Recently I came across something that made my blood boil. No, nothing to do with politics nothing to do about the state of education, but it did have to do art. It was a picture of a couple holding art they bought from a local fair. But wait a minute Shannon, supporting local artists is a good thing! The caption for this tone deaf photograph was along the lines of “ Us: We need to save money. Also us: So glad we got this down $50 from the asking price!”
If you want to see me go zero to sixty in 3.2 seconds it’s watching the flagrant display of economic privilege online. (And before you roll your eyes and say I can’t say that because I don't know them, this particular couple has not been shy in other posts about what they do for a living, and one half of that couple has a public salary, I can throw around the P word when it comes to their wallet.) This post got me, and here’s why. Apparently it’s okay for this person to talk down someone’s self-worth. Because that’s what an asking price for a piece of art is. An artist of any medium, whether it be theater or painting, writing or music. The prices assigned to art by an artist helps them to create again.
Look, I am all about a bargain. I shop at Target, hit up Dollar Tree like it’s a hobby for classroom supplies, and my neck cranes when I drive by a yard sale. And I love looking at original art. It never crossed my mind to merge my bargain lot inside with the side of me that loves art.
When you are looking at a piece of art you do not see the un- billable hours it took to create. You do not see the student loan debt, the trips to the local supply store to buy supplies, the check the artist has to hand in order to sell their art at most fairs. You do not see that they spend their hours upon hours hoping someone appreciates the work enough to buy it and again there is no hourly wage for sitting out in the sun trying to sell your art.
Now I am sure people will argue that I do not see how badly that couple wanted to painting. I do not see their bills. (I also didn't see the name of the artist because they didn't even have the decency to share the artist's name.) And yeah that’s true. I don’t see those things. I did see a self-proclaimed power couple holding a painting someone lovingly made. I did see the privilege they had over that artist. The privilege that maybe many people feel they have over an artist; that they are entitled to pay what they feel is an all right asking price for art they did not create. Let me say this loud enough for the people in the back; Art you do not create is not your right to bargain as if you’re sitting in someone’s driveway haggling over the price of a 20 year old tennis racket. Now of course it is our right as Americans to be able to express ourselves with art. It is our right as Americans to be able to attend art. To appreciate art. But that right does not extend itself over the creation of someone’s art itself. It is not our right to own art you did not create. I've never seen someone haggle the sales associate at Dick's over a Marchand jersey, or employees at Panera over their pick-two lunch. So why is it okay to do this to an artist? For a society that claims to support small businesses, why don't we extend that same courtesy to our local artists? Our painters, sculptors, actors, musicians. How many times have you as an artist been asked to give something for free "for the exposure?" It is a privilege when an artist shares their art with the world. It is an honor. So when you are out this year at the Providence flea or any other of the pop-up shops don’t be a doofus. There is so much that goes into creating a piece of art. And if you think it is overpriced maybe you don’t value it as much as you think you can. If you think it is overpriced and you can do a better job then pick up a paintbrush. Put your money where your mouth is.
And for God's sake please credit the artist on social media.