Sunday, March 20, 2011

The High Cost of Being an Artist

Parents are notorious at discouraging children from undertaking any risky venture that involves creativity. Yet when a child of the upper-middle class says Mom, Dad, I want to be a poet, a novelist, a musician or a painter, Mom and Dad are likely to say, "It's going to be an uphill climb dear, but we'll support you."  Even as they stress the idea of having something else to fall back upon, they will often demonstrate their support by offering tuition to good colleges, introduction to friends in that field or just plain encouragement.

On the other hand, when a child of the working-class expresses the same sentiment, Mom, Dad, Auntie, Gramma or Guardian are likely to say, "Just get yourself a frickin' job!" only a slight paraphrase of what my father said to me!

Now, as the Republicans agressively move to defund National Public Radio we must consider the prohibitively high cost of art and what a bleak society we would live in without it.

Artists catapult society in new and innovative directions but too often the necessity of economic survival precludes and obliterates the desire to contribute something beautiful, thought-provoking or gut-wrenching to a regimented world. And that is not only sad on an individual level, it is everyone's loss.

Visualize for a moment, a universe where people are paid to contribute art, writing, music, theater and dance. In Cuba they called them "cultural workers" and they were educators as well, teaching people to think of a larger life beyond the boundaries of humdrum daily existence. A place where people don't have to be retired, disabled, sick or financial daredevils in order to reach for their dreams.

It is a world worth imagining.