When Art Grants End by M Theresa Brown
The art world is all up in arms. Every place you turn to there is some article about the government or the states reducing or eliminating public money for artist grants. Frantic emails are sent out, art groups gather to protest the fund reductions and open Facebook polls. But there is not an organization out there in today’s economic climate who has NOT had to tighten their belts.
So why the fuss?Â Let’s examine the world of art grants a little less passionately and you may find that reducing or even ending art grants could, in the long run benefit more artists than grants!
How many artists do you know who have benefited from an art grant?
How many artist’s do you know whose careers were launched with an art grant?
How happy is the public with the art that is awarded most of the grants?
How happy are you, as an artist, with the art that seems to universally get the art grants?
How politically entwined are the monies for the art grants?
Do you know an artist who makes a living from an art grant?
I ask these questions from the knowledge and life of an artist whose living comes from the sales of her artwork. It has not been easy. But nothing worth doing comes easy and therein lies the lure of the grant-easy money. In reality most grants are almost akin to winning the lottery. Many apply, only one wins. But most lottery players do not make winning the lottery their life work-they still continue to work, raise families and produce in their jobs. How many artists could be so much further along in their careers if they took the bull by the horn and did not spend their life searching for art grants?
Before NCÂ instigated the Lottery, the people I talked to from states where the Lottery was established always prefaced goals with “when I win the lottery.” I remember thinking that everything they wanted to do seemed to be on hold until they won the lottery…but what if they never did?
Waiting for help? Look what has happened to the southern coastal states right now, in the throes of the BP oil gusher, facing the biggest disaster those states have ever faced? Where is the help? The government money? The “helping hand?” Small towns all along the Gulf coast have done what Americans have always done before free promises of free money……. getting the job done themselves! It has been all over the news and I could cheer for their efforts.Â Actions do indeed speak louder than words!Â Â You get things done by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Solve the problem yourself or with a dedicated group behind you.
And for me, that is the answer to many of the problems in the arts…instead ofÂ waiting for free money, make it happen.
What would happen if a core group in each state decided to “take matters into their own hands” and create an art community free of the federal and state restrictions that come with all grant monies? What if public art opportunities were judged by the public instead of a state or federally funded jury looking for political correctness? What if artists learned how to present themselves and their art to corporations, companies, towns and businesses looking for art. What if artists individually took matters into their own hands?
Why not see the reduction or ending of grant money as an opportunity rather than a disaster.Â OK, so there is less of what was there before. Everyone is tightening the belt-at home, at work, at play…. is that so bad? With some positive re-thinking of the art grant situation, more doors could open up to more artists. More diverse Opportunities could be available to far more artists who have chosen art as their field of interest if the dream of free money is not there. We all know someone wins the lottery and we all know some artist gets an available grant..but what of the many, many who tried but did not?
Sometimes life becomes less complicated when you decide that your success will come when you begin to work at it…maybe there is something to that saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” after all! 🙂