For two weeks, my city has had a wonderful arts festival that has offered live music, theater, and dance as well as the visual arts. Its a great time for locals and tourists alike to come out and get a good dose of culture.
Today, I listened to live bluegrass music while I perused the stalls of vendors selling items such as art, jewelry, handwoven dog leashes, and frozen lemonade. As an artist myself, I was particularly drawn to the variety of local art on display. Some of the pieces were so gorgeous they took my breath away. And some of it made me think I should paint a bit more if people less talented than me are able to charge hundreds of dollars for crappy paintings. I don't say this to be conceited because I know we have all seen bad art being sold at ridiculous prices. For example, I saw animal art being sold at an aquarium last weekend for $45 a painting. They were horrendous, but if that's being taken seriously, one of these days I'm going to go out and buy a cat, dip its feet in paint, and let it run around on a canvas to see what unfolds.
We all see evidence of our nation's lagging economy in job lay-offs and decreased spending. While I was at the festival today, I overheard one of the vendors on their cellphone saying that there were a lot of tourists walking around, but no one is buying anything. It is a sad fact that the arts are among the first to suffer when money is scarce because they are viewed by many as a luxury rather than a necessity. Personally, I saw many pieces of art that I would be thrilled to put up in my apartment, but I just can't afford it. Graduate school has a way of leeching money away at a scary rate. Although, I have a feeling that I will never be able to afford the $1,000 painting I was lusting after. It is upsetting because I know this annual festival is something that local artists count on to promote their work and make money. I could tell that people were really enjoying themselves and the atmosphere in the park, and I hope that their presence brings a boost to the city's economy that is primarily driven by tourism.
I acknowledge that the arts are not necessary for physical survival, but I encourage you to patron them in any way possible. Even if you can't spend a lot of money, go out to your local festivals, craft shows, concerts, theater productions, and art shows whenever possible. You'll be suprised at how much they will enrich your life and get your own creative juices flowing. I have a painting I've been working on for a while now, and the summer has given me some free time to finish it up. I am a notoriously slow artist, but seeing all the beautiful artwork today inspired me to make a goal of finishing it this summer. It is for my sister, so I know she will be glad to hear that. Take advantage of your community's cultural scene and support the arts!