Before I start my post proper, I am very excited to be kicking off the ABTP blog. It’s an honor to be a part of this project, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!
Something that has interested me for quite some time now is the common stereotypes surrounding the idea of “the artist.” As someone who has spent many sleepless night analyzing texts for midterm papers, I often find myself picking apart language in my everyday life (a blessing/curse shared by all former and current English majors), and this case is no different.
The word “artist” tends to conjure very specific images in most minds. The more modern interpretations often evoke glimpses of life in a Brooklyn loft, ultra secretive gallery openings that require some sort of password to attend, and an existence dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the universe through the act of creation.
All too often, I remembered the words of my classmates and professors, who scoffed at anyone who dared to make work for commercial reasons, or take up a job under the thumb of “The Man” to support their art on the side. The term “selling out” became synonymous with complete artistic decay, and was a fate worse than death. Art was beyond money or any other physical object (though, this excuse certainly wouldn’t pay the rent). If one was to be serious about art, it should consume every fiber of their being.
It was for this reason that, for the longest time, I never really considered myself an “artist.” Yes, I dedicated quite a bit of time to learning about the arts and exploring different forms of artistic expression, but I never felt like I truly met the requirements to be awarded the title of “artist.” I always got hung up on the details: how much time I spent working on my art (never), how often I attended big art shows (also never), and the fact that most of my work was not done for arts’ sake, but usually as an ends to a means, whether it be for an assignment or a job. I also didn’t belong to any sort of artist’s collective, as many of my peers were not interested in the arts. It was just me and my camera against the world. At a certain point, I felt as though I could not see the bigger picture. I could not see the forest through the trees. “The artist” became somewhat of a mythical figure to me.
This view of mine was shaken when I began interning with ARTS By The People back in May of 2017. I was fresh out of college, and found myself tumbling out into the real world. I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life, or the role art would have in the grand scheme of it all. Through working with ARTS By The People, I had been introduced to large community of people that worked in a variety of artistic media. Finally, more art-minded people to talk to! But the thing that immediately drew me into this new group was the fact that it was not nearly as cutthroat as the archetype had led me to believe.
It didn’t matter who churned out the most work, or who was the best in their respective field, or who showed the most devotion to the arts. What truly mattered was their willingness to improve and collaborate with others. I also learned that it was ok to have a life outside of art, as just with anything, it can be dangerous to let one aspect of your life consume you. To say that there is only one way to be an artist does a huge disservice to the whole community. Whether one lives off of their art, or can only devote a few hours here and there, they are driven by a similar urge to create, and that drive is the true mark of an artist.
It is my hope in being involved with ABTP that others may also learn this crucial lesson. And while we may possess preconceived notions as to what an artist is, I am a firm believer in the idea that anyone can be an artist. All it takes is a dash of ambition, a willingness to learn, and the confidence to say, “I am an artist.”