Supporting the Arts

What is it about art that makes people talk about supporting it?  One might ask, if it’s so important to us, why do we have to make a concerted effort to support it?  Why doesn’t art just sell itself – and therefore find support without our having to discuss it?

From what I have read, there are a lot of reasons for this here in the good ol’ US of A.  One of the reasons I have read – perhaps it was in Adbusters?  – is that all of the people designing packages and doing ad layout for corporations are artists and would have been making ‘real art’ but they got waylaid by money.  I think that this is probably somewhat true – people with technical skills and a good eye are getting jobs making artsy things for non-artsy causes.

But that can’t be all of it.  So what else is it?  Is it the ease of purchasing mass-made products?  It is true that you can go to Target and get a nice looking wall hanging, already framed, for only about 20 or 30 bucks, and it’s a lot easier than going to an art festival and choosing something more individual that will probably cost you a lot more.

And choosing seems to be the problem.  I notice that in my craft business, my best seller is a stupid item – I saw some cute little Hello Kitty beads at Bobby Bead in Mpls. and purchased two packages of them, and then made bracelets of them combined with some other beads.  I also made a whole lot of jewelry of my own design out of polymer clay.  Guess what’s my best seller?  Hello, kitty.

So.  Why is that?  They’re not higher quality than the rest of my work.  But there’s an identity factor.  People pick up the bracelet and say, oh!  It’s Hello Kitty.  And I say, yep.  I believe that these people buy the bracelets because they identify with HK or they know someone else who does.

This leads me back to the question of supporting the arts.  My work is just the beginning of me starting to feel like a little teeny-tiny bit of an artist – and I have seen already that the people who buy jewelry of my own design are the people who relate to the designs.  One lady bought a Chalchiutlicue pendant and immediately referred to the necklace as “her,” and another said she was interested because she knew that none of her friends would have one, and that she liked it.

People are searching for expressions of who they are.  And if art doesn’t do this for them, they don’t buy it.  Or they don’t go to the exhibit or the play or the standup comedy or the live broadcast of a podcast or whatever you artsy folks are up to today!

You might be thinking that I am about to advocate for art to change and be more of what people identify with – but that is far from my point.  I am thinking that we need some sort of mass shift so that people identify themselves as artists and then support art because they, too, are artists.

I’m not sure how we would accomplish this.  It seems that institutions like the State Arts Board are already working on this  – but it’s going to take more than that – somehow there needs to be an underground swell of people just talking about art and participating in art.  Maybe it’s as simple as getting more people out to participate in art that is already happening – how can we make that bridge?  I’d love to get comments and hear ideas.

Meanwhile, I’m participating by volunteering for Off Leash Area tonight to do a mailing, and I’m going to see the Mustache Rangers on Thursday, I’m blabbing about art on Facebook and with friends, and we’ll see where things go from there.