Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That dangerous step down the road to socialism

Well, there we were last night at a dance preview.  A friend of a friend, choreographer Todd Courage   lacked financial backing, but with a lot of friends, put on a preview of the work he is set to put up at the JCC later this year.  Needing cash to compleat the thing (costumes, lighting tech, publicity, and what not), he threw a preview party, and showed portions of the work in progress, made sure everyone had plenty of wine and sugar to get the checkbbooks lossened up, and hustle hustle hustled. 
I had never been to such a thing, but thought it a brilliant move on Todd's part.  Plenty of people in this town who still have the green, and if they can feel connected to what's going on, all the better.  They are just patrons, so they give support, but have no say in the shape the work takes.

Todd, like myself, has many years put in as a creative force, so his gathering really got me thinking about what it means to be an aging artist in this world. One who has not achieved a lucrative full time career in their chosen field.  The young are solidly  connected with a profusion of peers all hooked together in the rituals of mating.  Not yet firmly established, they are all too willing to dive in, in order to gain a reputation, or to build their portfolio. For the most talented, or the most aggressive, support networks coalesce into professional networks. Few continue their work into mid adulthood who are either late bloomers, or who are too far out front of what is common in the marketplace.

For the performing artist, especially for those in the director role, the choice of continuing to undertake ensemble projects requires either riches or madness. Not only must one come up with the space to create and the venue for performance. but a troop of musicians, actors, or dancers (for a musical, all three) are either expensive to hire, or a monster to organize (often both).  Our new friend Todd needs costumes for his troop, being a choreographer, not a clothing designer, he then needs to collaborate with someone to realize his sartorial vision, and while materials can break the bank by themselves, serious design talent costs.  The same is true of having a score written, lighting designed.... and the list can get very long.

Even in the microcosm of Go Van Gogh  there are many moving parts.  In a "Group" as opposed to a "Project", one can often find the skills within the team. Go Van Gogh creates all its own promotional material, does its own graphics and web design.  But who is to say that the group would not fare better in the marketplace if all these tasks we
re handed over to a full time pro.  Some one who can devote far more amassed skill than any part timer in that role. 

Those who have made that difficult step into full time professionals of their creative crafts, must marshal their time in financially lucrative ways.  While thats great for their craft, it  may in some cases, be less wonderful for their art.  A work for hire, after all is not a true collaboration.  It is an effort fully subjugated to the requirements of capital.  

This opens the door for those who are not so encumbered to jump ahead creatively, and snatch opportunities of a different sort.  I personally know dozens of very skilled and creative people who are laboring at jobs that either don't fly high enough, or have little to do with their aspirations.  They have spent years acquiring skills and experience, and now when asked for their time, wish to be payed at the same rate as full time professionals in that line.

Who can blame them.   

I can.  Through ego, or the wish not to be seen as a lesser light, they are throwing opportunity on the scrap heap. It is a marketplace after all.  To be taken seriously you must show your track record.  Rehearsing your band for 10 years may make for a tight set, but the club needs to know how many drinks they will sell.   This is demonstrated by how many drinks you sold at the last place.  The same is true in every discipline.  If you are a fine graphic artist, who has published your work.  What campaigns have you created as a marketer.  What copy have you published as a journalist.

You see how it is.  By insisting that the world bend to our ideas of the marketplace, we cut ourselves off from synergistic opportunities.  The very work that could gets you out into the publics eye.  The very affirmation that the marketplace demands.

So I call on my fellow creatives to create together.  Not selflessly, not as charity, not without objective. Look around you.  Who in your network, your community, is doing great but under appreciated work.  Who could benefit from what you do, but can't afford to pay your asking price.  Is there a possible trade off of visibility, or even the exchange of services.  The musician who writes a piece for a dance troop may end up with a paid commission down the line.  A visual artist who designs and paints a set for a play might have their other work displayed for sale in the theatre lobby.  The possibilities are huge.  And if you must be paid for your time, consider working on a sliding scale for projects that might take flight, or that allows you to more fully realize the work you prefer to do.

Or you can keep trying to claw your way in to the "dog eat dog" world that passes for art, intellectual property, and commerce.  Personally I would rather inhabit a scene where the operating principle is "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their need".

Thats all for now.




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