Several days ago I received an e-mail asking my help to promote an awards ceremony for people who have contributed to the area art scene. The non-profit organization hosting the ceremony listed all the winners on its web site.
Glancing over the list, I was struck by the fact that most of the winners headed up businesses other than art. The few artists I recognized were honored, not for their art making abilities, but their marketing skills and business acumen.
Every month state and county art council newsletters show up in my e-mail box. Under opportunities in the arts, there are pages of jobs available at art museums, art centers, art galleries, schools, and government art programs. Opportunities to actually sell art take up only a few paragraphs.
The whole support structure of American art has slipped off center. In the rush of organizations to secure funding, maintain programs, meet payroll, and please the board and fickle public, the artist is becoming marginalized. Over the years, artists have been asked to donate art in support of political campaigns, AIDS benefits, social service organizations and even high school football programs. On occasion, they have requested a quid pro quo arrangement, only to be labeled whining malcontents.
The Arts can be likened to a unique solar system with myriad planets circling around a central shining star. Museums, galleries and arts organizations are the planets spinning around an artist sun. They thrive in the creative glow and reflect back much needed warmth and support. The order of this solar system has changed and the artist is getting knocked out of orbit.