Artists, Support Each Other Getting PAID
Between artists, there needs to be less patting on the back/trying to be friends with everyone and pretending we all loooooove each other's work, when that is not the case (also it's usually pretty bad for the artist to be lied to by the people around them about the quality of their work but that's for another post)---and more supporting each other getting paid, through policy, local political action, and in our own practice, in who we choose to give our business to, and to work for, and for what price.
I don't have to like another artist's work to respect them and want them to be paid fairly for their work. Hell, some of the nicest people I've known were some of the shittiest, if hardest working, artists. If they find a market for their shitty work, I support them getting paid fairly for their work, and more power to them.
I don't need to be patted on the back by other artists, or have them tell me my work is good---I honestly don't care. My work comes from within and I'm self-motivated; I don't struggle to make my work or want for encouragement: I encourage myself. What I DO need is for other artists to be in on the fight for being paid fairly for our work; to me, that is worth far more, and is way more important, than whether you as another artist like my work or not. If this seems bitchy to you, you need to step back and understand what I'm trying to emphasize: I don't need Likes, I don't need encouragement, I don't need personal cheerleaders: I need concrete, definitive action that insists that all artists be paid for the work they do for the businesses that contract us: businesses who profit from our work, but refuse to pay us. That would be a real community in the true sense of the word. That kind of community would be useful to me.
Are you one of the artists who is working for free and thus contributing to me and other artists being exploited for our work? That's what I care about.
It's not that I'm against meeting new artist friends; I am just sick of seeing the word "community" thrown around by capitalists who could not possibly care less about artists who are actually trying to be paid fairly for their work.
I am sick of artists being expected to constantly show up to each other's opening receptions and oooh and ahhhh---during the busy season that takes up as much time as a part-time job, only it doesn't pay, and takes you away from your own work. I used to do that, and trust me, it was so tiring---I'm not even sure how I did it, jetting across town to multiple openings in one night. I did that for a couple years, exhausting myself, for the sake of "networking", and I think I've been vocal enough about the fat load of good that did me! I am tired of hearing that called "community." It's not community, it's a social scene, and that is something different: a community actually has a support structure.
I am not by far the only artist who hates that whole "scene", it's just nobody has the guts to talk about it. A lot of artists resent being expected to come out for all the openings and other artsy social events constantly because it can be a burden for older people, people with health problems, artists who live far outside the city center, and artists who don't enjoy being around people all the time. Of course it's nice to go to openings sometimes; I used to consider it a part of the job, but trust me, it sucks when there's an opening all the time, 3-4 nights a week, and you're EXPECTED to show up, schmooze, and act like you give a shit, when you most definitely do not give a shit, and you're tired, and have a deadline, and have 2 more openings to suffer through before you can go home and keep working---you know, making ARTwork, the thing that artists are supposed to do.
This is a local system that punishes artists who are introverted, older, and not interested in socializing all the time, and rewards artists who willingly play the part of Likeable Local Artist for the public. If we would rather work than come out and play, we're ostracized and excluded from opportunities for residencies, grants, and other help, which is beyond shitty. If you don't comment on and Like other artist's instagram posts, you will find yourself suddenly out of the club. For young artists who spend most of their time at the club anyway (while simultaneously on instagram, watching each other's Stories REAL TIME!), this is a non-issue; for the rest of us, it's something you dive into head-first thinking, "I can do this! I'll power through!" but you can only power through for so long.
Because let's be real: you can call them "art openings" all day but they are really just another flavor of alcoholic function: excuses to be seen and to drink. Especially as the evening wears on, the drinking becomes primary, the art secondary. I am telling you: the opening night reception of an art show is NOT at all about viewing the art: sometimes it's impossible to even see the work with all the crowds standing around gabbing. The way these events function (in Charlotte) it is purely a networking/social thing, and if you stop showing your face, you literally disappear---these are people with the attention span of a gnat, artists or not. More than once I have heard the administrators of arts organizations talking about potential new artists to take under their wing in terms of how often they were seen out at events: this was seen as a major determining factor in if they wanted to invest in the artist, implying that it is indicative of an artist’s “passion”, particularly young artists.
This is not a great environment for a lot of people (as a former alcoholic, I hate being around drunk people, and I have a super low tolerance for it), and we can be forgiven for hating it. I can handle talking to the general public for a maximum of maybe 2 hours before my brain dries up and leaves me staring and frazzled; that's just the general public dry, not to mention the General Drunken Public. The quality of my work has nothing to do with how much or how little I can tolerate being a social butterfly, and artists who don't enjoy socializing shouldn't be punished, or relegated to a lower status than artists who do enjoy it. I don't appreciate being trotted out like a doll with a pull string, expected to entertain the masses so a venue can seem like a cool place to be. It’s different when you’re on a panel, where you’re treated with some respect, instead of like an unpaid extra who still nonetheless has a role to play to keep the audience happy.
What should be important is an artist's work, not if they're good at/enjoy being the center of attention at a party. This has become so commonplace that people expect it now: if you are shy or introverted, you have a lot working against you from the beginning, and are forced to be miserable just to work as an artist. There will be many people who will say that if you're not outgoing and love to be around the public you should never be an artist----when so many artists, like myself (and many well-known and successful artists throughout history) require lots of quiet and solitude in order to make our best work. It's a mistake to let the arts get absorbed into "entertainment" this way, so that it's more about artists dancing a weird jig for the public and less about actually providing support for artists to make their work.
There is so much emphasis lately, and so much programming that happens, along the lines of "Let's provide art for the public!" while turning right around to say to the artists "...only can't pay you yet, but maybe someday we can!" When the programming should be "Let's pay artists first, and directly, and go from there." All of this programming that puts the emphasis on the art, and not on paying the people who make it, should be a dead giveaway for people that this is not a good system for artists.
I'm tired of this weird fantasy that gets sold that all the artists working in a particular city are all one cohesive conglomerate that "supports" each other----that ain't happening in Charlotte, I don't know if it's really happening anywhere.
Again, to truly support artists---to create a REAL sense of community for artists---is to demand that businesses and the like pay us fairly for the work we do for them. It's to demand sensible policies in commerce that make it illegal to not pay someone who provides content for businesses. It's to form unions that help artists gain rights as workers, agree on standard pricing, and other models that make working as an artist more accessible; it's to demand that festivals and galleries and museums and other businesses pay artists for their work, instead of expecting us to provide entertainment and content for free. For example, I posted earlier about how SoFar Sounds doesn't pay it's musicians----so don't support them, it's that simple. When the artists you know, like me, talk about what we need, listen and try to put into action what you can.