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You Can Make It

Monday, 25. May 2020 0:08

The past several weeks have presented many of us the opportunity for rumination. One of the topics that I have given some thought to recently is artistic success. So when I ran across Florida Congresswoman Val Demings’ quote in the Washington Post, it gave me pause. Representative Deming is quoted by Jonathan Capehart as saying that her mother told her, “You can make it. If you work hard and play by the rules, you can be anything you wanna be and do anything you wanna do.”  That quote led me to think about a number of people in the arts who are pretty sure they followed the rules and worked hard, but feel that they are not yet anywhere close to their dreams. That seemed to warrant examination.

Perhaps they never really defined what they wanted to do or be. To want to be a Broadway actor is a very different thing from just wanting to be a working actor who makes his/her living on the stage, which is a very different thing from wanting to be a working film actor, which is a very different thing from wanting to be an internationally-known movie star. It’s not that it’s better to be one or another of these categories of actor; it’s just that they are different and the paths to getting there are different and have different sets of rules that must be followed. So it may be that a person dreamed of being one of these, but followed the path for another, and thus ended up in a place different from where s/he wanted to be. Something similar happened to Jerry Saltz. In his book, How to Be an Artist, he discusses all the paths he tried before deciding that writing about art was what he really wanted to do.

As long as we’re talking about rules, there’s that whole “playing by the rules” thing. Again, if someone is playing by the wrong set of rules, s/he may not be headed where s/he thinks she is going, but another place entirely. It is up to each individual artist to determine what the rules are for the path s/he has chosen. The rules for becoming an outstanding teaching artist in painting are very different from the rules for becoming an artist whose work is collected by museums and auctioned at Christie’s or Sotheby’s. Before someone can “play by the rules,” s/he must first know what the rules are for where s/he is headed.

As for working hard, that too means different things according to the track one is following. Most serious photographers work hard at learning the craft aspects of their field, and many work hard at developing a high level of artistry in their images. If all a person is interested in is making excellent images, the hard work can be constrained to those areas; however, if one wants to do fashion photography, there are a number of other areas that will require hard work of several kinds in order to position oneself successfully in that particular area of photographic art. Similarly, other kinds of hard work are required by other areas of specialization.

One thing that is not referenced in the Representative Demings’ quotation is a time frame. Some artists do not find success until they have lived a while. And we are talking about a fair number of artists.  Jerry Saltz, in the book mentioned above, for example, talks about the difficulties he had in arriving at his goal of being an art critic finally at the age of 41.

So maybe those who are feeling they are not close to their dreams just aren’t there—yet. Or perhaps they don’t want to work so hard at ancillary things, or don’t want to follow a particular set of rules or find that the dream they started with is not the one they now want. They just need to remember that dreams, like everything else, can always be adjusted.

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Finding the Rhythm

Sunday, 19. January 2020 23:02

Sometimes we have difficulty beginning a new project, even if it’s a project very similar to one we have done before. The reason for this difficulty can be any one of many. The trouble begins when we just jump into the project, not taking into account any differences from projects we have worked on before. Sometimes all goes well; other times there is a significant mismatch between our approach and the project. Things do not go well at all—at least until we figure out that the problem is that every project has its own rhythm, and we, the artists, must match that rhythm in order to make any headway.

This was brought home to me this week. There were five projects on my plate: one older one and four new ones. One was completed successfully; two were begun successfully; two were begun less successfully.

Project number one was beginning a course that I teach every semester. (Yes, teaching a course is a creative project—at least from my point of view.) From the first minute, I fell into old patterns, making such adjustments as necessary for the new group of students, and the semester began quite comfortably—for that course at least.

The second project was beginning a course that I hadn’t taught in four years. The material was the same as it had been; even the text was the same. The first day of class, however, seemed to be very much a muddle. Ideas did not flow. Nothing seemed to connect. Everything was so disjointed that I cut the class time short and used it to prepare for the second class meeting. When that class came around, I moved into the material and very quickly found the rhythm that would work for the material with this particular group of students. So, after a stumble, the course seems to be beginning successfully.

Project number three was casting and beginning the rehearsal process for a musical. The first night of auditions was more than a little weird—everything seemed off. The musical director and I decided we could make a show, but things did not feel quite right. The second night of auditions was a little better. Then came callbacks where we really began to see what we had to work with. So we cast and had the read-sing-through. It was very unsettling. We have not yet found the rhythm for the rehearsal period. However, having identified some of the issues, I have hope.

