Aargh! We’re crowded. As of a few months ago I spend most Saturdays sitting and selling my art. Paul Petersen has extra space in his metal and glass studio; so, he’s has opened the doors to local artists in a weekly Saturday mini-art fair. Thinking of those humongous events with hundreds or thousands of artists jammed booth by stall? Ha. This is an island thing. Six of us are enough to pack the space. And we aren’t alone. Art is catching on in painting, sketching, performing, writing, and even in the corporate realm. Is there already too much or can we ever have too much?
Once upon a time in a galaxy identical to our own I lived in a different world: my 18 years as an aerospace engineer at Boeing. I worked on rockets and satellites long enough to grab the badge of rocket scientist, but really those few years made me much more impressed with those who’d legitimately held the title for decades. I miss the work, the people, and the paychecks. Maybe the corporate culture has changed by now. Maybe I’d travel back into the aerospace world for the right project. In the meantime, the world I inhabit more frequently is that of art and artists, a world not so completely alien – except for the finances.
My artwork stretches back to the mid-seventies, but I didn’t realize that until I wrote my first book, Just Keep Pedaling in 2002. That book led to more books, which led to photography, and now both have led to my stint educating people about modern self-publishing. Looking back I started my art career journalling and photographing for fun as a teenager, and both quickly worked their way into the high school newspaper. I can’t recall any direct influence from my art classes. It all just seemed to happen.
That was the seventies in a suburb of Pittsburgh over by a couple of mills. It was not an art-conducive environment, yet in retrospect art was there.
Today’s world is much different. In the last ten years, writing has broken out because of blogging and print-on-demand publishing. Photography has been transformed by digital cameras and sophisticated software. Performance arts are captured on small and simple equipment then easily loaded onto YouTube. Sketching and fabric arts are group events.
Locally, this venue and a few others (“downtown” Clinton, Bayview, Langley, Freeland – so I’ve heard) have opened or resurrected to accommodate artists. Supply is up. The traditional and stereotypical artists continue, those dedicated and experienced people who excel at one or two arts. I think the majority of the increase is from those embarking on second careers and those tackling it as a second, or third, or fourth job. Some are driven by passion. Some are driven by financial need. For some, it just happens.
Art is happening more consciously too. As friend Smolinsky put it in his corporate consultation blog, “And art, what does art bring?”.
He answers his own question by listing the influence and benefits within corporate culture.
“Art brings eloquence in communication.” Think Powerpoint that actually works.
“Art brings innovation.” “Managers who are skilled innovators learn to lead not force.”
“Art brings willingness to take risk.” “Knowing how to assess risk and use it wisely leads to managers who rally their people forward into new heights of success.”
Sounds like the consequences of art are in demand.
Supply and demand may be in the midst of a new relationship within the art world.
In the last decade print-on-demand publishing has grown from only printing one-fifth as many books as the traditional industry to now producing more. E-books from kindle and Nook are now rising to exceed both. Martha Stewart and the craft store Michaels are entry drugs addicting people to the realization that they have always been creative. Suppliers to the professionals, like Daniel Smith, benefit as novices transition from hobbyist to crafter to artist.
Demand for artistic expression is up, but demand for art is less certain. There are more books. There are more writers. There are fewer readers. Photography has become easier and maybe some are happier hanging their own photos, instead of, for instance, buying mine. Do-It-Yourself is usually Consumed-and-Appreciated-by-Yourself. Now I realize that the prices for most art doesn’t do much to compensate for the artist’s time and trials.
Technology is blamed for ills. Art frequently has been trivialized and dismissed as useless. Yet we live in an era and a world where technology is helping people recognize the artist within, and society is recognizing the benefits of artistic expression, and also artistic perspective.
Is it getting crowded because there are too many artists? Of course. Those of us here today (Paul, Susan, Kim, Judy, Anne and me) spent the first hour or two shuffling around display panels, and helping each other with hanging hardware as we settled into our spaces trying to make it all fit. As a trend, it looks like society is doing something similar, creating a crowd of artists, maybe on purpose, maybe it’s just happening.
As for a crowd of buyers, well, I guess that’s what I’m sitting here for. Luckily, sitting amongst art with artists is quite comfortable. A little crowding can be a good thing.