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Art and Accessibility

In the world of art and artists, accessibility is lacking. Why don't we truly value what artists do in our society?


The starving artist is a term I could assume most people would be familiar with. And, for the most part, I think it would be safe to say most people pair the two together when thinking about artISTS, and not art. I've always wondered why that is.

I have been intrigued by the arts since forever. Short stories, movies and film, illustration, painting, stage acting, dance, singing; it was all so captivating to me. Seeing a movie and wondering, How did someone come up with all of this story and all these character? Reading Edgar Allen Poe and thinking, How does someone get this good at articulating images? Seeing paintings on the wall in museums and asking, "How does someone get so good at understanding light and color and dimension?"

Moving up through high school it became more and more common for me to hear terms like "the starving artist" used to describe me based on my interests that I pursued most actively. This brought me to wonder how there could be art so valuable it would be protected by security with lines of people waiting to see the pieces; art so cherished that during times of war it was sought after to destroy, to try and extinguish and control a society; actors so well trained in their craft that people would line up to buy tickets to watch them; dancers so masterful in technique that theaters could require a dress code for entry, and yet those creators and performers could be deemed starving artists.

And while I don't have the answers, even though I have a plethora of suspicion as to why artists and performers are so undervalued (outside of Hollywood?), I do have my own experiences and thoughts.

After spending years in high school taking all of the art classes that there were to offer, and participating in as many of the art based extra curricular offerings available to me, I continued to pursue art in a collegiate setting. After spending a few years there, I started to understand that this really was going to be a "starving artist" kind of game. 

Most of my creative endeavors were in studio based art: drawing, painting, sculpture. I dabbled in the realm of creative writing, but stuck mostly to studio. After a few years, I decided to exit the academic institution and pursue art professionally and do the side hustle game. Needless to say, the side hustles almost always became the focus. Starving artist indeed.

Eventually the idea of doing art at all became almost a joke to me. Finding galleries, submitting work, playing the gallery game, trying to think of ways to even break into the game, hell maybe even just make one sale. (This was pre-internet boom so online selling was still very new).

It was only until just recently that I began to really get back into the idea of art. After about ten years of just working jobs in the coffee world (a nice little pairing for the art community I must say), I am just re-exploring the artistic landscape. Sure, a few drawings here, a few paintings there I'm sure. But mostly it was just to see if I had even any skill after not even thinking about it for so long. And how it even came back to the front of my mind was really an accident. 

I had discovered a gallery that I had ended up getting work in (there was a coffee shop in the front). The idea of this particular gallery was that it was all about accessibility (finally the titular concept of this essay!). Accessibility for artists, for art patrons, basically for anybody that even liked art. It was about harboring and supporting the artistic community. 

In reality, the gallery scene is pretty shady. There's even videos floating around the internet describing just why it's so hard for artists to be featured, and for people to even be able to buy art. It's all fabricated! "Good" art, "priceless" art, "up and coming" artists; all based on... nothing! 

What we really need in the art community is accessibility. We need to create ourselves some spaces to be able to show work. And, also, we need spaces that will allow people to purchase work in an accessible way. Nobody wants to pay $10,000 just because the gallery charges $2,000 to hang the piece for 30 days and takes a 60% sale commission (if they aren't even turned away from the sale to create false exclusivity). And no artist wants a piece priced at $10,000 just to earn $1,000 (if they're lucky). 

Art is so important to society.  We treasure it, put it up on billboards, hang it behind glass in temperature controlled environments, watch it on big screens and on stages, purchase it to decorate and add life to our living and working spaces. And yet we also drastically undervalue it as well. It has always been a desire of mine to be able to do something with art. I spent so much of my youth immersed in it. 

Ghandi said to "be the change you wish to see in the world." Perhaps spending more time following in this gallery's footsteps and creating more accessible art spaces is what we art folk should do. 

I invite all to ask themselves, "How does art influence my daily life?"

I'd also ask all my fellow art folk out there to ask ourselves, "What can we do to make art more accessible to all?"