Throwing Bones

In a city that prides itself on being a supportive place where creative people can do their thang, the cost of living here is slowly killing that climate. Despite what citizens with Keep Austin Weird and No War in Iraq bumper stickers neatly emblazoned on the back of their SUVs/VWs/recumbent bikes seem to take for granted, we artists aren’t just colorful mascots or animatronic robots appearing in the hippie/hipster theme park that is Austin. We don’t wear masks just because someone expects us to perform (unless there’s irony involved perhaps). Living as an artist means quite the opposite – it’s about being truthful, whatever that truth may be, to yourself and the people looking at you/your work. Perhaps I’m being optimistic here, but art is ultimately about integrity, not survival of the fittest. So no one buys your paintings. So you don’t even show your work. Does that mean you should just give up?

Visual art is finally starting to be taken seriously in this city, even if by a small number of people. But with music, art’s (unwitting?) frenemy, vastly overshadowing the creative scene here, most people aren’t sure how to look at it.

Let me put it another way. One of music’s most unique qualities is its absorbabilty, the way it can totally wash over your mind and body, or, on the opposite end, how you can shut it out. But art is, by nature, confrontational. It forces itself upon your eye and your space. And this quality makes it more complex and sometimes prickly to support – financially and emotionally as a viewer.

The best form of support is financial, whether it’s buying a piece or simply a donation at the door. And no, unless you are a friend of someone showing, you do not “support” artists by simply sipping wine at openings, and dropping pocket change in the donation jar. That may work fine for live music, although I’m sure it pisses a lot of musicians off when audiences are yapping and showing obvious disinterest during their shows.

But a lot of non-artists I meet seem afraid of pissing off the artists with their interpretations, their thoughts – whether they think the work is BS or the most engrossing thing they’ve ever seen. What these timid viewers don’t realize is that thoughtful comments are a needed and appreciated form of support. If an artist is showing their work, chances are they probably don’t want to work in a vaccuum and are putting it out there to get some reaction. What I’m getting at is that we as artists have to be vocal about encouraging the type of support we need.

Now that I’ve aired this festering rant I hope to turn over a more positive leaf.


  • Bigredbarbie

    You know, the funny part about this to me is how many artists in this town are fucking ignorant of the financial opportunities the city offers them, or they think they’re too cool or offbeat to pursue them.

    I brought up the art at city hall at an art show the other day (Actually YOUR art show) and the people in the conversation either A) had no clue what I was talking about or B) dismissed me. Being a real artists doesn’t just mean you need to be a professional elitist a-hole it means you also need to be a professional business person. In my opinion that means recognizing a venue like city hall that will pay for your work and prominently display it to some of the most wealthy, powerful and influential people in the city.

    I don’t lead the artist lifestyle but I totally hear your struggle, and thankfully we live in a city that recognizes your struggle as well and tries to foster art through commissions like first night and art in public places.

    Anyone interested in submitting their work to the city can do so here:

  • artdiva

    Big Red – Sorry it’s taken me awhile to get back with you. Thanks for coming out to our show in February. I saw Senalka’s picture on ASW. I wasn’t expecting the weather to be cold and didn’t have time to re-think my outfit. 🙂

    I agree that a lot of artists are total flakes and don’t care enough to put the effort into applying themselves to more formal opportunities out there like submitting to calls for entries, public art markets, etc. Then they bitch about not getting shown. So annoying.

    Most of the artists with business sense and a strong work ethic I know do indeed put effort out there, but are often stretched thin with so many projects that they do not have the time/energy to do more. It is more difficult than one would imagine to produce good work, savvily market it, be involved in the community, and have some kind of steady income.


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