Project number four was a photo editing project, the kind of project that I have done thousands of times. The editing of this session had been problematic from the beginning. My usual workflow was not as smooth as it normally is for some reason I could not determine. About half-way through, I modified the workflow and things ran more smoothly, but not as smoothly as I would have liked. Finally, as I neared the end of the project a pattern of work emerged that caused the editing to really run efficiently. I had finally found the correct rhythm for the project and was able to complete it.

The fifth project is, of course, this post. The beginning was difficult, but once the organization suggested itself, a flow with a steady rhythm quickly developed, and that led to a writing period that was much briefer than I had anticipated.

In reviewing these projects, I have been able to discover the factors that prevented an easy flow from the outset. It was, of course, different for each project, proving that virtually anything can throw off one’s creative rhythm. Whether the causal factor can be discerned or not, we must make every effort to find and follow the rhythm inherent in our artistic projects.

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The Nipple Effect

Sunday, 27. October 2019 23:07

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I look at a lot of images. Lately that has been mostly on Twitter and Instagram, and occasionally Facebook. Some of the images I look at are nudes. Over time, I have observed an evolution in those types of images specifically and other types of images as well. For the moment, let’s deal with nude images.

All three of these platforms have restrictions on “adult content.” Definitions are somewhat similar but treatment is different. Facebook restricts images of real nude adults where nudity is defined as “visible genitalia except… visible anus and/or fully nude close-ups of buttocks unless photoshopped… uncovered female nipples except….” The “excepts” include breastfeeding, birth-giving and after-birth moments or health-related situations or “an act of protest.” Instagram’s restriction includes “genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples.” Both platforms exempt photographs of paintings and sculptures, but that exemption seems to be unevenly applied. Twitter says that you cannot share adult content within live video or in profile or header images. However, Twitter does allow “consensually produced adult content within Tweets if you mark the tweet as “sensitive.”

All of these rules, of course, limit the photographic images that can be posted. Limitations are not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes having limits actually makes the artist more creative. And certainly, even though it seems that these platforms are public forums, they are really commercially owned, and the owners are within their rights to set the rules to be whatever they want them to be (although one would wish that they are applied even-handedly and objectively). And one could certainly question why only female nipples are forbidden, but again, the owners can set their own rules.

In response to these rules, Photographers who do nude work must modify their images. The ones I have observed have taken three primary paths of response: (1) they push as far as they can and end up being banned (2) they pixelate or otherwise cover nipples and genital areas; (2) they pose models so that the offending bits of her anatomy are concealed—sometimes quite awkwardly, creating images that deny their own story-telling. (3) They restrict their postings to those they know are safe.

Sometimes photographers evolve, first trying one approach, the adopting another so that they can stay online and garner as many “likes” as possible. This, in my mind, becomes problematic from an integrity of art perspective. Those artist are essentially tailoring their art to fit the platform. And that is smart—if what is important to the artist is the continuation online and the collection of “likes.” Certainly, some photographers are savvy enough to monetize the number of “likes” they receive. Otherwise, they are modifying their style and content of their work to suit platform censors simply for vanity.

And this trend is not limited to photographers doing nude work. If you look long enough you can observe that photographers are tailoring all images to fit he platform. For example, images that might be square or landscape in orientation are rendered in portrait orientation. This is particularly true on Instagram, where almost every image is optimized to the platform’s ideal image format. That means that aesthetics other than the platform’s don’t matter; the artist is giving up his/her autonomy for the sake of platform optimization.  (Twitter, incidentally, is much more forgiving, rendering all images initially in landscape mode, but allowing all proportions when a viewer clicks on the image.)

Social media are here to stay and have become the primary way many artists become known. However, we must be careful that we do not become slaves to what we think are the most obvious choices in marketing ourselves on social media. We must maintain some artistic integrity and remain true to our individual artistic aesthetics. Otherwise what we are “selling” on social media is not really representative of who we really are as artists. As David Bowie said, “I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. They generally produce their worst work when they do that.

Regardless of the ego appeal of “likes,” we do not want to lose our uniqueness as artists to the seeming demands and expectations of social media. There are better choices.

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Entertainers and Political (Re)Action

Monday, 13. May 2019 0:52

There is a lot of film production in Georgia, so much, in fact, that it is sometimes called “The Hollywood of the South.” During 2018 455 productions were filmed there, resulting in 92,000 jobs and “$2.7 billion in direct spending.” One of the reasons for this is the state’s generous tax incentives for film production companies. I personally know actors who have moved to Georgia because of the availability of work there.

