Starving artists

Rose and I took our children to see Magic Tree House: a Night in Old New Orleans tonight at the Magik Theatre, a great theater for children here in San Antonio.  Based on one of the books in the Magic Tree House series, it featured a brother and a sister time-travelling to 1915 New Orleans where they met Louis Armstrong.  In the story, Armstrong had given up on his dream of being a musician in lieu of higher paying jobs such as delivering coal and bananas.

I don’t know if this is historically accurate or not, but regardless, it made me think about how this is an endless struggle for all artists and creative types.  A friend of mine showed me a book called Writer with a Day Job.  Isn’t that the default type of writer?  I don’t presume to know the numbers, but the writers who are able to make their living solely off their art can’t be a plurality, or even a high percentage.  I suspect that sentence would be true even if you substitute “writers” for “musicians” or “painters” or “poets” or any other kind of artist.

In short, the phrase “starving artist” exists for a reason.  Art is beautiful, and we all love it and crave it deep in our hearts.  It is part of what makes humans unique compared to all other species.  But for most, it doesn’t pay the bills.

Rose and I have a simple strategy we employ to make a very small effort towards combating this.  We support artists.  If we’re at a farmer’s market and there is a musician playing with an open instrument case, we throw in what we can.  We’re suckers for art walks or other similar art marketplaces.  When we’re on vacation, if there’s some kind of souvenir to be had that is hand-crafted by an artist, guess what we’re taking home?

It’s not much, but it’s something.  Because art is worth supporting.

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