There are those in this community that desire a more flourishing local arts scene, and, as I’ve stated in previous blogs, and there is a growing amount of community support for grassroots independent artists in our city. The elements necessary for fostering creative talent and retaining it should be addressed before any hopes of creating an actual art scene here can be realized.
The necessity of creating an atmosphere that supports local arts and artists is beginning to be addressed. I’ve heard many people express a desire to “support arts”, but my skepticism, based on previous personal experiences, with this desire from some comes from the knowledge of knowing that many may not actually know how to support local arts in our community.
One of the first and most obvious ways is to support it financially. This doesn’t always mean throwing public funds at arts groups events for the sake of culture. Although there are many sources of funding and grants for artists, this can become the equivalent of cultural welfare cheques for organizations and events locally. I’m not doubting the importance of such grants and funding, but there may be many who argue that it might be viewed as “wasteful” for taxpayers, especially if it isn’t appreciated by the community as a whole. Simply put, solely relying on grants or public funds is an extremely limited option for arts and culture.
Encouragement of private funding initiatives is currently being explored and experimented with at The HardWay, and the results will not be in for that until after August 15th. So far, it has worked as a venue for artists to actually be able to market their work through sales. Some, especially in our locally depressed economy, might not have enough expendable income to purchase larger artworks outright, but it should be noted that many local artists do sell their own merchandise as well, such as smaller prints and pictures of their work. These are also the results of an individuals creative talent, for a smaller size and more cost-efficient option for consumers. Another option for fiscally supporting artists is to hire artists work by commission for specific requested use of their skills. Yet another option, utilized by some clients and businesses dealing with the public, is renting art from artists. Where one nay not have the funds to purchase a piece outright, it may be enjoyed for a length of time only. This is also a way for walks to remain eclectic and refreshed regularly, allowing an artist to still maintain income from their work.
Many should also be made aware of the value of art, not only monetarily, but socially and culturally. All too often, many may look at an abstract painting, or a photograph, and feel that they can easily replicate the same results themselves, therefore devaluating the cultural and monetary value in their own minds. This “cheapens” art, both fiscally and culturally. Many artists work very hard, have invested much into themselves, and, therefore, their artworks are not merely the application of their creative technique to a medium, but countless hours and resources in getting to the point to obtain the skills to produce the artwork being viewed. Haggling a price for a “deal” with the artist only further cheapens the whole experience, leaving many artists feeling their work has been socially devalued as well as monetarily.
This feeling of being socially devalued can be quite discouraging. There’s many times where I’ve been asked “what my real/other job is”. Granted, there are some who pursue artistic careers who may have financial dependence in other employment, but there are also some whose sole employment is arts and culture. Although not all may live an idyllic lifestyle to be able to pursue arts with little worry of financial responsibilities, there are many artists I’ve personally encountered locally who may and have been fortunate enough enough to solely live on this as income. This has not come without hard work and resolve from the artists themselves by tirelessly producing, networking, and marketing their own artwork.
The easiest way to support your local artist is by showing them support by helping the artists network and market. If you can’t afford a local artist’s work that you like, then tell others about it. I don’t know how many times I’ve obtained new commissions and customers through word of mouth or social media. I’ve been approached by many prospective clients and customers after being told by a friend/relative/coworker/acquaintance about my work. I’m sure this happens to others. Currently, the enornous attention attracted by BLX and The HardWay is due not only to privately sponsored advertising, nor only local media, but by the “buzz” created by all the chatter, both online and on the streets, of what is happening here. That chatter has already attracted interest and talent from not only outside of Welland, but much further than our own regional borders.
Most of this “buzz” was created by this last year of BLX art shows, events, and initiatives that encouraged attendance and participation from the community. I’m very thankful for this, because this response from the local community was not only great at bringing people together, but helping get the word out about local independent artists. Simply attending and participating with local artists is a great way to show support; I’ve heard many local music fans complain that there is a lack of a certain “scene”, yet I’ve seen few of these same critics attend other local events. If you create it, that’s awesome, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. I encourage you all to take advantage of what local independent arts and artists gave to offer. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you find in your own neighborhood.