But this past week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed HB 481: Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act into law. Also known as the “heartbeat bill,” the law bans abortion “at any stage of pregnancy after the detection of ‘embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,’” and “effectively criminalizes…any woman who seeks an abortion or even one who miscarries in the state.” Opponents of the law have been quick to point out what they consider its flaws. Reaction from at least part of the film community has been swift, with five production companies announcing that they won’t film in Georgia until the law is overturned. Actress Alyssa Milano has said that if the law stands, she will not return to Netflix’s Insatiable for a third season unless the filming moves to a different state. Milano was among those who opposed the bill early, joining 49 other actors saying they would boycott the state if the bill became law.

Others have taken a different tactics. Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams have agreed to shoot an HBO horror drama in Georgia, but plan to donate their fees to help fight the law. Larger studios seem to be waiting for the law to be challenged in court.

Although those same large studios threatened to boycott Georgia over anti-LGBTQ legislation three years ago and essentially forced then-Governor Nathan Deal to veto the legislation, such political, economic action is a bit unusual for entertainment artists. The number of publically-involved celebrities is low, thus articles entitled “16 Celebs Who Make Their Political Leanings Crystal Clear,” “11 Most Politically Active Celebs,” “22 Celebrities Who have Become Political Activists,” “20 actors who weren’t afraid to get political in 2018” and “Seven of the most politically active celebrities in Trump era.” Most people in the entertainment industry seem to keep their politics private.

The question is should they? Some think that voicing political beliefs will impact their careers; indeed, actor James Woods claims to have been blacklisted for his conservative politics. Or should those in entertainment weigh in publically on political, social, and economic issues? In these days when many professionals in the entertainment world have huge Twitter and Instagram followings, and are thus obvious influencers, are they obligated to use that celebrity to influence the political thinking of their followers? Or should they wade into politics, economics, and social issues only when it’s very important to them? (And this law certainly qualifies as important, at least to any woman working in the state of Georgia, since she will be subject to it.) Or should they leave the public politics alone and just concentrate on their art and their image?

Only the entertainers themselves can answer these questions. At the end of the day, those in the entertainment industry are in the same position as anyone else. They can let the world know what they think or not, knowing that if they do voice their opinions, there may be reaction or even backlash. But like anyone else, they are impacted by laws that govern the places where they work, which, in turn, gives them the right to speak out if they feel such laws are wrong.

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Art and Money

Sunday, 17. March 2019 23:38

There’s no money in art. Everybody know it: conservatives, liberals, moderates of every strip and hue. Everybody. That’s the number one reason that parents give for discouraging their children from pursuing the arts. They are sure their kids will starve, because it’s common knowledge that there’s no money in the arts.

Except, it’s not true.

Recently two reports were released that challenged this conventional wisdom.  One was 2019 State of the Arts Report for the State of Texas and covered the year 2017. The other was data released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and covered the year 2015. These reports went a long way toward refuting the common mythology concerning art and money.

The BEA/NEA data shows that the arts sector contributed more to the US economy than the construction, transportation and warehousing, travel and tourism, mining and extraction, utilities or agricultural sectors, $763.6 billion to be precise. There are only two sectors that contribute more: retail trade and healthcare and social assistance. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The key findings were these:

  • That $763.6 billion constituted 4.2 percent of the GDP.
  • The arts sector involves 4.9 million workers who earned $372 billion in total compensation
  • The arts added “four time more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.”
  • The arts had a $20 billion trade surplus.
  • Between 2012 and 2015 the arts had an “average growth rate of 2.6 percent, slightly higher than 2.4 percent for the nation’s overall economy.” The growth rate was 4.9 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Texas, unlike some other states, is not mentioned in the BEA/NEA report. However, Texans have their own state-level report. Here are the key findings from that report:

  • The arts industry in Texas generated $5.59 billion in 2017.
  • That amount generated “nearly $350 million in tax revenue.”
  • “Houston and Dallas each generated nearly $1 billion.”
  • “Austin and San Antonio each generated more than $350 million.”
  • The “arts-and-culture industry” has grown 15.5 percent during the last 10 years.
  • The arts sector of the Texas economy employs “nearly 800,000” people.
  • Arts jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2026

And this in a state that “is 41st in arts funding among all U.S. states.

