The art world can sometimes be like Kanye West at an Occupy Wall Street rally. His heart might be in the right place but he’s still a rich jerk. For all of the “99%” blood running through the art world, it’s still as monocle-wearing capitalist as playing croquet. And though an idea as big as capitalism feels far from home, this is where the difficulty of being a Bay area artist begins.
An article I read a while back at Hyperallergic pointed to two reasons why it’s difficult to be an artist in a small market, i.e. not New York. So if you’re a Bay area artist and having a hard time surviving, here are the excuses I use.
1. The kind of people who buy art in our area.
The highest grossing and most popular theme park of all time (I’m pretty sure) is Tampa Bay’s very own Dinosaur World. This and many other attractions make Tampa Bay a tourist destination. While mugs that say “Florida State Bird: the Mosquito” are popular with the snow birds, contemporary art not so much. This leaves artists with two eventualities: make art in the Jimmy Buffett style or make art few tourists are interested in.
Given, we do have an exciting arts destination growing in St. Pete. A city in the Bay area is finally beginning to see the potential of a healthy art community. While Chihuly and Dali attract many visitors each year, it’ll be nice to see local artists and galleries garner a larger share of that attention in the future.
2. The geographic location of Tampa Bay
The second is partly a result of Florida’s unfortunate shape – once in Florida the only way to get out of here is to make a u-turn. You may have felt this with your favorite bands that never make a trip south of Georgia.
I spent a long time trying to come up with a way of saying this that didn’t sound like lame whining but I’ve got nothing. So here it is: shipping artwork out-of-state is expensive. Naturally, the cost of shipping gets added to the price of the piece making it necessarily more expensive than it’s really worth.
Trust me, I know you’re not in it for the money. Neither am I; my installations don’t and can’t sell like hot cakes (that is, in stacks covered in syrup). For many artists, having a difficult time selling work means focusing more on how to pay the mortgage and less on making art. When this describes not only one artist, but an entire community of artists, it becomes a cultural problem. The question isn’t how to make money as an artist, but how do we build a sustainable community of artists?
So what’s the solution? Let me know what you think and I’ll be posting what I think.