This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
In the last 7 years I've talked to thousands of artists -- ranging from artists living within populations of 100,000 or more to artists living in rural communities of less than 300. I've noticed a common complaint among artists no matter where they live -- that being, the lack of community art programs and area opportunities for artists. I always end up asking a variant of, "What have you done to support your local art community outside of creating art?" or "Have you done anything to help get your art community off the ground?" when faced with these complaints. The responses are alarmingly similar in that the majority of artists tend to make excuses about why they have not supported their local art community OR have done nothing to establish an art community within their area if one does not exist. It is as if they are waiting for something to happen instead of taking initiative. Point blank -- I've come to the conclusion that more artists need to be doers instead of being waiters.
The excuses for not supporting, establishing, or expanding a local art community are always the same... though they may take a different approach depending on where the artist lives. Artists living in a large city will say, "The art opportunities that exist function like a buddy system -- I'm not in 'their' system.", "I don't have the money to do that here.", "No one will take me seriously."... and so on. Those in smaller communities will say, "I don't have money to do that.", "No one will support that here.", "People here are not interested in art."... and so on. Negativism knows no boundaries -- one can be caught in it no matter where he or she lives.
As you may have noticed -- the excuses are generally the same. These artists don't help to shape or create their local art community because they are concerned about funding and other forms of support. My guess is that most of the artists who have came to me with complaints of this nature will likely do nothing to improve their situation -- they have allowed themselves to be bogged down by negativity... so much so that positive advice rarely gets that far. In fact, it often seems that artists who come to me with these complaints want me to agree with them -- they want me to say, "You're right. Give up. There is no use in trying.". Sorry folks... I have too much faith in art -- and artists-- for that.
I understand that funding -- and other forms of support -- is a real concern. I won't deny that. It is a certain reality. It does take money -- and time for that matter. That said, if every individual backed down from what they know they should be doing due to worries about money, time spent, and community support... well, nothing would ever get done. Waiting for someone else to do it is not the answer. Unfortunately, I've found that many artists are caught in this form of self-depreciating behavior. They have enthralled themselves to defeatism. In that sense, this little article of mine is a wake up call.
I realize that optimism can be blind. In other words, I understand that some communities-- especially very small towns-- may never embrace art solidly. However, that does not mean that a larger town near the small towns that make up your community can't become a spearhead for the local art community as a whole. As for art communities in larger cities -- small changes overtime can, and have, made a difference. Key point -- you must throw the excuses aside and focus on finding like-minded individuals who support the cause. If you try to tackle it by yourself -- you will more than likely fail.
By now I'm certain that some of you are asking, "how does an artist help to expand upon -- or establish -- an art community?". As implied above, I think the starting point comes with finding others who have the same desire. Point blank -- an artist must find like-minded artists and others who are interested in beefing up local interest in art. Chances are that if you are wishing for more art-wise in your community there are others within the community who have the same dream. There is strength in numbers. If you desire to help provide opportunities for artists -- and the public as a whole -- you must approach it with a team effort. From there you must pull resources together for the task at hand.
Expanding or establishing a local art community is no easy task. The resources needed to pull it off involve more than just money. You will need people who are willing to invest time. Furthermore, you will need people who are willing to pull strings with those who travel in their social circles. For example, a local newspaper reporter who happens to be an admirer of art is the perfect ally to have at your side. Local business owners who appreciate art -- and appreciate the exposure that may come from their support -- are also good allies to have. In other words, you have to think outside of the box -- and extend your hand to as many people of influence that you can within your community.
In closing, I will touch on this topic of expanding/creating a local art community again soon -- including suggestions for funding. For now the key point I want to make is that in order to expand upon or establish an art community within your local community you must first get over the common excuses that have held so many artists back. From there you must assemble a team for the cause -- find others who share the same desire that you do. Once you have the numbers you will want to take advantage of contacts outside of your merry band in order to spread the cause further. You have to be a doer -- not a waiter -- if you want your local art community to thrive.
Take care, Stay true