It should be obvious that the impact of the arts at both the state and national level is tremendous. In fact, Robert L. Lynch, the CEO and president of Americans for the Arts, has said “The U.S. [BEA’s] research makes clear that, if you care about jobs and the economy and infrastructure, you need to care about the arts. Strategic investment in our arts and cultural organizations is not an extra, it’s a path to prosperity.” The BEA/NEA data is illustrated in a series of charts and tables and is broken down by states.

And the value of the arts is not just dollars. Research indicates that in Texas “students enrolled in arts courses attend school more regularly, have a 15% higher pass rate on standardized tests, are more likely to stay in school, graduate, and attend college.” Data also shows that “art in hospital settings can reduce patient anxiety, pain, length of stay, and readmissions.

So the next time you hear someone say that arts are a waste of time and energy and that no one can possible make a living in the arts, point that person to the data that tell us that the opposite is true. The arts have a huge impact on American life and economy. The arts matter—in more ways than we realize.

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Embrace the Metaphor

Monday, 7. January 2019 1:41

When you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel significant or symbolic. It just seems like a chore that needs doing because … well, because it’s time. And then you realize that it is symbolic and so then you have to deal with that and decide what it means to you. No matter how routine you think it is or no matter how many times you’ve done it, the taking down of winter holiday decorations marks a passage.

This weekend I took down what in my case was a six foot Christmas tree, a kitchen counter-top tree, and a few cards—not so much in the way of winter holiday decorations, but enough, and I restored the decoration-free arrangement of the spaces. I discovered that it was difficult to determine whether it was the end of something or the beginning or something or both or whether it was a really a restoration of the previous state or the establishment of a new, less-cluttered space.

In my case it was all of the above. It was the end of the celebration of winter, marked by the decorations, which, in turn mark the end of the calendar year. Now that celebration was over and it was time to put the decorations away and restore the room to its previous state, except that because of the clutter of decorations, even minimal ones, the new look is not one of restoration, but one of newness and cleanness. The space has become less cluttered, and this seems to mark a beginning.

That’s a whole lot of (symbolic/metaphorical) meaning for one chore. But once the transition is complete, it’s all those things: an ending, a beginning, a marker on the path. And it becomes time to tackle that carryover list of to-do’s that didn’t get accomplished during the holidays, time to let go of the past, time to move on. Time to embrace the metaphor.

Given such a charged situation, it’s difficult not to start making pledges of doing this or that or the other thing better, smarter, faster in the coming months. And artists it seems, for whatever reasons, are very susceptible to these feelings. Often, however, the propensity to make New Year’s resolutions is not accompanied by the effort to follow through. Perhaps it’s better not to make specific resolutions; perhaps it better just to go with the symbolism of taking down the decorations: let go of the past state; move on to the next.

Sometimes moving, artistically or otherwise is difficult. You have to let go, you at least have to stick your toe out of your comfort zone. That is hard to do; yet not to do it leaves you where you have been, perhaps more comfortable, but not doing what you could do, not moving forward. Nevertheless, if we are to progress as artists, it’s what we must do.

We must pack up old ideas along with the seasonal decorations and put them in the attic. Then we must look around at the cleaner, less-cluttered space and see what that suggests. It might be something radical, but more than likely, it will be just a new way of looking at things, a new approach to an old problem, a gentle letting-go and moving on. Then, as artists, we  end celebrating the status quo and begin celebrating the passage.

Happy New Year!

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Advice to the Artist

Sunday, 23. December 2018 22:39

Every once in a while there occurs that happy accident when there is a confluence of ideas that arrive from different sources at the same time. For me, this very thing happened this week. First, I read Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a short little book illustrated by Chris Riddell. Then I had a very interesting and informative conversation with a university art teacher who works primarily in sculpture and print-making. Finally, I ran across Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist: 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)” which appeared on the Vulture.com’s web site and which originally appeared in the November 26, 2018 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

Saltz advises would-be artists to tell their own stories and to do so with their own voices and to not worry about being understood; he compares making art to “getting naked in front of someone else for the first time.” He goes on to tell artists to put ideas and emotions into their work, to spend lots of time practicing skills and producing and to be ready for failure. He suggests that real art is done for love, not money. He has a number of very specific suggestions and very interesting exercises.

The conversation with the art teacher was about whether in teaching art one concentrates on the abstract aspects of art, i.e. that art can give meaning to people’s lives, that artists can influence people, that art can, in fact, change the world, or concentrates on the craft aspects of making a print or brush technique or skills in handling a camera or sculpting practice. He said that he tries to combine the two in that the artist has to have the craft in order to put forward the artist’s ideas. He went on to say that one of the most difficult things he had encountered lately was getting students to use their own voices and tell their own unique stories with their art rather than relying on making “safe” work that keeps them snug in their comfort zone.

