John Lopez contemplates a world of middle class artists in the Los Angeles Times. The argument is that the spread of digital tools for creating and distributing art is going to bring back a world of semi-pro artists–painters, musicians and writers–who make a living and then make their art. Or, in an alternative vision put forth by Peter Sellars, everyone makes an ok living but no one gets rich. Take your pick:
So even in the face of prolonged war and bitter recession, it seems 2010 is a pretty great time to be a young artist.
Ubiquitous communication and cheap digital technologies are empowering the striving artist who steadily cultivates his or her craft, challenging the cliché of the starving bohemian, or the superstar. At the same time, say many artists, an avalanche of output and constant accessibility might push them to rediscover the merits of handcrafted work, the necessity of disconnected contemplation and the joys of face-to-face human contact.
A recent nationwide survey of artists commissioned by the nonprofit group Leveraging Investments in Creativity found that more than half reported a decline in income from 2008 to 2009, two-thirds had at least one day job and almost 40% didn’t have adequate health insurance — challenging times for a group 63% of whom reported income of less than $40,000 a year. However, an increasingly hyper-connected world might be stoking artistic enthusiasm: Seventy-five percent said it was an inspiring time to be in the creative arts. With access to new tools, you can create exciting work and reach new audiences; you just might not get paid well for it. […] In many ways, that harks back to what Ruscha remembers as a young artist in the ’60s. “When I first started painting there wasn’t that promise, and the idea of selling work to survive off of was practically unheard of.” Somehow the institutionalization of art — the plethora of art schools, film schools, conservatories — cultivated the notion of the professional. If that idea becomes untenable, Ruscha sees an upside. “Making a living and then making art, that’s not so bad. Artists throughout history have done that, where they’ve gone and done menial jobs and then come back and worked on their art. I think it’s a character-building program for anybody.”
Making Art in the Now World (Los Angeles Times)