Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

Does Your Arts Scene Suck? Don't Complain, Do Something About It

The headline reads "For Young Artists in Baltimore, It's a Do-It-Yourself Art World." And the introduction to Peter Walsh's Horizon Magazine article says it all:

As America continues its methodical defunding of the arts, putting one community arts institution after another into severe financial difficulty, young artists have been particularly hard hit. The traditional routes to public success and basic survival seem blocked; managers of alternative spaces and galleries schedule shows years in advance, and older artists, every bit as desperate as their youthful counterparts, are competing for the same shrinking piece of pie.

Not to worry.

In cities all around the United States, artists in their twenties are energetically tackling the challenge. Here are four examples of young artists in Baltimore, Md., and their unusual and gutsy solutions.

That's the whole idea behind a blog (and podcast) called "Artist Empowerment." It's not about waiting for someone or something to come along and rescue you, or to deliver an audience to you on a golden tray. It's ALL about creating your own lucky breaks and living up to the idea behind this well-known quote by George Bernard Shaw:

"I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

In his article, Walsh highlights the efforts of Logan Hicks and Todd Lesser, two young Baltimore arts entrepreneurs. He writes ...

Tired of seeing their friends shut out and ignored, and unswayed by the notion that good art made by young artists couldn't be sold, the two joined forces in 1997 to create Cones and Rods, a week-long arts festival in a loft space on Baltimore's Guilford Avenue -- a show that featured the work of more than 40 visual artists, more than a dozen rock bands, the Bindlestiff Family Circus, film screenings, and experimental music performed on handmade instruments.

The event was well attended and even did the unthinkable -- it helped sell art!

Most of the work was priced to sell to a young crowd, from $25 to $250 for individual pieces. And sell they did. Over 50 pieces of artwork were sold. The youth community rallied around the event; hundreds of people attended each night.

This quote from Hicks sums up the attitude that drives the artist empowerment philosophy:

"This whole show came out of the philosophy of, 'If you don't like it, change it.' Baltimore is a great place to live. Unfortunately, we cannot say much for its cultural events, though. There comes a point when you can only bitch so much about not having anything to do. Sooner or later you have to shut up or do something about it."

Peter Walsh is a founding editor of Link: A Critical Journal on the Arts.


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