Gaiman’s book is really a collection of four short pieces about the how and why of making art. Interestingly, he says some of the same things as Saltz and the art teacher. For example, he thinks that art is about putting forward ideas, and that those ideas, whether they are true are not, have the right to exist and can (sometimes) change the world. He discusses the power of imagination. Gaiman notes that the artist should expect to fail, but should keep working; he believes that the best art is not done for money. He also discusses finding one’s own voice and telling one’s own story. He notes that “the moment you may be starting to get it right” is “the moment that you feel, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked…showing too much of yourself.”

From these three encounters, I have derived seven pieces of art advice which seem valid no matter where someone is in his/her art journey:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Be prepared to fail.
  3. Tell your own story with your own voice.
  4. Put ideas and emotions into your work.
  5. Keep producing no matter what anyone says.
  6. Understand that your work exposes you to your audience.
  7. Make art because you want or need to, not because you expect payment.

There are certainly more, but these seven seemed to be the most important. I would encourage you to read these articles and others for yourself and talk with as many art teachers as you can; then develop your own list.

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Business as Art?

Monday, 12. November 2018 0:33

Writing for the New York Times, Blake Gonik  posits that one of Andy Warhol’s most important contributions to the world of art was a thing called Art Business. Art Business is, according to Warhol, “the step that comes after art” and lumps together everything that the artist does as “publisher, publicist or salesman” into “one boundless art work: part performance art, part conceptual art and part picture of the market world he lived in.” Gonik goes on to establish that other writers and museums share this view.  Further, he brings into the discussion such artists as Jeff Coons, Damien Hirst, and Banksy as examples of artists who followed Warhol’s example.

The notion that the marketing and sale of art, or anything else for that matter, constitutes an art in and of itself is certainly stretching the definition of art. Still, Gonik says that Warhol’s Business Art is as important to the art world as was Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. And he may well be right, although the idea does not seem to have caught on among artists in general, or perhaps, those artists feel that they do not possess the right set of qualities and skills to make their business operations into “artistic” endeavors.

The former choice is, I think, the most representative of the reality of most artists. Many got into the world of art in order to express themselves, to say something that they thought needed to be said. These artists are not necessarily concerned with theories on what does and what does not constitute art; they only know that the things they are making fall under that umbrella. They view the marketing and selling, not as another art, but as an ancillary to art. These artist would consider promotion and sales as art only metaphorically, as in “that marketing effort was a work of art.” They would never consider business operations as art itself. Indeed, some would say that business as art opens the door to “everything as art,” a concept which is ultimately devalues art.

Perhaps these artists just don’t get it. Writer and curator Jack Bankowsky has said that Business Art is the backstory behind “any sophisticated artistic practice.” And it is a sophisticated idea that the promotion and sale of artworks can be “about” something. It is easily understood that Duchamp’s Fountain was a comment on the art business; Banksy’s self-destructing sale may have been a critique of the art market. It seems, however, a far stretch to say that marketing and sales, in addition to being marketing and sales are also art works about some aspect of the promotion and distribution of art. That’s a bit too sophisticated and perhaps self-serving for some people, and again smacks of the everything-is-art-ism.

Personally, I have trouble with everything-is-art-ism. Certainly, any activity can be taken to heights that transcend normal execution. Any activity can be made elegant and well-formed, “art-like” if you will. That doesn’t make it art, at least under any definition that I know of art, the ideas of the critics and curators quoted notwithstanding. It may be that Duchamp’s declaration “that artists alone get to define what is art” is correct, but in my experience, declaring something to be this or that does not make it so. That requires an acceptance from the audience. What is art is, after all, determined by the culture of which it is a part, and that culture is developed and maintained by members of that culture, in other words, the audience. And despite what critics say, today’s general art audience as well as artists do not see business as art.

Please feel free to disagree. If you have thoughts on this subject, I would be very interested in hearing them.

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Art—It’s not for the Weak

Monday, 10. September 2018 2:08

You Don’t Choose Art; It Chooses You” is the title of a post from several years ago. In it are several supporting quotes and a number of very brief case histories. All of these come to much the same thing: most artists had no choice in selecting their vocations.  For example, author Paul Auster says, “Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.

