I am an exception to the norm in current times because I am a working artist who manages to keep a roof over my head and (somewhat healthy) food on my plate with only the help of creative muses.
That statement should give you pause. And not because I believe in muses.
The solid fact that it’s rare to make a living in the arts is a despairing testament to the state of the arts today because it reflects a profound flaw in society – people have forgotten why art is vital to their lives. More importantly, they have forgotten why NOT supporting the local arts is on par to the loss of honey bees in nature. No, of course food crops won’t fail to be fertilized or a horrifying french-fry famine will strike McDonald’s if you don’t make a small investment in local arts and crafts, but it does create an erosion within community that ultimately ends at your door.
When you look at the facts it’s easy to understand the importance of art within a community:
– A University of Pennsylvania study shows a vibrant art scene leads to stronger civic engagement and social coherence, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates.
– A thriving arts scene can stimulate tourism which benefits local business.
Obviously, without support from local patrons, an art scene can not take root and grow. It needs a foundation built from within. A type of ‘pollination’ so-to-speak. Consider also a crucial byproduct of supporting the local arts is it has a positive impact on the local economy; the money you spent on art in your own backyard is more likely to stay in your backyard as the artist will spend the fruits of their labor in local businesses (perhaps even yours), thus creating a positive monetary loop that supports the local work force.
I know, I know, it’s a cold world and the economy is not exactly going out of its way for you right now. Maybe you don’t care about your community as a whole, hey – you never asked for those parking meters in front of Billy’s lounge or that really really long stoplight the town put in this year. Screw the town. So why buy art at all? OK, let’s talk about what’s in it for you first.
Buying original art is buying uniqueness, it’s something handcrafted – not mass produced. It is something no one else in the entire world owns! Art is alive! It has soul. It carries the artist’s spirit. It has magic. But unlike art bought from a Gallery several States away, or even online, you have a special and amazing opportunity when you buy from a local artist – you get to meet them, this creator, this person who’s passion and creativity resulted in the object you are now sole keeper of. YOU have become their collector. There’s a good possibility you will develop a personal or professional relationship with this artist. At the very least you have a chance to learn firsthand of their life’s experiences, artistic inspirations and their background. And you are also now privy to the creation process, maybe even hearing a great story or two on how your art piece was inspired or created. That art piece can also forge a legacy as well, because you now have an object that can be passed down through the family from generation to generation with its creation history and personal connection to the artist intact.
So let’s recap, shall we?
Buying that piece of art from a local artist was a win-win situation for you both. For you, you now own more than just a unique piece of art, you now possess a piece of a living artist, something that reflects their spirit and vision. It enriches your life simply from the energy and soul it carries and connects you personally to the artist. For the artist, your patronage fostered creativity, craftsmanship, and further encouraged their artistic pursuits (as well as being good for the local economy). The truth is, this is a symbiotic relationship that carries at its core a deeper importance than merely exchanging goods for money.
And admit it, buying something from that budding local artist gave you a warm-fuzzy feeling, didn’t it? You are not alone. President Lincoln, embattled with the stress of a civil war and all the trappings it carried, found solitude in the local arts. Everyone is familiar with the fact Lincoln was assassination while seated in a theatre, but not many realize he was an avid live theatre patron – he found the art form relaxing, it took him away from the incredible pressures his position placed upon him. Art has that power. It can calm and replenish the soul. Actor Kevin Spacey, when asked about a pending national cut in the funding for the arts said it best, “Arts and culture is a necessity in our lives… it’s about our spirit and health.”
Which brings me back to community and the metaphor of the honey bee. A community void of art is like an un-pollinated seed, it is impoverished and empty. The arts are vital to a community because they are fundamental to our humanity. Art unites us. It teaches and inspires, beatifies and transforms. It nourishes. It is the true wealth of a community.
But art can only grow and give things to a community if the community, in turn, gives to art. A community begins and ends with every individual living within it, and yes that includes you.
Never underestimate the value and importance of a local artist, the community bee. Without them, the world outside your door would be an awfully bleak and gloomy place.