What’s With “Make the Arts Affordable”?

I haven’t been on my soapbox for a couple of days, but the more I think about this, the higher up it I climb… I recently got a notice from an arts organization (NOT in Georgia) calling artists to donate art works for a fund raiser for the group. The premise was new to me, so I was intrigued as I read the prospectus.

The organization has 200 8″ by 10″ stretched, numbered canvases. They are asking artists to come pick up one or more of the canvases and paint/make art on them; then return them, signed, to the organization. In the meantime, anyone who would like can come to the organization and buy numbers from 1 to 200. One number is $35; four numbers are $100.

The organization is proud to be able to “make the arts affordable” to everyone.. On a certain long weekend in a few months, all of the completed 8″ by 10″ numbered works will be hung in a public venue, with a closing reception to put the works into the numbered hands who purchased them.

Let’s lump over the part about how artists are very frequently asked to donate their work (most businesses nowadays are inundated for that sort of request, although artists seem to be on EVERY list) and think about this.

How can the art group believe an established, professional artist  and a lady who paints are contributing equally? From this seemingly “every piece of art is equal” mentality, I hear the art group saying something I paint is of the same value as something my artist friend Anne Jenkins or Margaret Warfield or R Sidney creates. And I’m loudly proclaiming IT IS NOT. If all four of us had contributed, my work’s number holder would go home without anything tangible to show for his/her money. And I believe that the works of Anne and Margaret and Ron should be priced accordingly. It is an insult to them to lump their work with mine.

I’m fortunate to have many friends on Facebook. I read how young professionals are out to eat, drinking fancy drinks, buying new shoes, and trying to keep up the rent, car and utilities payment. I get the impression that some of my friends want a pair of really cool shoes MORE than they want a piece of art for their great rooms. The question isn’t whether they perceive themselves as having the money; the question seems to be what they want MORE – shoes or art.

It’s past time to figure out what kind of art appeals to niche markets not buying traditional art products, then providing those products. My friends with the cool shoes have iPods full of songs they bought & downloaded from iTunes. They’re buying art… just not the same kind of art that has been on the market for years.

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