Well, stereotypes are stereotypes, as they occur with predictability and frequency. Of course, nobody likes to be stereotyped and that is not the goal of this post. Rather, it is to analyze a phenomenon–one that leads to artists being under employed, unemployed and unable to make a living from their talents, creativity and skill sets.
I think this line of thinking comes from the same line of thinking as:
1. Artists are manic-depressives
2. Artists are drunks and drug addicts
3. Art creation should not have a profit motivation.
4. Artists should be trained in arts and not business.
5. Artists need survival jobs.
Throughout history, artists have fluctuated between high priest and prostitute. What role will you play? What value will you offer? What will you choose to do with your skill sets?
Artists are manic depressives: No doubt there are a lot of artists who are manic depressive and no doubt it would be easy to find evidence of past geniuses who were. However, their genius does not exist because of their mood swings. Artists are, by nature, very sensitive people. It is their sensitivity that nets their fodder for artistic expression. Though we know the stereotype exists, we do not need to subscribe to it. Those who are genuinely afflicted, that is another story.
Artists are drunks and drug addicts: Though history is riddled with examples of artists who abused their liver and brains with chemicals, the same could be said for sales people, doctors and lawyers. Sadly, some artists feel that this is the key to discovering their muse. After all, if their hero was a drunk and did such amazing work, there must be a connection. Right? No. That is not right. Again, I point towards an artists’ sensitivity. Many feel the need to self-medicate as a way of lessening the intense frequency of their sensitivity. Artists do not need to dampen down such frequency, but rather, create more. It is the act of creation that enables the artist to express themselves and give a proper and healthy release of their sensitivity.
Artists should not have a profit motivation: This line of thinking often bothers me. It is usually the unemployed or the under working artist who is talking about selling out. The working artist typically has little concern or personal judgement, regarding the money they make for their work. Creating art with a profit motivation is value creation. It is not selling out. It is selling art.
Artists should be trained in arts and not business. Our educational institutions are not training our artists to be self-sufficient and to be able to make a living from their skill sets. The vast majority of training institutions in America are training artists in an “arts technique only” approach to arts training, a process that leads to rampant under and unemployment for an extreme majority of graduates. I do not fault the teachers entirely, as they themselves, often, are products of such learning too. This later problem that artists face is deeply unfortunate, as it is the current standard. This problem, perhaps more than the others mentioned above, curses the artist to a life of poverty. Some artists figure out what is necessary to survive with their artistic skill sets and, in time, are able to make a living from their creativity, talents and art. Others…may leave the field of art entirely. What a loss that is for our communities, our culture and for history.
Artists need survival jobs: I marvel at these words…”Survival Job”. The catch 22 in having a survival job is that the limited energies one has are spent waiting tables, temping and working jobs that are time consuming, not in our field of artistry, not calling upon our creativity and skill sets and not what we ultimately want to be doing. I encourage artists to make the leap towards surviving from their creativity. Until one is fully committed, one can easily “fall back” on a fall back plan. I do not advocate blind leaping, but informed, strategic, educated leaps. We should know what we are leaping towards. We must do our homework to understand what value we can offer as artists and know what the market may hold, in way of demand.
The end of the starving artist starts with you.
You can choose to not participate in stereotypes. You can choose to not subscribe to pack mentality thinking. You can choose to take greater control over your artistic destiny and learn to be the driver of your creative and professional opportunities.
Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts teaches artists how to stand on their own feet, how to generate value for others, how to define what makes them unique as artists and how to make a living from their skills.
If you are tired of having a “survival job”, consider making a positive step, a significant investment in your future. Consider applying for the full-time conservatory program at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts.
Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more on Hart, see www.austinconservatory.com