It was the third time I had been in his art gallery. I was filled with joy and told him so. I gushed how much his artwork spoke to me as I poured over each piece. And then I left. I walked about half a block down the street and became acutely aware of my hypocrisy. It was uncomfortable. If I loved his work and it meant so much to me then why on earth was I not considering a purchase? How did my words actually support him? I knew exactly what I needed to do. I looked at my husband, talked realistically about our budget and walked back into the gallery.
I said to the artist, “I can’t ooze about how much I love your work and then fail to tangibly support you. I am able to spend (x amount) of dollars. What do you have available in that range?” As a show of appreciation he offered me a discount. I declined. That was not the point. I needed to fully walk the talk. I needed to put my money where my mouth was. I wanted to show the artist that his work was worth more than my words and that it had true value - value that I was willing to invest in.
Here’s the thing. I would love to not talk about money. I have had encounters (some that I will share in future posts) that have me feeling nervous about talking about cashflow for artists. But those encounters tell me that it needs to be talked about and the reality is we all use money to provide for our needs and pay our bills. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we returned to trading goods for goods - would it be any better? My art purchase isn't about an artist's greed or preoccupation with money (trust me, most artists aren't in it for the money), it is a tangible symbol of support. It is a way to demonstrate that I see the artist's value and I want to support the work they do. And by supporting their work in a tangible way I spur them on to continue to create.
If we believe in the value of the Arts then we must support the Arts. And if we want to support the Arts we must tangibly support Artists.
Encouragement is wonderful and valuable in its own right but words plus action have significantly more impact. I don't want my words to become platitudes that leave someone questioning my sincerity. If I love their work as the words coming out of my mouth clearly state, then what action can I take to demonstrate what I claim? Was I all talk? As it was on that day outside of the gallery, I came face to face with the reality of whether or not I was willing to act on what I believe. I didn't have a huge budget that day but I did what I could in order to align my values with an immediate action I could take. Some days I can make the purchase. Other days, I can't. But I realized I was never making the purchase and that made me concerned.
The question of whether or not I am walking the talk is something I am continually asking myself. We are all works in progress and change comes over time. So, I keep asking the question, checking in with myself and letting myself grow. I approach it with curiosity and challenge, not with guilt or shame. Am I supporting artists to the best of my ability - where I'm at right now? As an artist, am I participating in activities that undercut other artists or compromising values that ultimately hurt Arts advocacy? Is there a change I could make that would help me to take a step in the direction I want to go? Is there something else I can do that would help me put my money where my mouth is? I know the power of one simple step and the ripple effect it has. That's change I want to be part of.
Post Two: What Do Artists Do All Day?
Post One: An Introduction