matter of running an artistic business

July 17, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Although I still see myself as a somewhat principled person, I have over years learned to be pragmatic. Fortunately, I am now (finally) living my youthful dream of being a professional visual artist/graphic designer, after many years of detour. Often a prevailing popular misconception is that one cannot make a living out of arts. (Partially true, it is definitely a challenge.) But we live in the middle of someone’s artwork — somebody, somewhere designs your clothes, plates on your table, patterns on your wallpaper. Without art, we would be living in a plain, solid white world where everything is efficient and utilitarian but also very sterile. Think of a typical American jail cell and that would be your world (one of many ways to reduce prison violence and inmate mental health catastrophe is to really think of this issue; commissioning artists and implement some type of percentage-for-art program at every correctional construction would be a good investment that will in a long run save a lot of money and troubles).

Yesterday I was at the monthly Art Spark and got into a conversation. A certain individual talked how, in a totalitarian or Stalinist country artists do not have freedom to express themselves outside the official party ideology.

Whether communist ideology is conducive or destructive to art is up for a debate, and frankly I think it is a fallacy — or at least a red herring. In a supposedly uber-capitalist country such as so-called United States of America (supposedly, although I know otherwise — Americans and their businesses are probably a lot more heavily regulated by their government than people in many other countries) it is also true that artists do not have unconditional freedom. In a free market economy, what can be sold and what appeals to the customer is what would be made. This means in America, an economically thriving artist must be able to produce what pleases the commercial interest of her paying clients (this also holds true with fine arts that are financed by foundation grants and fellowships). Unless all what I do is doodle some nonsensical “art” in my own bedroom and then post it inside my own little closet (oh, what a joy of freedom!), that is, if I would like to be seen and recognized as an artist, then a certain degree of pragmatism is a must, and so is a business savvy.

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