Business and the Art of… Well, Art!

Business and the Art of… Well, Art!

It’s heard all the time that art is seriously undervalued, but what does that mean exactly? The truth is United States culture leans toward undervaluing people. Period. There is no modifier to that. It’s not just “artistic people,” “parental people,” “hard-working people,” or any other specific variety of person. Everyone is undervalued. However, the self-employed–artists in particular–seem to have a special place in that dung heap of a mentality.

The other day, on Facebook, one of my friends posted about how her job is withholding a promised bonus. In the comments to the post someone who does not personally know her told my friend to “suck it up” and “be glad” she has a job. In that moment I was torn. On the one hand, my friend is being denied promised compensation. On the other, this complete stranger is somewhat right in my friend should be glad she has a job and the ability to support herself.

It wasn’t until today that I realized why the torn feeling bothered me so much. I was undervaluing the person because it is so engrained in us to be grateful to have a job, no matter how we are treated. What made me realize it was a Web comic. I was poking around over at Namir Dieter, which had not updated yet. Normally I just shrug and move on, but I happened to scroll to the site’s news area. The last thing posted was about a surprise family social call where they had to visit. Had to.

Why is work more respected when a person is working under someone as opposed to working for themselves? Would these people still be obligated to blow off work if it was at an office with a boss and a title rather than at home? I know I’m making some assumptions (specifically that their “had to” was because of pressure rather than not wanting to miss seeing these people), but this is not an isolated case. When I try to work on my writing, my own family p’shaws and pressures me into breaking that concentration. Even when my parents forced me to art school I got the same pressure to stop doing my art homework to visit with family. Who lived literally up the street. Not kidding with that one.

Creativity, innovation, or anything else that is considered “play” is the first to suffer. Schools cut art and music programs well before sports. How is sports less “play” than art? They’re both messy. They both require specialized training. They’re both damn expensive. So what makes one more valuable than the other? It’s not the location. We Californians can’t hold a professional football team to save our lives, but in high schools band will get funding cuts before the sports teams will.

I cannot speak for any other culture, but it seems here in the United States we shame the innocent. “How dare you dress that way, making someone think impure thoughts.” “How dare you complain about your job when someone else doesn’t have one.” “How dare you charge so much for this item you crafted.”

Excuse me? Who knows better than I do how much my time and efforts are worth. I put the time in, I learned the skill, and it was me who has to work harder because you under-value me and my work. I’m not lucky you may see fit to buy my product. You are the lucky one in that I saw fit to create it. Before it was ever something you could see or hold or read, I had to give up a piece of myself to make it. A piece of me, on the atomic level, is in that art. A part of my mind is in the pages of that novel you just huffed at for costing $7.

It’s a vicious cycle. As adults teach kids the arts don’t matter by taking away the programs and devaluing the teachers, kids grow up without art. They become adults who think art doesn’t matter, so they pass that on to their kids. So on and so on. We hear about making art for the love of art, but the irony is it is the consumers who can stop this insanity.

As a culture, we think nothing of dropping hundreds to thousands of dollars on gizmos and gadgets. It becomes a grueling wait if we cannot afford it right when we want it, but we make a plan and save for it. Why not art, too? Buy a book instead of a combo meal. Give someone a photo print instead of a gift card. It builds appreciation for art and artists, helps the economy, and no one has to worry about if it doesn’t fit!

[image: Dustin Gaffke]