Applause: February 2020

Applause: February 2020

Earlier this week¬†I¬†got a panicked message from an artist linking me to¬†this story¬†about challenges for charities, who are seeing a decline in donations as people’s attention is diverted to the bushfire recovery process. One charity is looking at closing after 24 years, such is the decline in contributions, and the artist was concerned this spelled doom for artists too.

There’s also a bit of doom and gloom on the retail market, with any¬†outdoor-related business¬†suffering a slump in sales (mostly because we all spent so much time indoors over summer – and that means we also weren’t physically in the stores to buy new trinkets or¬†clothes either).

But let’s think about that for a second:¬†because we haven’t been out spending money (hence dismal sales figures)¬†– means¬†we haven’t been out spending money!¬†Trips were cancelled, lunches weren’t bought, coffees weren’t taken away. We may have all donated generously to charities this summer, but news has it that we also didn’t go on holiday or undertake DIY projects, so there has to be a slice of spending pie not yet spoken for.

To add to that – and perhaps I’m wrong – but now that the smoke has (literally) cleared, I¬†haven’t noticed empty restaurants, shops or movie theatres. I¬†don’t think people are sacrificing their fun-money for donations, and I don’t think they’re all tapped out, either.

Art is worthy of investment

A few artists are concerned about asking for philanthropy during this period. I know, it feels awkward to us, especially because artists tend to be empaths, and as artists we haven’t necessarily been conditioned to believe we’re worthy or valid. However, this attitude actually¬†damages our own cause, because it means we are treating¬†ourselves¬†as optional and charitable.

I would ask you to consider whether the noisy man on TV has stopped asking us to buy steak knives, or a new couch. He hasn’t, because he doesn’t feel obligated to, and neither should we. He knows people will buy.¬†Now is the time for artists to re-enforce that the arts are an ongoing quality cultural investment, not a short once-off donation to “help”. And if we don’t ask for that investment for ourselves, another artist will.

This attitude actually damages our own cause, because it means we are treating ourselves as optional and charitable.

The arts¬†are something that enriches our culture and actually aids our recovery, rather than a charitable option for “discretionary income”.¬†Kate Fielding¬†put it perfectly saying, “Those tasked with recovery and rebuilding must recognise that creative and cultural assets are crucial to the longer-term economic and emotional reconstruction of communities devastated by the fires.”

I encourage artists to reach out rather than withdraw. Create, express, contribute. Audiences are waiting and want to have that engagement with you Рafter all, art reflects our struggles and triumphs as a culture. Why? Because art is not charity.

Strong Art. Strong Culture.