First, what Auster says not only applies to writers but to other artists as well. Second, the last part of his statement warrants a bit more discussion: that long hard road that the chosen have to walk for the rest of their days. (For discussion purposes, we will divide artists into three categories: “professional” artists are those who make over 50% of their income from their art. “Semi-pros” who charge for their work but make less than 50% of their income from art. “Amateurs” are people who make art but do not regularly offer it for sale.)

No matter which category an artist happens to be in, the road is long and hard. For example, Actor’s Equity Association, the union which represents stage actors, estimates that the unemployment rate for actors “hovers around 90 percent.” These are professional actors who have invested the time and money to join a union (and it’s not cheap). Statistics are much the same for those in other arts, except very few professional artist have unions to join. The fact is that while  non-union professional artists work a lot, sales are sporadic and the artist has to spend a good deal of time marketing his/her work. Income is similar to the union artist who is unemployed a good deal of the time. And for that tiny percentage who are wildly successful, who become stars in whatever areas they work, there are a whole set of other difficulties.

The semi-pro artist’s path is no less hard, just different: this artist has a day job, but would rather be making a living from art. S/he thinks it is more realistic to use the day job for primary income and probably use any income from art to purchase more art materials and tools. This is definitely a person with divided loyalties, and that creates its own special kinds of problems, the chief of which is finding enough time in the schedule to make art sufficient to enter into significant shows and offer pieces for sale.

The amateur artist shares the problem of time. Since this artist is not necessarily making art to sell, s/he still has to find the time to create his/her art. This means taking time away from the family and friends, finding enough quiet time to write or paint or sculpt, or dealing with the demands of evening rehearsals at a community, or other non-paying theatre. Just because there is no money involved doesn’t mean that the conflicts and difficulties are less significant.

Regardless of the level at which an artist works, s/he does have a long, hard road. S/he has a life of erratic artistic income (if any) as well as an ongoing gluttonous need for materials, time, and energy, all coupled with an obsession for creation. Once art chooses a person, and that person accepts the choice, his/her life becomes tough—because art is hard. Most artists, however, wouldn’t have it any other way.

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So What Are You Doing About It?

Monday, 16. July 2018 0:59

Some people said they felt weird about celebrating the Fourth of July this year, given the political situation in the country. I got emails about it; there were tweets about it. So I thought about it, and I revisited what I had written immediately after the 2016 election; at that time I said essentially that there was no “correct” response for artists. I still hold to that opinion, but find that two years down the road many in the artistic community feel more threatened and upset than they did even immediately after the election. So I thought about it some more and came up with this question: so what are you doing about it? There are many possible answers to that question, but here are few suggestions:

  • Talk to people. Nobody knows what you think as long as you keep it to yourself, but the fact is that we influence many more people than we think we do, so the more we open our mouths about what we see wrong with the country or what a better path might be, the more likely it is that we will influence someone.
  • Post on social media. I had no knowledge of how many in the artistic community felt about politics until I saw some of their posts of Facebook. And then I found that many of those posts were thoughtful, articulate, provocative—and well worth reading. Yours could be too.
  • Subscribe to and forward newsletters. Accurate and honest information can be nothing but good; pass it on to your friends who may need to hear some truth.
  • Create your own newsletter—for the same reasons as above. Use your editing and curating skills develop content and get the word out to those to whom it matters. It’s a more work, but it’s a worth-while project.
  • Write and call those legislators, even if they seem to be following the (other) party line. I’m not sure that petitions do much good, but if enough constituents call and write, it can and does sway all but the most hardline elected officials.
  • Give some money to those running for office who can make the changes you want made. Give to causes with whom you sympathize. Give to organizations who show that they can make a difference
  • Become politically active. Campaign for candidate you think will make a difference. Someone has to stuff the envelopes, run phone banks, deliver the yard signs, organize at the grass-roots level.
  • MAKE SOME ART! Use your artistic skills to give expression to your political or social feelings. I’m not suggesting that you make all your art political, like Michael Moore, or Pussy Riot or even Sacha Baron Cohen. You might, however, make a piece here and there that communicates your beliefs. Consider just a couple of examples: Matt Johnson created a series of satire photos of Trump and his allies that has become very popular on Facebook. Jason Isbell expanded his musical offerings to include an examination of his personal societal concerns, saying “I can’t stay completely silent.”

Maybe we, as artists, should follow suit and not stay completely silent ourselves. It seems to me that if all we are doing is acting fearful and complaining, we are all but encouraging the status quo. Is that what we really want to do?

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