Posted on 20 March 2017

Craving Art: Why artists need you and why you need us.

Art. Capitalism. Perhaps two words that don’t seem like they’d play nice. I am here to say that they do not, but it is 2017 and I live in reality. I think its important to talk about the sustainability of art within it.

We need art. We need practitioners of movement, makers, creators, innovators. Without art and artists, we have nothing. Imagine a world without art; go ahead and try. Every performance that inspires you, your favorite song, the paintings in your house, the frames you put them in, your best dress, choreography bestowed to you at dance classes - none of this would exist without artists.

Art is in everything, and it costs money to make. The sustainability of artists depends highly on the consumer of the art. Because artists are generally people who break from convention, follow the beat of their own drum, and set out on a journey with no set path, they may appear to be strange beggars with no real direction. The reason it looks that way is because there isn't a road. We are figuring this out as we go along and that isn't linear, but I promise you, its authentic. You're getting the real deal. I know you recognize when you see it. It is a feeling. It is magic. We crave this. The human condition craves the experience of something other worldly, something beyond.

Consumption of art matters. When you go to a convention, spend your money there. When you go to a studio or go buy a new pole outfit, buy a set or a package. When you need to book an artist, pay them. “Exposure” isn't enough. A wise woman once told me that exposure is what we will all die of when we get evicted from our apartments for not making the rent.

Certainly everyone has a budget. No one person can float the practice of an artist alone. It takes a village. And yes, it is more expensive than a big box store. Its also harder to find. Seeking out an artist for the things you need is much harder than consuming from a large mass producing platform. If there is anyone on Earth that understands being on a budget, its an artist. But know that without either of us (the artist or the buyer of art), we all collapse. Supporting art with money can be done in many ways.

Recognize that you already support art. The classes you attend, the shows you see, the jewelry, clothes and songs you purchase. Not all art is a $10,000 painting atop a mantle. A workshop for $90 is not just a one hour session for $90.  It is usually the last several years of that artists life, her training, expertise, and passion, smashed into one lesson. Beware of believing consumption is free of ethical regard. Just buy. Buy cheap and buy fast. I beg to differ. I say buy with compassion, caring, understanding. Art has many forms. 

Find what works for you. Maybe you love going to shows but can’t afford workshops all the time. Perhaps you are a clotheshorse but do not enjoy live entertainment. Most people cannot afford everything. Do it when you can. That might be once a month and for others it might be once a year. There is no wrong way to approach this.

No matter what, artists need you. We love you for recognizing and supporting us when you do. When you buy your $90 private lesson or your $50 ticket to a dance event, or $40 for a new garment, this is what your money goes to:

Time used mulling over what art to provide to you, the hours spent honing in on what exactly this art will look like, the space needed to execute that vision, the equipment required to perfect the art, the insurance required to practice, the healthcare, the rent, the groceries, the quiet bedroom space needed to get ideas or creatively execute the ones we have, the wine nights with friends bouncing ideas. You are paying for the doctors appointments, the living expenses, the babysitters, the student loans, the car payments, gas, rides provided to fellow artists who don't have cars. You are receiving countless trials and errors, countless Thanksgiving dinners artists spent biting their tongue with family who said they couldn't make a living following their dreams and they should maybe go get a “real” job instead (whats more real, may I ask, than abandoning all logic in favor of ones own authentic dreams?), unhealthy partners who doubted them and cut them down whenever possible. Getting “good” at what we do is not an accident. The time and money investment is monumental and the sacrifice is massive.

You need us. We need you. Lets be one, together. We need this art stuff. It keeps our eyes twinkling and this journey interesting. 


Nia Burks is an video and performance artist as well as a professor of Digital Art and Media Theory. Her research includes gender politics and identity, body positivity, and mediated images of women. She is a a sex work activist, and a pole dance instructor with specific focus on stripper style. Nia considers her pole practice within the same frameworks as other ephemeral fine art mediums including theatre, performance, video, and sound. She has performed across diverse platforms, lectured internationally, and currently holds the Northeast Exotic Dance Gold Medal. 

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