What is the future of art? I ask this question for many reasons, but mainly because I am an artist in need of income, and I was intrigued by Tara’s recent post, What’s the Future of Work? Tara does a video interview with Dr. Susan Bernstein on the topic of future work, aligning talent or skills with with problems that need to be solved, and creating passionate work. This does not mean we are all entrepreneurs, but that we find a way to work for, or with, people in a way that makes the best use of our true skills, those that make us come alive.
Susan believes that we need to be very clear about what really matters to us in these uncertain times, and then figure out what we can offer to help solve specific problems. I have been going down this path in recent months, so I really perked up at her ideas.
Instead of looking for jobs, look for people.
This is about people and connections, not competition and how to get to the top. We are moving out of the era of “he who dies with the most toys wins,” and into the era of we that have the most connections win. In Susan’s words,
It’s all about people connections. It’s all about community. It’s all about us coming together.
These are exactly the kinds of things I have been thinking and discussing lately. It makes me giddy to hear others bringing this stuff to the table!
So, how does this apply to art, and what the heck do I mean by less being much more?
As I watch what is going on in our country with the Occupy movement, I have a great sense of hope. In Philadelphia this is a diverse gathering of people, many unemployed, some homeless working together as a small community to ask questions, share experience, and look for solutions to the problem that is “Corporate America.” Not all are in agreement about the issues or solutions, but they are coming together and talking, eating, watching films, making music, and making art.
I defer here to Jen Louden, who wrote so beautifully about it last week:
It (Occupy Wall Street) is calling you to ask yourself, “Do I want to create a society based on selfishness and materialism or a society based on caring and equality?”
Occupy Wall Street is not about politics – not first.
It is about waking up and asking, “What is fair? What is right? What am I willing to do to take action on what I believe?
What am I willing to do to take action on what I believe? I am currently involved in the planning and creation of an annual community festival in the town of Phoenixville, PA. I am going to be an art vendor at the festival, as well as coordinating the art vendors. My husband and I are both involved in the building of the giant wooden phoenix that will be burned at the end of the day. Yes, that is last year’s bird up there in the picture!
Last year was the first I’d heard of this festival and I was a vendor; this year we are neck deep in it, and loving it. I see so many possibilities for what the future of art might be.
On September 27 we went to our first Phoenixville Firebird Festival meeting at the home of Charles Sega, the designer of this year’s bird. We had never met Charles nor most of the people in the group. By the end of the evening we had voted on one of two bird designs presented, and confirmed responsibilities for the many facets of the festival based on skill and desire. On the 2nd of October, five guys and a handful of women showed up to start building. Again, many did not know one another at all or well, but we came together and got the job done. I see this as an example of the future of work, art, and life.
When I went to college for art there were two main choices. Being an artist meant either going into the practical world of the applied arts, or the starving artists’ world of the fine arts. That has not changed, really, but my thinking about it has. I went the safe route with a degree in Illustration, but I have never really made a career of it. Nor am I starving while I make art that delights me, but I am in need of income. What skills do I have that can serve this changing environment?
As an illustrator I am great at conceiving conceptual imagery that can help people see things differently or more clearly. As a teacher I can help others learn to create images that help them do the same. As a writer and lover of story, I can use words with and without images to inspire, teach, enlighten. I could go on, but you get the idea. I am not just concerned about making art and trading it for dollars, rather to do that AND use it to contribute to help create a society based on caring and equality.
I see the future of art in festivals like the Firebird, in workshops to discover what lights us up, in communities creating beautiful spaces for gathering.
I see the future of art as owning a few really beautiful and well made things rather than a myriad of borderline junk. Less is more. Much more.
“That’s great, Gwyn,” you may be thinking, “but where is the pay check?” Well I can’t say for sure, but since starting to put the word out last week that I am available for this, that, and the other, things are coming up. I am looking for people, not a job, and I believe that will make all the difference. I’ll let you know down the road.
We are waking up, albeit slowly, to the idea that life as it was 10 years ago is not coming back. We are paring down our belongings, decluttering, allowing for less stuff and more connection. I see the future of art as a means for that connection.
What do you see as the future of art?