Friday, May 29, 2009

Art and the economy

My father told me a couple of weeks ago that he has no plans to cut back on his spending because he thinks spending is good for the economy. I’ve wondered about his words off and on ever since because practically everyone else I know has cut back.
When people tighten their belts, artists, writers, musicians, dancers and so on feel the pinch first. In a way it’s understandable because we tend to think of engaging in creative pursuits or buying their “products” as a luxury. But this makes life challenging if you’re a member of the clan.
At the moment I’m attempting to stockpile art for my show in the fall, so I haven’t been trying to sell anything. But I must admit I’m worried about what the economy will be like in October, and whether or not people will buy anything then.
One thing I can definitely say is that I am getting fewer writing projects from mainstream publications now. The number of magazines is declining, and those still publishing are opting for shorter articles. When you get paid by the word as I usually do, this is discouraging. Some magazines haven’t changed their rate for a decade, and others have even lowered it. There are also publishers who use what’s happening in the economy as an excuse to take advantage of freelancers.
Recently I received an email about writing a 500-word technical article that would have paid me $10. No, this isn’t a misprint. The editor’s thinking was that I could re-sell my writing. While I have done this in the past, it can take months of networking to find a new market, and editors naturally don’t want to pay you what you received for the original article.
When you’re dependent on freelance work and selling art for your financial survival like I am, it’s easy to feel fearful. But you have to work at overcoming this because it’s crucial to cultivate resilience. I decided yesterday that what I needed was an image to look at while I worked …an image that would remind me to stay positive and to be proactive—instead of focusing on the negative, as I’m prone to do.
I immediately thought of the angel wing I’d bought from Colette Copeland back in February and I put it right in front of my computer. Every time I looked at Colette’s creation today, I smiled. Engaging in this activity makes me feel much better than reading yet another depressing report about the state of the economy (and then dwelling on it).

Who says art is a luxury? In my opinion, I believe it’s a necessity.


A bird in the hand said...

I just read your comment to me and hurried over... you are a true friend, because you understand. I guess you understand also because we're in similar situations.
I'm so glad you are making concrete steps to sell your work. You are one of the best assemblage artists I know and your work should really be out there.

As for the $10 editor: phooey!

irenka said...

Phooey indeed! I can't believe they are so cheap. I for one have not cut back, I'm getting too old to wait until I can afford things. That may never come and I will have missed out on all the pleasures I'm having doing things with my purchases. Stay positive, we are all in this together.

Lucy Ladham-Dyment said...

Art is definately a Necessity! Just like people value their "other" things - be it
Fishing, Smoking, TV, buying things, Art is a Necessity.

Just wish The Arts were valued more.

wildflowr said...

I have actually found the economic crisis to be realitively good for art- the people with the money for original art, still have money & are excited about the great deals they expect "starving artists" to start making- just like the construction man ain't gonna stop buying his beer, the art collector just sees the economy as an exciting opportunity to increase their collection... so I am told.

Speaking of beer- in these times I wish I had a brewery, cuz what do people do when they are down? drink
what do they do when they are happy & celebrating? drink
Can't go wrong.

I also think the film industry is going to continue to thrive- because even at $8.50 a seat, going to the movies is still cheap entertainment.

I think people are just going to get more creative and find more community activities to do for fun that are inexpensive- art fairs & markets are still cheaper than browsing a gallery or mall... these fun community driven venues are probably going to continue to be good place to sell artwork.
Probably larger corporate companies are going to feel the crunch far more than individuals (as far as art goes).

me again said...

Susan, I read your blog post last night shortly before I went to bed, and I have been thinking about what to say for almost a full day now. Having been behind both desks -- freelancer and magazine editor -- I know the trials and tribulations of both jobs. But ten bucks? Laughable. I would have been embarrassed to offer a freelancer that ... no, I take that back; I would never have offered a freelancer that. When the crunch is that bad -- and I know it can be -- you write the &%!# piece yourself, slap on a pseudonym, and move on. It's one of the responsibilities of the job. Been there, done that.

As for the arts and spending/making money, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that it's unpredictable no matter what the economy. I have sold when I thought I wouldn't, and not sold when I thought I would. There are those who will always think art is a luxury and be tight with their wallets as well as those for whom art is a necessity and will gladly open their wallets.

We can't control how people choose to spend their money -- although we can tempt them with our art -- but we can control ourselves. Easier said than done, I know, but I think we all need to stay positive even when we must be realistic, be creative about how and where we market our art, and not let negative thoughts sap our creative energy and inspiration. For me, and I suspect many of us, that is a work in progress. I often feel overwhelmed about all that I want to accomplish but I know that the only way to get somewhere is to go forward. Keep looking at that angel wing!

(why oh why is my word verification "losses".......)

Chrisy said...

Yes that angel wing is inspiring...looking at other's art is helpful in staying positive I think...and well..we just have to keep doing what we love to do...and sharing it...I enjoyed reading your article in Artful Blogging...

nancy said...

my art is my joy. my therapy, my meditation. i have to create!
i surround myself with creative people and their art.
everyday i look at 2 of your creations i have bought and i'm inspired! thanks for another thoughtful post!

spindelmaker said...

Its an important issue you bring up. I think it might swing both ways. As the economy tightens, I think people become more aware of quality, where one earlier could swim in quantity. And an important part of quality is HANDMADE and ORIGINALITY. So instead of filling our lives with lots of mass-produced buy-and-throw-stuff, we might want to spend our money differently. I may be optimistic, but I think times like this will always make people think about their priorities, and maybe that can even be a good thing. Keep on creating quality!