I read a very interesting article recently on theatlantic.com about the evolution of the “artist.” We started out as craftsmen or artisans, back in the times of Shakespeare and Bach. We were apprenticed to master artists, we were middle to lower class, we were selling our wares.
We then moved into the period of artist as genius (albeit often a starving genius). After World War II, we institutionalized the arts, and the “professional artist” was born. Now, with the rise of independent labels and publishing and the influence of the internet, we are entering the age of the artist as entrepreneur.
In fact, the author of this article,William Deresiewicz, argues that “the artist” may soon be dead, replaced by “the creative,” because after all, anyone can now create, and we are ALL encouraged to discover our “art,” whether that is writing computer code or building new widgets or discovering a cure to cancer. Heck, I espouse that very notion in this blog.
This could explain why there is so much confusion right now. We’re talking about a seismic shift in how the arts “work” and how artists see ourselves. And I feel like I was one of the first to ride the cusp of the shift from professional artist to artist/entrepreneur, back when I self-published my first book in 2002 and then as I went on to build my business.
I’ll admit that part of me has greatly enjoyed shaking up the status quo, breaking the rules, pushing the boundaries, trying new things. But another part oftentimes feels frustrated, confused, and unsure. And for every project I’ve launched that succeeded, there have been those that also failed.
But our whole world is turning upside down. We no longer parent the way people did for generations. Women and men are no longer held to gender roles that were in place for centuries. Ancient rivalries are giving way to new alliances. Ancient prejudices are being challenged.
“You can’t fight progress,” as the old saying goes. And I embrace that, but there are some days I wish the rules were still in place. It’s all well and good that anyone can be an artist now, but how do we single-handedly find our audiences and how do we resist the temptation to make art just to suit the marketplace, and not because it’s the art we are called to create?
These are questions I can’t answer in this 400-word post. They are questions we will continue to ponder for many years to come, but the fact is, the world, it is a’changin’.