People stereotypically think that artists have to decide between eating and continuing their passion for art. This misconception tends to go hand in hand with an art diploma.
Would you ever tell a doctor that they needed to choose between doing what they love and being able to afford food? The starving artist concept has been thrown at artists for the past few decades, taking artists from the revered social position of Michelangelo to the laughing stock of the professional world.
The way the world sees artists contributes negatively to the way artists see themselves. To be constantly told that you’re not good enough and that you will never be successful in life is an awful feeling and can steer artists away from their passions, thus preventing personal growth.
If someone’s worth is only attributed to how they fit as a cog in the societal machine, there is no point in promoting individuality because let’s face it: most of us wouldn’t make the cut. We live in a world where your worth is based on how much your income is, which is why aspiring artists get a lot of heat.
Somewhere along the course of history, artists went from being some of the highest ranking members of society to being fed the lie that working for free is “good exposure.” We, as artists, enrich the world aesthetically and economically.
According to by LA Weekly and Billboard, the Arts and Entertainment industry brought almost $3 billion to California’s economy in 2014 and is projected to be worth an estimated $3 trillion across the globe by 2017.
$3 trillion? I’d say that is a hefty contribution to the economy, both locally and globally. And yet, artists are still getting the shaft when it comes to respect in professional circles. Whether one makes movies or sculptures, both are important and integral parts of the arts community and deserve to be given the same respect, not just within other artists but society as a whole.
A social group called Well Fed Artist Society started a project in 2010 that works to reverse the stigmatization about starving artists. The group focuses on not only literally feeding artists but also getting their work noticed in the art world. Founder Gika Rector works to help artists shake off the negativity they have heard too frequently.
“I want to help them find out the best way to stay well-fed, whether through their artwork or through some other means to meet their basic needs,” Rector said. “Many of them are told all of their lives that they can’t make a living being an artist and that it is not a practical career choice. Out of all the artists I know, this isn’t true.”
This group, which is great about bringing acceptance to artists, won’t be enough to really bring about changing the stigma until the conversation itself changes. Many articles I have come across focus on how to avoid being called a “starving artist”, mistakes that starving artists continue to make, and the ever-popular articles about the division between the successful artists and the starving ones. While some of these articles may have good intentions, they continue to demoralize artists by allowing the language of the “starving artist.”
By insinuating that starving artists are making the same mistakes over and over again, it causes artists and non-artists to have this notion that a starving artist still exists. This type of language is what sets artists back.
The work of artists is more important than most people seem to realize. We need artists so that they can continue producing books, movies, TV shows, paintings, plays, and photographs.
We need the visual and literary world to flourish or else the world will become dull and lifeless. It seems odd that people who enjoy art are also the ones who cause artists to doubt the worth of their abilities.