art and money


art is as important as science and math, but get anyone to admit that is like pulling teeth.  art is the basic language that the universe uses to communicate with every single person, without the benefit of a specialised education, although that does help.  instead we are viewed as frivolous individuals engaging in a luxury activity that should by all rights be relegated to a hobby.  once, i had this interaction with a businessman:
“you artists, you always want something from the business sector.”
“yes,” i replied, confused, “we want your money.”
“well, what do you do, that you deserve our money?”
“we. make. the art. you buy it.”
art is not viewed as anything of value, unless it’s two centuries old and made by a man.  art and design are the cornerstone of all societies.  without it we would live in a grey world devoid of interest or relief of the urban landscape.  every little thing we use has been designed, from toothbrushes to electronic devices to artificial and natural spaces, the language of art facilitates our interaction with our physical world.  artists are always on the cutting edge of society and the forerunners to new evolutionary states.  Marshall McLuhan and other media researchers agree that the artists are the people who ‘know which way the wind is blowing.’

there seems to be this idea of culture creation as being fun.  whenever i express the idea that i would like to devote my time to my divine vocation, people usually respond with.
“wouldn’t that be fun?”
as though; the deep soul searching, public soul baring, and trying to balance this minutiae with the universal, is fun.  don’t get me wrong, i have a lot of fun with art and derive immense satisfaction from the creative act, but the desire to make art does not stem from the desire for ‘fun,’ that dancing in a club or going to an amusement park gives.  the fact that it is less taxing than hard labour and bookkeeping, does not make it less work, there are aspects of the enjoyable and not, in all day to day situations.  there is this disbelief that if we didn’t need to go to work that anything would get done.  if i didn’t have a wage slave job, i would care for and beautify my exterior space, and my interior space.  i would create objects and experiences to enrich and elucidate the lives of the beings around me.  during the four years i spent in the south okanagan, i learned how to care for the land and in return the land cared for me.  where once i killed simple house plants like spider plants, i now have a collection of fifty, or so, plants of over twenty different varieties.

as a horticulturalist and snowboard instructor, i believed that i had it made in the okanagan.  how perfect, pay bills by caring for the land in the summer, and foster a love of sport and camaraderie in youth and adults in the winter.  i was one of the lucky employees at the local mountain resort, i was hired in the winter of 2009 at $12/hr, most other employees had to settle for $10.  on average, throughout three winters i made less than thirty dollars a day.  other staff offset the cost of living by staying in staff accommodations, condemned buildings, that you still needed to pay rent for.  mountain staff would often have second jobs because there just was no other way to get by.  people during the summer were also unwilling to pay much more, for four years i charged $15/hr so that i could work at a property for more than three hours at a time, to actually accomplish large tasks and care for the property symbiotically, rather than chemically and cosmetically.  when my number one client suffered a stroke, my ability to make an income in the okanagan ceased.  after handing out thirty resumes, the only place to call me back was this market on the north end of town.  it is the type of business that as a consumer i want to be able to support; artisanal, in house baking, fine edibles and ingredients, delicious fair trade coffees and teas, and hangs original artwork from local artists.  yet in order to provide this ostensibly enriching third space to the community, staff are routinely expected to work eight hour shifts with only one fifteen minute break, which you are ‘on call’ for, paying for your food at fifty percent off.  when pointed out by more than one person that this is not up to labour standards, the general attitude is how else is the business supposed to stay afloat and you can find another job.  when the summer staff went back to school the regular employees belittled their educational efforts, saying,
“well, they don’t live in the real world. what do they think they are going to do with these degrees?”  and sadly it is turning out to be very much true.  so back to alberta i came, bringing my partner with me, because at least in calgary, wages aren’t insulting. $10/hr for someone with a degree is insulting.  my partner also has a degree.  he went to a queen’s charter university in england and received a degree in physics.  at the end of his term of study the only people approaching him for career placement were the nuclear power establishment and the nuclear weapons establishment so he came back to canada and has been working as a parts person ever since, even though he would also like a masters degree.

for ten months i worked at being a professional artist.  i applied for shows, that i could afford to apply to.  i modelled for the life drawing community and the photographic arts community.  i volunteered whenever i could and ordered business cards to network better.  i created an online presence.  for people not engaged in this activity, perhaps this doesn’t sound like much, but i assure you, three months of at least eight hours a day is what it takes to competently navigate social media platforms, build your profiles and get serious attention for your blogging efforts.  yet the financial strain to my relationship was such that i was required to find waged work once more.  now the expectation is either that i; get up at an unreasonable hour for socialisation after nine in the evening, work a full day at jobs that are intermittently very hard labour, then come home and reach deep down to find the energy for my culture creation, switching from one mode of thinking into another which is quite taxing, and still support others projects; or give up something i feel very strongly about in order to not burn out, and become exhausted, a grave affliction of the creative forced to live lives they would rather not.  everywhere i turn, i am hindered by money, the monetary system, and locked in ideas about gain.  once, while my work hung in a restaurant, the chef with tears in her eyes, expounded on a love of one of my pieces, she gave me a downpayment, but then changed jobs unexpectedly and i never heard from her again.  i would rather that we lived in the kind of society where i could have just given her the piece she was so obviously moved by, but then i wouldn’t be an equal contributing partner to my relationship, and so it sits in my house, enjoyed by no one but us.

the only reason we want money in the first place is so that we can pay our rent and studio fees, buy our food and supplies and continue making more art and culture for the world.  if i was assured of a place to live and make my art, with access to a space at my residence that i can grow things, i would never worry about selling art again. i would create and beautify my community without fear of eviction and hunger.  i was enrolled in post secondary education for a total of six years; four as a ward of the province of british columbia, one by student loan, and one paid for by myself and my partner at the time, while i was attending school, a new and horrific type of stress, that i do not recommend.  i have invested both time and financial efforts to my education, which i took very seriously.  indeed, it is a little known fact that accredited art colleges offering university degrees, mark harder than the university counterparts in the same city, with no bell curve.  to receive an ‘a’ in academics while i attended, required 92%, rather than the 86% university students enjoyed.  i do want to get my masters degree, and also a doctorate in fine arts (which by necessity needs to be combined with another discipline) because i believe that the dialogue of fine arts needs to be taken to those levels and into problemsolving thinktanks for the betterment of our world as a whole.  the money aspect is the only thing holding me back.  money only makes the world go around for a select group of people and as the group gets more and more select the ideas become thinner and less vibrant.

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