Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hard Times Resourceful Artists

By their very nature, artists are resourceful people. They spend their days creating products from the dreams of their imagination. Over the last couple of decades, some would argue that artists have become more adept as business persons, and that more artists today are actually making a living at what they do. Now with the economy so in the dumpster, especially the stock market, which provides the livelihood of so many art supporters, artists must be more creative than ever, seeking out means of support that will sustain them through tough times. I am reminded of one of my favorite photographers of all time, Dorthea Lange, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Prior to working for this Great Depression Era government agency, Lange had a successful career and her own portrait studio in San Francisco. Her best work however was created when she traveled around the country photographing people living through the hardship of the times. Her most famous photograph above is of Florence Owens Thompson, a migrant worker who had seven children. In 1960, Dorthea Lange revealed the following story concerning her subject:

"She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

At the recent Academy Awards Ceremonies, Sean Penn, love him or hate him I think he is a great actor, and so apparently do his peers, stated that he was glad to see "we had elected an elegant President." With Obama's assertive policy toward advancing the arts, we too at are pleased to see the nation's leaders endorsing the arts with policies such as: Expanding Public/Private Partnerships between schools and arts organizations, creation of an Artist Corps: where young artists will be trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Studies in Chicago have demonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

The current administration is also in support of Increased funding for the NEA: Over the last 15 years, government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been slashed from $175 million annually in 1992 to $125 million today. The Obama administration is willing also to promote Cultural Diplomacy by returning America to its rightful place as the world’s top destination for artists and art students, and best of all, the current administration wants to provide Health Care to artists. Obama's enlightened policy toward the arts can be viewed here.

The former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia is quoted in a commencement speech given at Stanford University in 2007 as saying “The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.” We think that is a wonderful thought, and are sorry that Gioia has resigned to return to private life. Another inspiring fact about Gioa was that while he was hired during a Republican administration, he remained faithful to voting for performance and not ideology. For a look at the condensed version of that inspiring speech click here.

You can be a supporter of the arts by practicing Creative Consumerism™. Each one of our artists on this site has dedicated their time and energy to creating something that may enhance your life.--Ruth Mitchell

(c) 2008 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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