Art and Money: The strive to believe the two will meet

I’m not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but it has been sticking in my mind lately. Mainly because I feel the constant pull between having to get a paying job, and continuing to strive towards really doing what I want. In my new place there is a guy that comes through every once in a while. He is a writer and a film maker. We had been talking about the struggles of being an artist and never having any money. At one point he said to me, “you know I never worry about money it isn’t important to me. I just do my work the money isn’t a concern.”

I wondered if he was of the belief that the universe provides what you need. I am envious of this mental state because I am always having to choose between what I really want to do, and what will pay me something so I can survive. Then he say’s, “I guess I’m spoiled though. My dad has a lot of money, and not that he gives me money now, but I know that when my parents pass away that I will be taken care of, so I don’t worry about retirement or if I’ll be taken care of while I’m old, so I guess it helps to alleviate any fears or control when it comes to money.”

Uh, well duh.

Not that this information distracts from his talent or ability as an artist, but this is not the artist’s stories I want to hear. I don’t want to hear about the trust funder or the at home person with the spouse to support them or the person who had the connection. They can be amazing amazing people, and artists, but not inspiring. Not to me. I want to know about the people, the artists, with no support. The ones that struggled to survive without any monetary help, and they persevered. Someone’s privilege will never lead me to discount them as an artist or a person, thank god they had some help, some support because we need artists. But, I need to hear about the single mom that raised four kids on her own and still became a successful painter, or the woman who came from poverty pulled herself up and never gave up on writing her screenplays; some kind of reminder that just because you didn’t come from the strongest background or there is no one there to support you emotionally or financially you can still live by your art.

And for those of you who have that support, that backing, don’t forget to thank the people who have supported you. It’s a competitive art world already, its nice to have someone who wants to hold your hand; and not everyone has that.

Speaking of choosing art over money. I had a temp job  lined up in the next two weeks. It pays ten dollars an hour, not a lot, but money is money and beggars can’t be choosers (so I’ve heard). During the same time I was offered the chance to work with New Avenues for Youth, Write Around Portland and Portland Center Stage in a collaborative writing workshop working with homeless youth. It pays nothing, it’s all volunteer. They picked me first over all the other volunteers because they feel I work so well with this demographic (I have no idea why, I swear I never feel I know what I’m doing). Guess whose not going to be making any money? Yep the homeless youth, writing and theatre have won out.

Is it the right choice? Practically, monetarily : No. For the experience: Yes. Will it lead somewhere? There are never any promises. I don’t do it with the expectation it will lead somewhere that will be able to pay me, I do it because it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I do it because I am a good teacher even if I don’t have a degree to prove it. I do it because I know how to inspire people into seeing their writing abilities, because even if I don’t believe in myself I do believe in others. I do it because I get to write, and I get to talk about writing, and I’m with people who want to write and talk about writing.

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2 thoughts on “Art and Money: The strive to believe the two will meet

  1. I am very, very glad you’re picking the thing that is rewarding for you. And I do think it starts to bring up a point though… at what point are you, are any of us, being taken advantage of for our willingness to volunteer? AND… at what point must we demand pay for what we do? Does it undermine artistry to always give it away for free? Does it undermine other artists who require pay to give it away for free? Greater, larger questions, of course, and not easily applicable to specific situations, but still. Does it reach a point where if we don’t value it financially, no one ever will? An interesting artist here in town talks about this on occasion on her blog: http://www.gwennseemel.com/index.php/blog/

    • You know Emily, I was having this very conversation with the film guy (with the family backing) and he was saying how now a days they don’t even higher, say a PA because they know they can find an intern to do the work for free. He also mentioned that actors in general are making less because the higher wages are going to the “big names” and producers and it isn’t trickling down plus they can get people to act for free just to “be seen.” This free acting, free art really bothers me because you don’t see lawyers doing big trials for free or doctors seeing patents for free. Ya sure they have a period when they intern but eventually they get paid, but we never have a guarantee. I want to be paid for my work, I have student loans too, I have shelter and food needs, my work should be viewed as worth a value that allows me to survive, but everyone wants to be a star, a writer, a poet and artist, everyone wants 15 mins and they are willing to just do all the work for free. The thing is you can demand pay but there are a hundred people waiting for that promise-less shot, and everyone with the money knows this. Honestly, I think it has to do with the fact that our society does not value the arts, not truly, it likes to be entertained but that is about the extent of it.

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