Perspectives: Imagining A Future...
[T]his afternoon I enjoyed a conversation with some practicing artists. Our purpose in gathering was to share information regarding career options, exhibit opportunities, and some of the brass-tack logistics regarding the realities of a career in creative enterprises. Some of the common threads that sprung up are:
- Whatever happens, continue to work in a way that allows you to grow your artistic skill, vision. Keep producing work.
- Remember that this is a road not for the faint of heart. It takes time to establish your work and venues in which to exhibit it.
- Take some risks. Enter exhibits. Put yourself in the line of sight for potential patrons.
- Remember: who you know is actually a good deal of how you will find opportunities. This does not mean pucker up for all the “right” people. What it DOES mean: the relationships you are able to genuinely cultivate are some of the best gifts that will be given to you in the long run. Treat them well.
- Try to find creative ways to support your creative habits. This takes work. It may take up to 25-30% of the time you allocate for investing in your career.
At one point, one of the participants in the conversation imagined what it might be like to live in Europe, where it is far more common to receive funding from the government to help support creative endeavors. I believe that just about anyone in a creative field could fantasize about that, too. And for me, it begs the question: why don’t the Fine Arts—the disciplines that both reflect and create the culture in which we live—receive more public support here in the states? At the core of the issue is the question: to what extent do the general voting populous and elected officials believe that the arts—visual, literary, and performative—play a crucial role in the well being of society? If the arts are the purview of the elite, an intellectual game, luxuries accessible only to the socioeconomically privileged, then they are non-essential, a means by which those "flaky-artist-types" can make a profit with things that "my kid could paint." But what if, instead, the arts were understood as an integral part of life and health in society? I have recently been researching several people groups in Papua New Guinea. For many, their sense of the progression of time and cycles of life are intimately connected with horticultural practices and the visual, musical, and performative arts connected with them. To live is to cultivate, create, share, and enjoy meals and objects that have aesthetic presence and meaning. Without the art, a significant part of what it means to be alive is absent.
I do not at all intend for this blog entry to be a rally to political action. But I would invite you to consider: which definition of the arts do you practice and perpetuate? Beyond our own creative practices (which I assume we all prioritize and find beneficial), are the arts for the elite and therefore legitimately marginalized, justifiably sent to the periphery of educational and social experience? Or are they the means by which we understand the rhythms of life, of social connections, and the ethical basis for those connections: the very building blocks of healthy community? Imagine with me for a moment an America that embraces the second perspective….
We could choose to believe that our work—writing, visual art, dance, music, installations, public art, and the lot—are primarily a means for making a living, and (perhaps at some pinnacle of success) of securing wide-spread recognition and profit for our skills. Alternatively, we could believe and live by the thought that art is one of the most potent agents we have at our disposal for transforming culture. Through it we may reflect the beauty in the world, and expose those things less lovely and in need of change. There is a grand invitation that all people who eloquently craft words, who push paint around or tinker with objects: an invitation to be part of reclaiming life, reclaiming and celebrating what it means to be human, to be at peace, and to really see the world in which we live. As I sign off this evening, I wish you well in taking one more step toward that kind of life, toward embracing art that potently transforms. Be blessed as you journey on and may you eat the fruit that results from the labor of your hands. It could be sweet, so very sweet, for everyone around.
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