April 1, 2020 by Brendan Wiltse

COVID-19 Highlights Value of Arts

As the world grapples with challenges of coronavirus, artists from all walks of life and around the globe are bringing much relief and perspective to our current situation. Social media feeds are filled with live music, paintings, drawings, and photography. The comments on these posts exude an appreciation for art and the relief it brings during challenging times. But all of this love and appreciation for the arts is masking a sad reality, artists and their work is undervalued in our society, especially in the United States.

The idea of the "starving artist" is an accepted norm in our society. When telling someone, you are an artist, they often respond with something along the lines of "oh wow, that's so cool." They'll want to see or hear your work, compliment your commitment to your art, then walk away. People walk through art galleries to view beautiful art and take in a different perspective of a world they think they know, then walk out the door with nothing in their hands and all their pennies in their pockets. Indeed, there is an expectation in society that artists should share their work for free. The viewer certainly gained something from viewing the art, but the artist received nothing.

One of the most egregious forms of taking advantage of artists occurs for photographers and graphic designers on social media. Brand accounts will reach out to an artist asking permission to use a photograph in return for "exposure." Those same brands often pay other artists thousands of dollars to produce a library of images or graphics for them. Exposure is helpful, but it doesn't keep the lights on or put food on the table. It doesn't allow an artist to travel to produce more art. And in most cases, it doesn't result in work that does produce revenue.

As COVID-19 shakes the planet, the value of art is more apparent than anytime I can remember. Artists are once again stepping up to give us relief, share beauty, and give perspective. And once again, society takes it in, says "thanks," then turns away.

I've experienced this personally for years. I provide images of the natural world, advocate for its protection, online daily. Hundreds of people like my posts each day, thousands view them, and several dozen comment. Yet, 99% of those people never purchase my art. They enjoy it but don't support its creation. I don't blame any one individual for this, its an expectation and social norm we've created in society.

It doesn't have to be this way. A few years ago, I joined a site called Patreon. It's a platform where people can support artists and creators. Think of it as a monthly subscription to your favorite artists. I support a few of my favorite creators on the platform by giving them a few dollars each month, or per creation. It's my way of saying to them, "thank you, your work has value, keep creating."

At the same time, I started my photography Patreon page. To my surprise, a handful of folks stepped up and started pitching in. Their support allows me to take on meaningful projects, like photographing the Eagle Mountain Preserve for Northeast Wilderness Trust, or donating my entire image library to Adirondack Mountain Club. That support also allows me to spend dozen of hours snorkeling Adirondack streams learning how to photograph fish and other underwater critters, revealing a new perspective on an iconic landscape. And it keeps me going in my nearly daily outings to photograph and share Adirondack landscapes and wildlife.

If you find yourself enjoying more art online while constrained to your house, consider how you can support those artists. Buy a digital download, print, painting, or find out if your favorite artist or creator is on a platform like Patreon.

Finally, I would like to thank Sara, Marcy, Melissa, Sharon, Amy, Johnathan, John, Lynda, Karen, Beth, Sarah, Paul, Megan, Bob, Nate, Karl, Judith, Steff, Evan, Arielle, Lauren, Saikat, Johnathan, Merry, Ronna, Maryann, Judi, L Hall, Shari, & Mary for their support of me as an artist and creator.

Sunset over Copper Pond at the Eagle Mountain Preserve protected by the Northeast Wilderness Trust.

I've experienced this personally for years. I provide images of the natural world, advocate for its protection, online daily. Hundreds of people like my posts each day, thousands view them, and several dozen comment. Yet, 99% of those people never purchase my art. They enjoy it but don't support its creation. I don't blame any one individual for this, its an expectation and social norm we've created in society.

It doesn't have to be this way. A few years ago, I joined a site called Patreon. It's a platform where people can support artists and creators. Think of it as a monthly subscription to your favorite artists. I support a few of my favorite creators on the platform by giving them a few dollars each month, or per creation. It's my way of saying to them, "thank you, your work has value, keep creating."

At the same time, I started my photography Patreon page. To my surprise, a handful of folks stepped up and started pitching in. Their support allows me to take on meaningful projects, like photographing the Eagle Mountain Preserve for Northeast Wilderness Trust, or donating my entire image library to Adirondack Mountain Club. That support also allows me to spend dozen of hours snorkeling Adirondack streams learning how to photograph fish and other underwater critters, revealing a new perspective on an iconic landscape. And it keeps me going in my nearly daily outings to photograph and share Adirondack landscapes and wildlife.

If you find yourself enjoying more art online while constrained to your house, consider how you can support those artists. Buy a digital download, print, painting, or find out if your favorite artist or creator is on a platform like Patreon.

Finally, I would like to thank Sara, Marcy, Melissa, Sharon, Amy, Johnathan, John, Lynda, Karen, Beth, Sarah, Paul, Megan, Bob, Nate, Karl, Judith, Steff, Evan, Arielle, Lauren, Saikat, Johnathan, Merry, Ronna, Maryann, Judi, L Hall, Shari, & Mary for their support of me as an artist and creator.



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