Friday, June 9, 2023

Artists Shouldn’t Get Welfare, They Should Be Creative

Back to square one (pun intended). There’s an interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian (interesting in stare-at-my-finger kind of way) detailing that many U.S.-based artists are on food stamps. The writer argues that this odd dynamic would not happen if the U.S. provided better arts funding. The writer himself is on food stamps, after all he’s “entitled” to them, and at least until he gets a “foothold” as a six-digit published author and Nobel laureate.

There’s talk in this article about risk-taking and how only the rich will write if the government doesn’t support college-educated writers who only want to write and do nothing else. There’s also talk about writing not getting any trickle-down crumbs, and how the internet bred the “information should be free” dynamic.

The article of course focuses on how the only salvation for writers (and artists) on food stamps is government funding and subsidies. None of this is new, of course, but one interesting tidbit is how the writer argues that writing is either low-paid or unpaid labor. So my question to Mr. Amien Essif is this: why not demand that you get paid for your labor — researching, writing, editing, writing, and editing? Why continue to create a system where artists lack political and cultural power simply because they want to be supported by a system that will ultimately end up controlling their aesthetic, cultural and political content? Why not take that college education and use it for something useful, like thinking up ways in which a writer could take a risk to do what s/he likes? Why continue to believe in a system that is meant to make artists and writers of all stripes dependent on a false bohemian lifestyle and ideology?

Simply put, why not, as an artist, be creative and look for other forms of income revenue?

If you’re still here and interested in why I think this way, I’ve written a bit on government funding for the arts before in the NY Times. Check it out.


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