Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Patronage: An idea whose time has come...again.
It used to be that artists were supported by wealthy patrons who helped them exist for the pure pleasure of the artist bringing good things into the world. I'm sure there was some kind of social status associated with being a patron of the arts as well. The world has changed quite a bit. While I know there are a few patrons out there in the classic sense and there are still opportunities for "artists in residence" at some institutions, this concept has been swallowed up into a more commercial model. That is, corporations investing in artists that they deem will be profitable in terms of product sales.
The bottom line drives corporations to only invest in product that will have the broadest appeal, playing to the lowest common denominator across as much of the buying population as possible. This is why most of our popular culture is quite simple. It is made for quick attention and flash sale. It ultimately has little staying power. Every now and again, some story, song or show slips through the cracks and changes the game for everyone. Then the corporations of big media go to work to try to reproduce other things that play off why that "slip through the cracks" thing was so popular. And we get a kind of copy cat culture. Artists and creators are not free to just create good things for the sake of it. Art and creativity become just another quick consumable item with little depth.
But there are alternatives. We know deep down that the function of art in culture is quite important. Music, story and visual art is part of what it means to be human. It is deeply connected to how we interpret and deal with the world, our lives, fears, celebration and pain. And there are new (old) ways that we can help good creativity come into the world.
One way is that we can be creative. We can learn an instrument, sing together, go see local artists, draw things, and write stories and songs. And we can look for local ways to enjoy these things. The internet and social media is also a way to share creativity. It's been helpful to me, but I am guilty of leaning too much on the digital age and forgetting to sit around a fire with some friends and just sing. You are in some way creative and to not develop it, even on the level of a hobby, is robbing you and us of something good.
And, on the scale of broader culture, there is a new type of patronage cropping up all over the place. These are a few I know about on the web with some exciting implications. I can only participate in one or two of them but that is the beauty of this new democratic patronage. It is we the people who decide what's important to us and have new opportunities to support, even with a little that we have, new good works.
Blue Like Jazz the Movie - I don't know if you've heard but there has been a big push lately for patrons to step up and save the production of the film version of Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller. The people came forward and actually have done it! After calling it quits from lack of funding, Blue Like Jazz the movie goes into production this month because of ordinary patrons that felt this is an important story to tell in our culture. Read about it at Don Miller's blog HERE.
Fiddler's Green - I loved the book The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson (read my review here). I was able to buy it from him at a concert last year. He has written the conclusion, Fiddler's Green, which will come out later this year and is looking for patrons to help finish the publishing process. Check it out HERE.
Slugs and Bugs Christmas - Some of the best kids music I've ever heard is on an album called Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies. Randall Goodgame is looking for patrons to help him with a Slugs and Bugs Christmas album. Find out about Slugs and Bugs and the Christmas opportunity HERE.
Noisetrade - Also, Derek Webb and friends have a great website idea to help you find out about new music. It's at noisetrade.com. You can get music and "tip" the artist with what you can afford!
Adoption! - I have a good friend that has provided an opportunities for supporters to help he and his wife adopt a baby! You can find out about that at HERE! Talk about helping new, good things come into the world! Of course, in all of this, don't forget to support your church and other good works beyond the specific creative arts. There is so much good out there that we can participate in with our time, talent and resources.
And finally, if you care, there is a great 4 part series at the Rabbit Room website about artists and money and why it's all important and how we can be a part of it. I cried by the end of all of these entries. You can find them HERE.
So be creative and support good creativity! Do you know about any other patronage projects out there? Let us know in the comments.