None of us created the world we were born into. We didn’t get to decide what kind of talents we were born with either. You could argue that those of us who have chosen to create art in all its myriad forms, were destined to be creative artists. Or you could argue that anyone who spends the majority of their time “working” on things that don’t generally turn a profit, is not fulfilling their destiny, just crazy. What’s the point? Why do you put enormous energy into pulling off yet another theatre production? Why do you shell out more money for more paint supplies? Why do you keep going to poetry open mics or writing books that never make it to the New York Times bestseller list? Surely it’s not for the money.
I’ve been thinking about money lately. Who doesn’t think about money whether they want to or not? Those printed pieces of paper that are only worth something because we are told they represent worth, they cause a lot of heartache either way. If you have too much it transforms the people around you. If you don’t have enough your life can become a tragedy. This system that we were all born into here in America dictates that if you are ambitious about producing and presenting big arts projects you will have to go out with your hat out and ask people, companies, corporations and governments for money, because your work will not have any dollar value on its own. It’s time to get away from all that and find a different way to manifest what must be expressed.
Back in the nineties I wrote a few grant applications for a not-for-profit that required many hours of preparation, and gave no assurance that there would be a reward at the end. Many not-for-profits operate solely on budgets with strings attached to foundations and other charitable entities. The arts are nothing but a charity in the United States. Few public school children get any kind of arts education these days. Even less people even seem to care. But I care. And if you’ve read this far, you care too. It occurred to me that one thing we can do as a group is begin to think about ways to operate without money, or beyond money or even in spite of money.
Last week I brought up the idea of an international event on the scale of the Olympics, for the Arts. Now I know this is a far stretch, but can you imagine if it could be mounted without any corporate funding? Could it be done without asking anyone for money? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that it would take cooperation and creativity. When we talk about a concentration of power, we are usually referring to a concentration of resources which a few people have control over. They’re the ones who get the lion’s share of the money that’s in circulation. What do artists have? The power of creativity. Creativity is a great resource or renewable energy. It’s also the thing that can get us out from under the boot, and elevate the artist to an appropriate stature in society.
What do you think? Should the government solve our problems? Should corporations solve our problems? Can we communicate with each other and create new avenues for freedom of expression? Please join me on Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm PST, for a call in radio show discussing the arts and arts professionals in today’s world. You can also start a new topic or join one of the existing ones on our bulletin board. I will refer to suggestions and ideas posted on the bulletin board during the radio show, and use the bulletin board as a tool to continue the discussion between each second Tuesday of the month radio show.
Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims
The internet has only been around for about ten years. I didn’t grow up with a cell phone or a laptop. I still wrote my essay assignments in high school by hand. I still have a writer’s bump on my right middle finger to prove that I wrote some long essays. I read books, old books, new books, used books, trashy books, great books. I listened to records and spent time looking at album covers. Sometimes I went to the library. Being into artistic type things, dreaming of being a writer, I was warned that I wasn’t likely to make much of a living like that. The same was true for teens like me, definitely not jocks, or physicists either, all across the country. Recently I was talking with some Pacifica Radio colleagues of mine from the nineties, about radio programming today. One told me that “nobody reads books anymore.” Another one said that “they don’t give more than ten minutes of airtime to authors.” Apparently no one buys albums anymore either. They just download singles. They need information; they enter keywords. I’m not saying what is bad or what is good. But what should a writer do? Write books? Movie scripts? Video game scripts with multiple endings? Morph into a multi-media performance artist? Personally, I prefer not to allow the market to dictate what I create. It’s helpful to remember, actually, to continually remind ourselves, like a mantra, what our motives are for our creations. In the case of writing, one thing is certain. A story is at the heart of the matter. Whether you are telling a story to a group of children, or selling your brand of soap on TV, there is a struggle and an outcome. There was a time when nobody read at all. And for a long time, only a few people read, and they held the printed word up as if it was sacred, as if it was THE TRUTH. The truth is that stories are older than books. Pictures are older than alphabets. It’s not true though, that nobody reads books anymore, or newspapers. It may seem hard to believe, but one day someone is going to say ‘nobody watches TV anymore.’ But what all this really means is that the story is being told with different tools. I’m halfway through a new book by Ana Castillo, “The Guardians” an example of storytelling at its best. I search for stuff on the internet all the time. I put on old records, and I download mp3’s too, and podcast and chat and twitter. What concerns me in this changing landscape is the status and well being of the creative artist. During the whole time that the Olympics were happening in Beijing I kept thinking that what the world needs is an international arts event of the same stature as the Olympics is for sports. When Dizzy Gillespie visited Cuba he gave a concert with a band of musicians who were Americans and Cubans. He commented to a huge crowd of fans that they were demonstrating to their political leaders how it can be done. The way I see it, no matter what the political controversy is that surrounds the Olympics, the fact that all these athletes come together and display their skills and sportsmanship at the heights of human achievement is awe inspiring. Just imagine, if there was an arts event of the same magnitude, how it would improve the stature and the funding of the arts all over the world. How little kids would pick up instruments, recite poetry, rehearse in state-of-the-art theaters… That really would be a change, wouldn’t it? Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims
The internet has only been around for about ten years. I didn’t grow up with a cell phone or a laptop. I still wrote my essay assignments in high school by hand. I still have a writer’s bump on my right middle finger to prove that I wrote some long essays. I read books, old books, new books, used books, trashy books, great books. I listened to records and spent time looking at album covers. Sometimes I went to the library. Being into artistic type things, dreaming of being a writer, I was warned that I wasn’t likely to make much of a living like that. The same was true for teens like me, definitely not jocks, or physicists either, all across the country. Continue reading