Monday, April 23, 2007

Patronizing the Arts

Yes, the double meaning is intentional.

Artists have always relied on patrons. Since the days of the Medici princes. If it weren't for a pope and some rich Italians, we would never have had the Sistine Chapel...

or the Mona Lisa...

or David

(Actually, I stuck David in to taunt Kim, one of my co-workers at SDB. I have some postcards of him that were sent to me that she keeps trying to put little Post-It pants on. POST-IT THIS! Ha! Ha!)

But the truth is that as much as there have been periods of government supported art, for the most part great art owes much to forward thinking rich people. New York City Ballet and the legacy of George Balanchine only really exist because of the $$$ that Lincoln Kirsten put into it. Here is a picture of the rarely seen Mr. K, who is just as much a father of American ballet as Mr. B. Lets all give him a round of applause.

I always hear "kind" suggestions that the today's artists should become better business people. And yet those same people who give the "kind" suggestions go marvel at the operas, ballets, and works of art in museums that were created by artists who were subsidized by czars. Or worse yet, artists who lived and died in poverty only to be discovered after they were rotting in the grave.

Our society has also decided that because artists depend on patronage, that they deserve to be patronized. As if they are children. Too often, patrons (and artists) feel as if they are giving for charity. Well, that is just wrong-headed. People should give to something because they believe in the artist's vision and that the art itself has merit.

Yes, pretty much all arts organizations have arts programs for kids, but that is secondary to the primary mission of the artist. To create art.

And here is my story as an arts patron.
I was surfing the web one day and I came upon an online comic. There was something about the style of drawing, tempo of dialogue and sensibility that I liked. I saw that the artist had a website. "click"

When I arrived I saw that he was a relatively young, independent, gay artist who had set himself on a 5 year plan to do something with his art. He was self-publishing his stories. His website was cute and fun. His characters wore their hearts on their sleeves. And he drew cute pictures of doggies and bunnies.

Under his name on a page there was a link "Support the Arts." "click"

After the jump, he had a list as to how, for various amounts of money, you could help him on his quest. The lowest amount was $10 for coffee and an hour of work at a local coffee shop. I thought... "Hmmm. I waste $10 a month on eating at some crappy fast food place, so why not just make an automatic monthly payment to this guy. I will never miss it."

So I did.

That was three years ago. And many $10 a month later. Occasionally, I'll e-mail him to see how he is doing and I get a nice personal response.

Now, I don't make a lot of money, but in my own small way I am making a bit of a difference in an artist's life.

Too often, people don't do things because they feel that their contribution won't make a huge difference. It doesn't need to. A lot of little "differences" add up to a huge difference.

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