Recently, for the first time in my life, I’ve been standing on street corners soliciting signatures for a petition. At first, it was intimidating to approach total strangers, but I reminded myself that the initiative I was hoping to see on the ballot was important, and I trusted that other people would see that too.
Most people are polite, even when they turn me down. Several wave me off without a second glance. Only one has been outright rude. The initiative is to help create a Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in our county, which will bring millions of dollars to our area for nonprofits that work in the arts and sciences.
As an individual artist, I won’t be able to apply for the grants, but that hasn’t stopped me from supporting the district. Why? Because I believe the pot is big enough for all of us. It’s my hope that if the nonprofits get access to more funding and can increase their programming, they may include more individual artists in the process. For example, a theater may hire a writer to write a sketch they can take into schools, or the science museum may hire a local artist to create a backdrop they can use at public events.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again . . . we all benefit when artists support other artists.
But I also believe that once in a while, we need to put aside our hesitations and step out of our busy lives in order to champion the things we believe in. Artists are notorious for wanting to lay low, keep to themselves, stay focused on their own work, etc. And to be brutally honest, many artists just want other people to hand them money. They don’t want to get out there and drum up funding for themselves, they want some sponsor to step forward and do it for them. Once in a while, we all need to do our parts to raise awareness and funding for the arts.
Gandhi once said, we need to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” What change do you wish to see? Are you working for it, or just hoping someone else will take up the cause? Someday, we’re going to figure this out, how to build a culture that allows artists to earn a fair wage. We are because we are some of the most creative and driven people that have ever walked this earth. And if we work together, someday our kids or grandkids are not going to remember a time when artists couldn’t make a decent living. Those will just be stories from the “old days.” And we will have been at the forefront of change. Believe it!