artists must face daily, but why? Why is it so vulgar for an artist to know their full worth? To be paid a living wage so they may continue to enrich their community? Admit it: In this facet of the dynamic at least, it is not artists who need society. Quite the reverse. In the face of adversity it is society and our culture that desperately needs art.
From a post recently made on Instagram: “...The problem is... There is a severe lack of respect and honest reverence for the artist community as a whole. It is expected to give at our detriment, but what I've noticed is when I'm paid a living wage I can 1) continue to evolve my craft and 2) pay for supplies to continue with that evolution. There are resources that provide them (masks) to essential workers and I am grateful for them but this is a long standing and archaic issue of artists expecting to step up and pay out of pocket on the front lines at our expenses and I for one am over it once and for all. I encourage any artist to join ranks in this idea. It is not selfish; it is helping ourselves so we may continue to best nurture and care for our communities.”
No, it is not romantic or inspiring to ask artists to give selflessly for the sake of their ‘priceless' art or trade or craft, that is up to the artist to decide. Let’s please call it what it is: Exploitation of the arts and hard working artists. No, it is not wrong or selfish as an artist to ask for reimbursement for your effort, time, skill, trade or passions. Rather, by holding yourself to this virtue of value, you have now set a new standard which promotes fellow artists that they can and are worthy to not just survive, but thrive.
Despite the horrors this pandemic has held for us globally, locally and individually, my one glimmer of hope with people flocking to virtual galleries, connecting to new artists and designers in the wake of all this, is that artist exploitation will eventually evolve from its non-functional current form into a new normal of being deeply appreciated, uplifted and, most importantly, financially backed. My lips curl into a smile at the very notion that this may be forthcoming a long time from now when we’re all silver foxes and cougars telling of how wild the times were for artists and creators back in our day. I’d like to be optimistic that the future is brighter than we can see currently, and I believe that if we choose to embrace the arts and the artists that work so hard to reach out and touch one another in the face of adversity, I believe it is possible. Thank you for supporting the arts during this time, for connecting to new creative people and most importantly, perhaps to the creative individual within yourself. Stay Curious,