>Peace Corps for Artists?

>There’s been some buzz that President-Elect Obama wants to establish an Art Corps — sort of a Peace Corps for the arts within the United States.

The idea is a great one — but with a huge flaw that perpetuates the idea that artists don’t need to make a living.
I get ahead of myself.
The Art Corps doesn’t exist yet, but there’s talk that visual and performing artists would be recruited to volunteer their time in schools and communities to fill the gaps left when arts are eliminated from budgets because of funding emergencies. Now certainly is the time for that. From what I’ve seen first-hand, arts education in our schools is just awful. It seems that too many teachers are uninspired, overwhelmed, or don’t care anymore. And why should they care? There’s no money, and art and music are considered “electives” — fun courses. They don’t really mean anything, do they?
Some arts teachers are bad artists themselves, or don’t bother to continue to work on their craft. I’m still seething over a teacher my daughter had who “corrected” the students’ sculptures if she didn’t like some of the elements! That’s appalling! The students went home defeated, not accomplished.
We need more art and music — from working visual and performing artists — in our schools and communities at all levels. In fact, I would be first in line to sign up.
So where’s the flaw in this plan? Asking artists and musicians to volunteer — again — continues the myth that art is not a worthy profession, able to sustain a family. There was an opinion poll released recently that suggested that 90 percent of people polled supported art and wanted art in their lives, but only about 10 percent of those people valued artists — they thought art was not a valued profession. In other words, they wanted the result but not the people that create it. 
Art isn’t something artists do in their spare time — or it shouldn’t be. Art isn’t frivolous. It’s a driving passion. Art and music add to the quality of our lives. Art enriches, inspires, entertains, bemuses and makes us think. Art makes us grow. Art saves lives.
Then why delegate it to spare time, trust-funders or people who are supported by a spouse with a good job? Why do we assume that artists should be “starving?” Artists are asked to volunteer our time and energy and talent — and the fruits of those efforts — a lot! And we do — a lot.
I’ve worked in schools, hospitals and community settings for little or no money. I’ve seen children and adults discover the joy of creation, and revel in accomplish they didn’t know was possible. I watched students surprise their teachers with work that the teachers thought was impossible from these ” bad kids.” I’ve seen very sick kids smile with pride, forgetting their pain for a moment.
Art saves lives. It’s not frivolous. In a school, it’s as important as math. In a hospital, it’s as vital as the right treatment. In our community, it’s as useful as good streets.
I think the Art Corps is a great idea. But while we’re at it, let’s remember validate the work of the volunteers who will be going into the schools and communities. Let’s add those artists’ works to our public collections, commission visual and performing work from them that we pay for, and elevate their status in our communities.
Working visual and performing artists are vital contributors to our humanity. Let’s treat them like we believe it.  

About jeanevogelart

Art saves lives. That's my mantra and my motivation. My primary purpose as an artist is to inspire, entertain, make you smile, make you mad, make you think or recall a memory. I strive for work that is intimate and genuine, and sometimes whimsical. It's always more than a "pretty picture." I demand a relationship.
This entry was posted in Art, Art Saves Lives, Artist QuickFix, Politics, Soap_Box. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to >Peace Corps for Artists?

  1. >Jeane:One of the little-known facts about the WPA was that it provided jobs (i.e. money) for artists! If the new administration is going to focus on building infrastructure, assuming people will just volunteer to build infrastructure is seriously flawed.And art is infrastructure – infrastructure for the spirit. I am SOOO grateful for your blog for always balancing between the beauty of your art and the spirit in your voice. Keep it up!!!Happy New Year, my friend!HG

  2. Jeane Vogel says:

    >Hildy, I agree. A WPA-type program is needed too!

  3. Amy Kincaid says:

    >I’m with you both. Has anyone suggested a new-today-arts-wpa at change.org?

  4. RMCotton says:

    >Wonderful thoughts!!I agree that we are undervalued as fine artists. It is very frustrating to me that I can design a website and charge $3000 for it, but I can’t sell an original painting for over $500. More often that not, more hours, more struggles, more growth, and more beauty come from the painting.We are also the same culture, mind you, that loves to put a big ole billboard right in front of a gorgeous view.Kudos on the article – I will share it on Facebook with all of my friends – artsy or not!

  5. liza myers says:

    >This is such a great conversation. So glad to have found it! Having taught art for 33 years in public & private schools, and MANY volunteer situations I know from personal experience just as you do… Art empowers, guides and illuminates. It isn't frivolous. And it rankles that the football team gets more support. A new WPA is brilliant.Thanks!

  6. jessica says:

    >eloquently stated!

  7. Anonymous says:

    >I agree that a new WPA is the way of the future for artists in America! And a big part of it’s on-going success may depend on how we educate the public-at-large on art – artists, who is touched by art, the process, the history of, etc. Perhaps we start attention grabbing by broadcasting art’s success stories. Just think of the wonderful television commercials – can you envision “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…” And online donation drives – buy art! So many profitable scenarios for artists and supporters alike! We just need the forum and the public awareness.Let’s keep our fingers crossed and has anyone sent Obama your writing/blog url, Jeane?Best Regards,Kathy Maniscalco

  8. hugh macleod says:

    >As a full-time artist who does pretty well professionally, and as someone who has also spent time in the wine business…Wine and art have something in common. It’s not that people don’t value art and wine- they do- the problem is an old one:Over-supply.As Robert Hughes famously quipped: More students graduate with art degrees every year in the USA, than lived in Florence at the height of the Renaissance.And if you ever visit a wine-making region, particularly South of the Equator, be prepared to see vast storage tanks of unsold wine, as far as the eye can see.The trick in this business is not in the making; it’s in the selling. And it’s always been that way…

  9. Jeane Vogel says:

    >Thanks for all the comments. Clearly we have some work do to in our profession. Anyone know how to get this blog and comments in front of the Obama team? Any one know who buys art for the White House?And Hugh, I agree with you completely. I’m a working artist also and know that sales are the key. I’m not sure we suffer from an abundance of ARTISTS as much as an abundance of BAD ART! Now that’s something we should police. (That’s a joke.)

  10. >Show romanizationI agree with this and that it helps the development of the sensitivity of people and this could help more people to fight for good causes …excellent Obama's initiative

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