Times are especially tough for artists, who are somehow always the first on the great American chopping block when it comes to funding, even in the best of times. Imagine a life of decades-long rigorous training, slowly building to and hoping for a chance to share your gifts, all cut short because you weren’t deemed important enough for America’s culture.
The arts, in fact, are America’s culture.
Why then does America consistently kick artists to the curb?
I think I know: While certain red-blooded Americans enjoy the benefits of what artists produce, they hate artists themselves.
In March 2019, a family member (thankfully only by marriage) went off on a Facebook rant about my opposition to Trump’s new tax bill, which hurt a lot of workers and creative people like myself. She claimed that as “a real working American citizen” who’s “got a job I’ve had a job for over 20-something years I do work my butt off…guess what I’m a real American working person not doing my own little free spirit job whatnever [sic] I want whenever I decide I think I can work again cuz I need some money…”
Once you get past the mindless vitriol, the implication is that creative people, like myself, are freeloaders. We should therefore shut up when it comes to concern over how the government siphons our hard-earned money. After all, being someone that — albeit inaccurately — does, quote, “my own little free spirit job whatnever I want whenever I decide I think I can work again cuz I need some money…” I apparently don’t earn hard-earned money. Creative contractors like myself aren’t even “real Americans”! Ergo, when artists hit tough times, people like this “real American” want artists to suck it and suffer.
For the record, I support myself as a writer. I’ve always been creative. I’ve also always worked. When I moved to NYC in the late-90s it was the culture for anyone trying to “make it” in their chosen creative field. whether that be film, or theatre, or music, or whatever, to work at least three jobs: two to pay the rent and bills — and then your creative job you generally didn’t get paid for.
Many of these jobs would now be considered “essential” businesses, and yes, many of them were in food service. At the start of my career I chose to work in nonprofit, which, while honorable, simply doesn’t pay much, which is why I worked a third shift waitressing for ten years to pay off my student loans. I never met anyone on public assistance and we all paid taxes. We all voted. We were and still are very “real” Americans.
Some have left the arts business, but others record music you’d recognize, have written best-selling books, and some of those books have been made into much-loved films. Others are animators, app designers, advertising superstars. Many are behind the scenes, designing lights, costumes, sets. Some write scripts. Some do voice overs. Some are educators. Some have stayed in the difficult but rewarding world of the theatre, because they love it that much. Many are the most well-read and interesting people you could ever meet.
Everyone I know who contracts does so out of necessity, not because it’s by choice. Most of the time, they’d love it if that job could last forever. Why is it that contracting in construction is perfectly acceptable, but if you’re doing so as an artist there’s something wrong with you?
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Screw artists! What are they good for anyway? A bunch of fake-American leeches! No one needs those damn creative folks to have a good life! I’d be just fine hanging out on a beach somewhere….” Yes, you would. (And please do leave civilization as soon as possible, whoever you are.)
But to get there, I’m guessing you’d drive, yes? Or would you take a boat? And would you need somewhere to stay? Some furniture? A beach towel? All of those — even your water bottle — were designed by artists.
Oh, and you’d have to be naked and shoeless because someone creative would have designed everything you wear.
Here, for people who don’t like the arts and think they are a waste of money, including sometimes, and not, frankly, often enough, taxpayer money, is a basic layout of how not to support the arts. And how to avoid all forms creativity:
If you give birth to a child, be sure to reject all cards, flowers, baby clothes, all of which were designed by creatives.
Your child will surely be sleeping on a hard floor, or good old fashioned hay, since a crib was designed by a creative person! What did we do before that! (We slept on the floor, or hay.) You’ll likely keep your kid swathed in cheesecloth for its childhood, since, as already established, creative people design clothing.
Keep this child as far away as possible from all digital devices, toys of any kind—especially those that play music. Fake-American creative people designed all of it! Children will have fun staring off into space for those all-important formative years.
Don’t ever hum or dance, because those are forms of the arts, too.
Jewelry is obviously out.
Don’t even think of playing an instrument.
Photography is a creative art, so be sure not to take, keep or ever enjoy any photographs.
You’ll have to go without books, of course. Picture books were drawn, so they’re totally out.
Your child should by now be growing up a complete weirdo hermit without any friends or cultural references, but, hey, isn’t a world without pesky artists just awesome?
It’ll be rough walking everywhere without shoes, but at least you won’t be supporting stupid creative fashion designers!
Anything and everything you’d do on a computer was designed by a creative person, including the computer itself.
Hmmmm…how will you hold a job? You’ll be without a car, clothes, shoes, you’ll be a cultural freak. But at least you won’t be supporting creative people!
You won’t miss television. Not one little bit.
Try to forget you ever listened to music. Of any kind. Anywhere.
And, lastly, some chefs have been quite creative, so please, make sure every aspect of your senses, including your sense of taste, rejects anything by those with “little free spirit job(s)”. (And — goodness! — some of those chefs aren’t Americans…)
So, if your goal is to achieve a bland, colorless existence, and be, as this angry relative and the ignorant millions like her say, a “real American”, then borrow the punctuation-free script from Facebook at the top of this article, make it your mantra, and toss it towards your favorite artists to let them know their life’s work has been a total waste.
But if you do wish to support the arts, now or any time in the future, there are so many resources where you can donate.
And if you don’t have money, you can always reach out to see how your favorite creative human is holding up. Especially if they’re artistic gifts have made your life better at any time in your life. A little appreciation goes a long way.