Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Arts Organizations vs. Artists

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you have probably noticed a recurring theme... that of "arts organizations" vs. "artists".

I see the role of an arts organization as being twofold:

1) To bring arts to the community
2) To financially support artists, so they can actually create the art that is being brought to the community.

Too many times I see business models which rely on the artists supporting the organization, rather than the organization supporting the artists. Arts administrators for organizations often get paid far more than the artists working for those organizations. Organizations rationalize costs for materials, advertising, promotions, and administration, but somehow can't justify actually paying visual and performing artists a fair wage for their time.

We live in a time when the process of art creation is continually devalued. Over an over again I see the phrase "it will be great for your portfolio!" or "you will get plenty of exposure!"

The problem is, if everyone thinks like this, the only thing exposure will be good for is getting more non-paying work. It is like Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

What does this mean in practical terms? Don't do anything you wouldn't want everyone else to do. If you are asking someone to work for free, assume everyone else is also asking that person to work for free.  From the artists perspective, what good does it do for you to perform for free in front of 10,000 people, other than to let 10,000 people know you are willing to perform for free?

It is high time for artists and arts organizations to re-evaluate their relationships. Self sustaining business models must be created that allow for artists to prosper, so that they can afford to bring arts to their community.


  1. Where is the "like" button? :-)

  2. There's a facebook ,twitter, and google button!