I have been sitting on a series of posts that I began in 2014 about life as an artist: The Cost of Artistry. They never made it past the draft stage yet there they sit... and I still find myself often thinking about their contents. As I continue to engage in the same topics of conversation and wrestle with the same issues I know that it's time to finally share my perspective. It is my hope to offer a little insight into the sometimes mysterious and often misunderstood life of an artist. My perspective continues to grow and develop in how to best cultivate an arts culture that is thriving and valued - I suspect sharing these thoughts and stories will continue that process for me and perhaps for you too.
I have been involved in the arts my whole life. Music was my first love and it felt like a natural progression to study music and education in University. Classes on theory, composition and orchestration were combined with hours in the practice room, preparing pieces for masterclasses and juries. The education side taught us classroom management, lesson planning and curriculum development. All of this was expected. As were the lessons on how to advocate for our jobs when the inevitable budget cuts impacted Arts education. The Arts are often deemed a luxury - something that is entertained when everything else is taken care of.
As University students we studied scientific research so we could prove the positive impact the Arts has on child development. We felt the pressure to perform and have our students perform at high levels so that we could prove that our programs had merit and worth. We experienced the familiar ache when watching movies like Mr. Holland's Opus or Music of the Heart that addressed the widespread reality of funding cuts for Arts education. We had experienced it as children in arts programs and we were picking up the baton to fight on in our adulthood. It saddens (and frustrates) me that 20 years later these struggles continue. I suppose that's a big reason why I never published these posts. I want it to be rainbows and butterflies. I want it to be easy. But we're still having to prove the worth and value of the Arts and it's wearying.
If you're reading this I likely do not need to convince you of the value of the Arts. We know that the Arts helps us to view life with a depth that isn't possible by any other means. Through music, painting, dance, poetry, sculpture and countless other artistic expressions, we have the vehicles in which to examine life. These are not luxuries - they are necessities. This is not a competition between science and visual art or arithmetic and music, it all has its place. However, the richness and fullness that the Arts brings has been overlooked and undervalued. It is an essential element in our lives, one that many of us acknowledge yet the same struggles remain.
As I begin a new chapter in my own life I still feel the need to continue advocating for the value of the Arts but I no longer feel the same need to prove their value. The Arts have value and worth whether or not it is seen and upheld. But for those of us who know and have experienced the impact and necessity of the Arts in our own lives, it is up to us to support artists and ensure that they have the means to continue to create. That is the place from which I share. Even as a professional artist I am still being challenged on how to best support artists and I hope that sharing my experiences helps us all to find more ways to ensure the health of the Arts in our communities.