Since I started my artistic career as an undergraduate studying painting and pottery, I have worked in a variety of artistic arenas. I’ve made my way through museums, galleries, established and new art centers; farmer markets, craft fairs, and huge arts festivals. During this time I have discovered to different expectations from the art world:
- Art should be outrageously expensive.
- Art should be free.
This doesn’t just apply to the art itself, but to experiences around the arts. We have $500+ retreats and conferences or we have free festivals and very little in between. Where, may I ask, are the affordable artistic experiences?
I’m talking specifically about the visual arts here. A look into the music world shows experiences running the full gambit. Concerts and festivals from $0 to $10 to $50 to $200 and all of these prices feel reasonable given their context. The same goes for theater. But what about visual art?
One of the main efforts of Miranda’s Hearth is to make art affordable. As you may have guessed, by affordable we don’t mean free. While a free artistic experience might be “affordable” to the consumer, it is often exponentially expensive for the creator. When you go to a free arts festival, ask yourself whether the people you see are getting paid. How much are they getting paid? Does it cover materials? Does it cover travel? Is the payment provided by a grant? If so, how much effort went into getting that grant? Was that paid? Will it be there again?
If we want art to be a part of our culture, and I can assure you that there will be several more blog posts about why we do, then we must be willing to pay for it. Not just the 1% who can write million dollar checks for tax benefits, but the everyday patron. The person who can pay $10 to see an potter lead a workshop or $15 to see a writer explain their creative process. These are real, valuable skills. Artists often derive value outside of money, which is a wonderful thing, but our culture at its root uses money to infer value and art needs to be part of that.
The best lesson I received about the value of art was from President Fox of Mary Baldwin College. She bought the center piece of my senior exhibition, a 4 foot by 6 foot abstract oil painting. It was the first thing I had ever sold and I had no idea how to price it. My professor and I came up with a range and when I gave it to President Fox, she immediately chose the highest end of it. She taught me how to create my own value, how to stand up and say what I make is worth something. This is still part of my artistic practice and is now the basis of Miranda’s Hearth as a business.
So do me a favor and don’t haggle over art prices. Don’t grumble over door fees. Art is worth paying for. If it feels to expensive to you, than you may not be the right patron and that’s absolutely fine. Keep your eyes open and keep moving, because eventually you will find the perfect piece and you will want to pay as much as you can for it.