Have you been inspired by a painting, drawing or a sculpture? Has a handmade item moved you? Did a poem speak to you? Were you touched deeply by a performance? Is Music part of your life?
If it is the performing arts, visual arts, poetry, the crafts or music, they all play an important part in our lives.
But there is a disconnect about the willingness to pay for it.
How do the artists get paid for their work? How can they sustain the creative process?
Every area mentioned above has its own challenges and common practices that may or may not work. Since I am an expert in the visual arts, this will be my area of focus at the moment.
The most common line I hear as a visual artist is: “I love it, this is so inspiring- BUT I can’t afford it.” Meaning, the artwork did it’s part- it created inspiration, joy, curiosity, engagement. These interactions of appreciation make that artwork complete. That is why I do art- to touch someone. BUT while it is feeding my soul, it doesn’t feed my belly. I know I can’t expect everybody that is touched by my work to buy a $700 or $3.000 sculpture. Not every household even has room for another $150 drawing.
Can the focus of monetary exchange shift from owning artwork to the experience of artwork? When you enjoy a concert, you pay a ticket for the experience of it- you don’t own the piece of music. And if you are moved enough, you buy a CD (or what ever newer technology is now available) to recreate the experience again and again. While the music industry has its own struggles, at least there is the attempt of © copyright and the rule of payment for the experience or use of the music.
(Museums do charge admission to experience artwork. But they are in a different category and raise future questions of – what makes art important enough to be collected by a museum. And what does it mean for artists that are not included in the official art world. That would have to be a topic of future contemplations)
Coming back to common practices. Often artists are asked to donate their work to auctions and fundraisers. (Those donations are not even tax deductible for the artist) The motivation is the exposure to a new audience to build name recognition. The hope is that at some point someone might want to buy a piece from that artist. Sometimes the artist will receive a minimum set price from an auction, which might cover the materials. But more often nothing will come back to the artist.
Coffee shops, offices, banks, health centers. libraries and other public or commercial places have figured out that art enhances their walls and atmosphere. Visitors and customers love to be surrounded by art and will patronize venues where they feel good. Office staff benefits from being surrounded by the positive vibrations of art and be more easy going, engaged and productive. What is in it for the artist? All the venues fill one need- to be a stage for the work to be seen and to be interacted with by the observer. Although the artist only can experience this benefit during an artist reception, if the venue is gracious enough to offer it. Often enough the artist has to put the event on themselves as well.
The artist spends hours installing the shows….. then what? Oh, the pieces can be offered for sale. Which happens on an extremely rare occasion.
Public gardens are starting to join the trend and are happy to host sculpture shows. Again, art needs to be seen and needs a stage. Contrary to 2 dimensional work, sculptures need to be transported in trucks- and often need machinery to be installed, boom trucks and the like. Who covers the cost for that? The artist. Or if lucky the venue will pay for the boom truck. but not the delivery.
As we look at this phenomenon of the value of art and reimbursement/payment, artists themselves need to change their common practices. Art work needs to be seen and therefore are most artists all too eager to get a chance to show their work, free of charge. If artwork was not so readily available for free, the practice of renting or other monetary exchanges might be more common.
As mentioned above, those shows are a great service to the public, but they are not sustainable for the artists. If something is given for free, it has to be acknowledged and not expected and taken for granted. Some form of exchange needs to happen that feeds the artist- spiritually, their creative life force and literally their body.
Here is a simply suggestion of one way it could work on a small scale:
Any time you are moved, inspired or touched by artwork of any kind, consider making a contribution to the artist. Think of it as a movie ticket, the price of admission, a cup of coffee. $5, 10, 20, 80…. what ever you easily spend on those items. – And repeat this on a monthly basis.
Places now hosting art shows could start to budget an installation fee to reimburse the artist at least for the time of the installation. Entering into a rental agreement for the artwork might be a possible alternative, depending on the venue. In addition they can install a collection box and encourage the public to contribute the above-mentioned donations to the artist. This acknowledges the artist as a contributor to society. If enough people participate, the artist might actually be able to afford to donate work to your favorite fundraiser or other public display.
There are many creative options when one begins to think about it. Let’s keep a conversation going and try out the first ideas.
What are your ideas as an admirer of art? How willing are you to acknowledge the importance of art in your life and engage in an energy exchange?
How willing are you as an artist to change your habits and claim your worth to society.