Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Art Saves Lives

Fellowship (I Ching Series, 2008)
Joanne Mattera has two excellent essays in her blog on topics that are hot buttons for artists – one on pricing and one on “where is the bailout for the arts? She’s allowing anonymous comments and most of the posters so far have been (or seem to be) artists that are carried by a gallery. This is what I posted:

I'm not carried by any gallery so I have complete freedom to set my prices as I please. Plus, I don't make my living from my art - retired from another profession - so, while that doesn't give me any cachet in the art world, it does give me some degree of financial security. In any case, I decided to price my small pieces very very cheaply. In some ways it galls me to sell them so cheap but as I don't have access to a wealthy clientele, it makes sense to charge what the market can bear. My strategy paid off; during SF's Open Studio last fall, many of my studio mates sold nothing. But I sold a heck of a lot, almost more than anybody else. Selling small pieces for low prices and being willing to negotiate meant that I made my expenses and then some. Given our economic climate, I think that's a victory. Sometimes I think that it's just better to be realistic than hold the line and hope for the best. But this is SF, not NY and our art market is smaller with few sales for local beginning and mid-level artists.

Which brings me to her next post:

“So the automakers and all those big banks are getting help from the government. My tax dollars, from income earned as an artist, are helping them out.”

“Where’s the bailout for the arts?”

“I’d been thinking about this ever since the banking industry began receiving some $700 billion in bailout money—and promptly started giving it away as multimillion-dollar bonuses to the guys who brought the industry to its knees in the first place. (And to think that the NEA was once upset over the "obscenity" of smeared chocolate on a naked body? Ha!).”

There’s more, including an on-line petition (linked from another site) that Obama create such a thing. I have no idea if the petition will make any difference but I signed it anyway. I was thinking off all the cuts in the arts that we have endured in the last decade – cuts in public education, cuts in public TV, cuts in grants to the NEA. I’d be more than pleased if some of the money – hell, ALL of the money in pre-inflation dollars that’s been cut would be put back. It would provide jobs for a whole raft of creative folk but equally as important, it would start putting the soul back in education.

When I do Open Studios or any other art event, I’m saddened by the lack of knowledge about art or art history that so many people make. And it’s often generational. My generation – let’s say the over 50 crowd – mostly had access to a solid four years of English, History, Literature, Math and Sciences. We had decent libraries and time to read in them. I’m not saying that this is true across the board but, by and large, education was valued. But it’s been cut, cut, cut for the last decade with the arts – all the creative arts – being the first to go. Painting, music and theatre were considered unnecessary and if you don’t expose kids to them in school, it’s an unusual child that will go and seek that knowledge out. I have a button that says “Art Saves Lives.” It still does. It still can but only if the arts are there when the lives need saving.


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