Arts Funding and Internet Commenters

October 2, 2012 at 5:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I read an article online titled, I’m thirty two and my family bankrolls my lifestyle. It featured a lady whose family financially supports her so she can pursue a freelance writing career. According to the comment section she might as well have been Hitler. Among the 500 or so comments the majority were focused on how selfish and lazy she was. A sample : “ i personally do not know how you can be ok taking advantage of everyone around you. my parents will often forgo paying their own rent in order to support my brother in his not wanting to work a full time job because he’s an artist. bullshit.” Or “Yeah my entire thought while reading this was get your shit together and stop mooching off your friends/family. At 32 being broke while sponging off people isn’t cute.”

Now maybe I’m inclined to identify with her since I’m 31 and also often accept offers of cash from my folks with glee, while I work less than full time so as to make space for artistic pursuits, but I think there is more than that at play here. I think Culture is involved.

See in other times and places, Artists were supported in a variety of ways, from patronage in Medieval times to the modern day European government funding of the Arts for example. Here in Capitalist America, we have chosen against Public arts funding for the most part, leaving artists to find private channels of support.

Some artists are paid enough money for the art they make to live but by no means all of them and talent is not always a deciding factor in who succeeds in that sense. We can all think of commercially successful artists who pale in comparison talent wise with those who are broke. And because we as a society have devalued Art, fewer people are willing to personally invest in Art in the way that is needed to support Artists. We need enough people buying art, from artists, to make private arts funding really work and it ain’t happening. This also makes Art an entirely commercial venture which defeats the purpose, frankly. With neither public nor private funding largely accessible this leaves us in a situation where only the independently wealthy can afford artistic careers- and I can tell you a lot of Artists these days do have trust funds. That being said I think it’s a shame and a cultural loss for the rest of us. Which brings me back to the subject of the piece, the middle class girl whose normal family is trying to let her play on that field and the Haters who be hating….

To them I say: We need not resent people who are supported by their community. We can be jealous but we needn’t tear them down. Collectivism is natural. Call me a commie but the whole doing it by ourselves thing moves against nature. Look at ants.

They (the internet) are upset that she takes money from people who aren’t rich but only middle class. Somehow it’s better that rich people should be helped by their parents, while the poor (or middle class) aren’t allowed to be subsidized. Well, frankly, that gives even greater advantage to the wealthy, who are allowed to accept their parent’s money, while we the working class cannot?!

Still, in the working class pooling funds is common practice. Rich people run to the banks for money. The poor call on each other. People chip in as a sign of belief in what their friends are doing, and as a form of social investment. Among the commenters there was much talk of “enabling,” but what if that is reframed as investing, or enabling in the more positive sense of the word, as in “allowing to make possible,” It could be seen instead as a beautiful gift, a vote of confidence. If people have some cash to kick down they do it, it’s hardly highway robbery.

I’d like to note that the people who are funding her lifestyle are adults making independent choices about their own finances. Nowhere in the article does she describe anyone as deprived. She isn’t conning the elderly or stealing candy from babies. The people who buy her lunch and pay her bills have the right to do so as they wish. They can pay for her main/pedis and choose to support her in pursuing her dream, for whatever motives they might have. I don’t sense that she is begging them for favors. If people appreciate her enough to throw some cash toward it, well I see that as a more intimate version of Kickstarter.

So she works one day a week. I get feeling saintlier than thou, or more hard-working and tougher, but why does your superiority have to result in her inferiority? It was as though they took personally her situation. The writer is lucky to be that privileged. But it’s not like she wrote the article to complain. She seemed to be confessing, she came to divulge something that she feels ashamed of and embarrassed by. Everyone is so sold on the idea that working three jobs and making art on the side is ideal.

Why should the ability to hold down multiple jobs be the standard bearer for true artists? What if making that a requisite means losing out on the potential creativity of those who are tapped out after a fifty hour work week? If we demand that every artist who isn’t trust funded work full-time before they make art, I think we may miss out on someone’s masterpiece. I know that sometimes I actually get more done when I’m busy and I definitely gain creative inspiration from the stuff I encounter on the job but I would still rather have more time to get art done. What with all that work, less art gets made that’s all there is to it. And maybe I am a weaker person for not being able to juggle it all but that’s just the way it is and it doesn’t make my art any less valuable for that being the case. There are some artists, fragile flowers that we are, who might benefit from some leisure. Art is about process ultimately and you can’t always force that out in the one spare hour before you fall into bed. So if we take all that into consideration, is it the worst thing in the world that this Lady’s family is helping to make that happen for her?

Another shitstorm was started over the Lady’s fantasy that some well- off man would come and save/support her someday, transferring responsibility from her family onto his bank account. Folks lambasted her as anti-feminist and again Lazy. But the thing is- It’s a fantasy. She never says she is living her life in a way to make that happen. She isn’t getting dressed up and hitting hotel bars or whatever it is gold-diggers do anyway. Who doesn’t want to be rescued from their own mundane existence?

This is the “crime” they are accusing her of: She is trying to eke out a living as an artist, is lucky to be financially supported and doesn’t work as much as many. I question this adherence to capitalist philosophy. Community support: its how a lot of artists/people get by.

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