The following article appeared in the Chicago Tribune last week. It was written by an artist name Kathleen Hardy from Chicago. It's really a reply to a letter published a few weeks previously. Since I have been a self employed, freelance artist for so many years, it really struck a cord in me so I am reposting it. Please note that I have given credit both to the author who wrote the letter/reply as well as to the Chicago Tribune.
Value The Arts
A letter writer in the March 21 Voice of the People wrote: "We liked the smaller bandstands (at former Taste of Chicago festivals) that would feature local artists. I'm sure many of these bands would play for almost nothing just to be able to have others hear their music."
He is wrong about that! Why is it that artists (of any genre) are expected to work for "almost nothing"?
Would anyone seriously say to an accountant, "Do my taxes for free; I'll tell everyone what a great job you did! It'll be great exposure for you! You should be happy to have others just see your work for almost nothing!"
Or how about, "Doctor, you should be happy just to have others see the nice job you did on setting my broken bone!"
None of these things happens in real life, so why should we expect artists to work for nothing?
Is it possible that people in America have no idea that artists eat food, pay rent and have kids just like they do?
Do people in America have no idea that an artist has to pay money for supplies to be able to create the art that many want to enjoy for free?
Do they understand that in order for artists to exhibit their work in craft shows, they have to pay money to be there?
Do they understand that many artists actually did go to college for training in their fields and now have student loans to pay back too?
We are often freelancers, so we don't have employee benefits like health care.
Those things are paid for out of our own pockets; our art pays for these things.
To have someone enter the booth and exclaim, "You're charging THAT much (for a unique, one-of-a-kind item)?" shows the level of disconnect between people and their jobs and artists and our jobs.
It is mystifying to us for people to tell us how we should simply be grateful for people to want to celebrate and share our work, yet somehow expect us to live without a salary, let alone keep creating.
If we truly value the arts, maybe we should compensate the artists commensurately.
Kathleen Hardy, Chicago