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I recently read the book Plenitude by Juliet Schor, and it really got my mind rolling. Many of the things she said were ideas I already had tumbling around in my head, but she articulated them much better than I ever could. She had a lot of research and analysis to clarify her points, which really helps. Some of these facts are rather shocking and sobering. She talks about shifting away from the business-as-usual mentality and work toward a future of stability and sustainability. It is not easy work, but necessary is rarely easy. I highly recommend this book, what she says is a real wake up call for all us.
Then I came across the blog of creative person Amanda Palmer, her blog entry about the relationship to art and income was of particular interest to me. What she says, echoes some of what I read in Lewis Hyde's book The Gift, which talks about the role of the artist as a necessary contributor to the health and well-being of society. Hyde talks about the struggle within the arts when turning something necessary to the culture into a commodity. Amanda Palmer discusses in her blog that financial support is necessary and should not be tied in with feelings of guilt. I have been working for the last three years to shift my income to one that revolves around my creativity. I too have struggled with the feelings of guilt and the strangeness of turning art into a commodity. As a result I have turned toward looking at how my creativity, which as been with me from when I was a small child, is a valid contribution to society. This has opened me up to exploring different ways to make a living.
I have been working on painting, sculpture and my writing as a way to diversify my income. I am careful now about the kind of jobs I choose, to make sure they support in some way my creative work, rather than just take time away from it. I do some freelance web and editing work that is flexible with my art-making schedule and I teach. Right now, it is tight. I live precariously, but I am frugal and careful. This is not how I would like to keep living, nor is it healthy to do so. Right now, I'm afraid, too many people live like this...and far too many of them that do are creative people.
As we try to recover from the "financial crisis" (that politicians like to call it), returning to the status quo is not the answer. This is our opportunity to fix what didn't work and create a new system. For me, it is building a living around my creative work. And a way to do that is to keep my work as close to me as possible. I am avoiding the middle-person to sell or distribute my work, so that I can keep my work priced reasonable and, more importantly to me, maintain relationships with the people who enjoy my work. When so much of my time is spent alone as I work on my art, it is crucial that I maintain some contact with the people that appreciate and enjoy my work.
But, in order to be able to sustain a living, I need support. And it isn't just me. There are so many wonderfully creative people out there doing wonderful work without big contracts with record companies, publishers or galleries. We need to support these people. If we listen to their music, we need to buy their music or attend their concerts or invite them to house concerts. If we need greeting cards, artwork, sculptures, gifts for others or ourselves, we need to buy them from those independent artists. If we cannot purchase their work because our own money is tight, then we can help promote them by telling others, we can give the artist supplies to do their work, we can donate in-kind materials, we can make them some dinner, and so on. Supporting an artist so they can make a living, isn't only financial. There are many ways to help. This is part of the new financial model that we need to build.
I believe this kind of purchase power and support will help tremendously with the economic recovery. By supporting independent artists we help allow work get made, we support the local community, and we play an active role in the kind of work that gets made. We don't need big companies to choose for us what work gets made. We don't need to pay the higher costs of products to cover the big company leaders salaries. We don't need to support big businesses shady practices that come back to hurt the consumer. We can support the artists we know and whose work we enjoy. As Amanda Palmer puts it so well:
itís about empowerment and itís about SIMPLICITY: fan loves art, artist needs money, fan gives artist money, artist says thank you.
I ask you, please, the next time you go buy a CD, a greeting card, a print, a painting, a book, a gift or home item, consider supporting an independent artist or writer. They are making good work and it deserves to be noticed and supported! As an artist, who works hard at what I do, I say, THANK YOU!!!