Have you ever seen the BBC documentary series, What Do Artists Do All Day? Each episode follows an established visual artist around for a few days and we are given insight into their creative process. It’s wonderful - I love those behind the scenes moments! To watch a visual artist, a musician, an actor, a dancer, or a writer in the midst of their process is amazing, inspiring and captivating. It’s incredible to watch them do what they do. The process is rarely easy - when it appears that way, it’s years of practice that has prepared them to work with the excellence they do now. I’m so grateful for artists, how they see the world and how they persevere to bring us their perspective through their artistic discipline.
How poignant that this process is not often viewed as work. Artists are frequently confronted with all sorts of stereotypes. When asked what I do for work I often get a cocked eyebrow and clarifying questions, “No. I mean, what do you do for money?” "What do you do all day?" The legitimacy of an artist and the work they do are constantly challenged.
Isn’t it peculiar how we are prone to jump to conclusions about what we do not know? Take social media for example: we see perfectly curated family pictures of someone’s life and we assume that their life is easy, that they’ve got it all together. Yet, we neglect to tell our rational selves that they’re probably not posting all the mess and struggle. Even when someone has a life trajectory that is similar to ours we still assume that they’ve got things more figured out than us. Is that how it is with artists? Because we’re only seeing the highlights we figure that their lives are filled with wine, paint and contemplation? Are we filling in the blanks with assumptions and stereotypes?
And the creative side is only one part of an artist’s work equation. We have easily recognized the administrative side of many occupations so why not with artists? As an artist I am the CEO of a creative business. I also manage all administrative, operational, financial and creative aspects of this business. I must balance the daily demands with creative output. I aim to follow my creative calling but also am faced with the reality of bills that need to be paid - and have to find a way to navigate this challenge. And I must resist the urge to overwork to try and prove my worth in a world that challenges the validity of my profession.
In the introductory post of The Cost of Artistry I spoke about having to advocate for the value of artistry and how the Arts are often viewed as a luxury. It pains me to feel like these conversations are necessary - to be put in positions where I have to talk about artistry as a legitimate, worthy career choice. But these conversations must continue until we see artists fully integrated into culture, where artists are commissioned and paid on a regular basis, where artists do not need to supplement their income with other work, where organizations do not approach artists with “opportunities for exposure” but with offers that make it worth the artist’s time and talent, where art inquiries are given with adequate time allowance and event budgets have artists at the top of their priorities. I look forward to that day.
Through these posts I will continue to remind us that change really does start with each one of us. We "prove" the value of the Arts by ensuring that we are indeed valuing the Arts in our own lives through our actions. Our talk must match our walk - and that is a work in progress for all of us. Next week I will share a story about a time when I realized that I wasn’t walking my talk, how it ended up teaching me a powerful lesson and encouraged me to make a change.