Avoid Pipe Dreams: Visual Artists need to take Advantage of Reality
I recently read an article about the struggles that artists tend to have due to their choice of being steadfast in their artistic practice. The article strengthened the stereotype of the ‘starving artist’ image by blaming everything from a lack of parental support to specific politicians for the downfall that so many artists have experienced when it comes to failing to exhibit or to obtain grants. While it is easy to blame social, economic, and political conditions for the struggle that artists may endure I think it should be pointed out that people who do not explore their creativity endure some of the same social, economic, and political strife. Many of us are in the same boat regardless if we paint, sculpt, and so on. Those outside factors do contribute to the problem, but they are not the only reason for the problem. In fact, some of the hardships artists face happen because of their lack of action and their failure to take advantage of opportunities that are within reach.
The article suggested that every artist should be funded by the government in order to work fulltime on art due to the lack of available opportunities. While that is a wonderful fantasy it simply is not realistic nor should it be considered the only solution. That fantasy will never happen and if it did it would be twisted to the point that it would hurt the creative community as a whole. For example, if the government were to support every visual artist they would no doubt have to implement policies that would decide who is an artist and who is not. In that scenario they would probably regulate museum and gallery exhibits as well-- meaning they would have to dictate what is art and what is not. Thus, a plan like that would never be efficient and it would do more harm than good to the creative community. To put it bluntly, be careful what you wish for!
While I would like to see the government do more for visual artists in general I will not allow myself to fall for the fantasy mentioned above. I accept the fact that I will never be able to paint fulltime on the governments (tax payers) dime year after year. I think it is time for more artists to face this reality and to accept it rather than live in a world of pipe dreams and noble fantasies. While my words may seem harsh I can promise you that they are backed by the experience of what I‘ve observed from peers. For example, I know that many artists do not take advantage of what is already offered by the government and art organizations that support artists. In a sense, they avoid-- or fail to act on-- available opportunities. Thus, in many cases artists are ‘starving’ due to their own lack of ambition and failure to take initiative as well as responsibility for their art and practice.
I have heard countless stories of hardships from peers. While I do have empathy for their struggles I can’t help but place those struggles under a scope. Further investigation often reveals that a mirror lifted to their face provides the best answer as to why they have experienced failure. Upon listening to their hardships I often ask them if they have pursued grants or local exhibit opportunities-- the answer is always “no” or “I did not think about that“. Thus, I think that is the main problem with this situation. Artists need to take advantage of reality. They need to take advantage of opportunities that are within reach rather than being encumbered by the fantasy of total support. This involves making time to step outside of the studio in order to network and to discover opportunities. Fortunately, many art opportunities can be discovered online which makes the task more convenient.
If you are reading this there is no excuse for not being able to find art opportunities in your area. Do some research online and you will no doubt find regional exhibit and grant opportunities as well as national exhibit and grant opportunities. Take advantage of what you find. Look into it! Avoid pipe dreams and reach for what you can realistically grasp.
Take care, Stay true,