For an artist, inspiration starts with a gnawing hunger. No hunger, no inspiration, no art. Culture defines civilizations. Art defines cultures.
Okay, here’s where I’m going with this thought process. A friend bemoaned the fact that people in the dramatic arts are paid less than their counterparts working in Walmart. And, unfortunately, I believe this to be true in the broadest sense. Actors have the only unions where ninety percent of the membership is unemployed at any given moment. Art is a luxury. Food and shelter come first (as they should). Yet art defines us. Look at any generation. What comes to mind ? Music? Movies? Clothing styles? It’s all art. Even architecture falls under someone’s artistic impression (or lack thereof.) During World War Two Winston Churchill was criticized for not cutting the Arts budget for England. His reply? “If we do that, what are we fighting for?”
So Art is appreciated. Established Art is appreciated. Something – or someone – has to be around long enough to attract an audience. There are places everywhere (and IN XANADU is no exception) where “followers” are courted. Have enough followers and you win a prize. (I’m still waiting.) The point is, an artist is acknowledged. That is, he or she has put together enough of a body of work to create a style to which audiences gravitate.
So we have been talking about someone who, after years of perseverance, has “made it.” Well and good for that person.
But what about the poor shmuck working equally hard, who has yet to be discovered? (And, isn’t this the majority of us?) Regardless of the potential for rewards, a person in arts needs to express beyond what ‘normal” life will allow. If you have never been there, it’s like a drug. However, because the need to express is an end goal, the need to be understood and appreciated falls into second place. Because of this, when the dust settles, the artist realizes that he or she has placed a low price on him or herself as a commodity. It’s a psychological Catch-22. Lower the price, reach more people. Raise the price, reach fewer. Like race horses, artists have traditionally been supported by the very rich, and I suspect for many of the same reasons …
Will this change at any time in the future? I doubt it. Look around. The value of an individual artist’s work usually only increases dramatically after he or she has been dead for a period of time.