The Business of Art and Community Development

Many years ago I was friends with an artist. She and her husband were both artists and they had lived in Spain for a time.

When they returned to the US, they settled in Sante Fe, New Mexico in part because it is the third largest art market in the US, behind New York and Los Angeles. However, it was a much smaller and more affordable city than either New York or Los Angeles and they were starting a family, so quality of life was really important to them.

The starving artist is something of a meme. Most artists aren't great business people and aren't in it for the money and many of them just can't manage to live a conventional life, punching a clock and all that.

Unsurprisngly, artists have something of a tendency to gravitate to inexpensive places to live as one means to be able to survive while pursuing their art and while also having a general yawning disinteret in the rat race.

One of the downsides of moving to a low cost area is that art prices tend to be low. This makes it hard to support yourself as an artist.

Art is also fairly strongly associated with community development, especially for struggling areas. It is common for artists to move in to such an area (because it's affordable), breathe some life into the community and then get priced out of the neighborhood they helped revive when gentrification occurs as a direct result of the value they added.

According to local sources that are in the know, the county I live in has at least 200 artists. It's a fairly rural county with a relatively low population base, yet there is a very lively local art scene here.

You wouldn't likely figure that out from searching the internet. I learned that only after I moved here and my life is more or less online.

I see a lot of potential to help artists establish an adequate income via the internet, but I may never be able to make that happen. I have done a couple of websites for local artists and a couple of websites for local art projects, but I haven't really gotten general buy-in from the local arts community.

So that's kind of a "hypothesis" at this point and I likely have a lot of legwork to do if I am ever going to make headway on that idea. Maybe it's a hypothesis you can run with and make your community thrive if you have more connections on the ground than what I've managed to establish in my time here.

If you are doing community development work in a small town or rural/unincorporated community, you should learn something about the art world, get to know some of your local artists and start learning about the importance of art to community development work and start wondering how to help local artists make more money with their art if they so desire.

Here are a few videos I watched recently in my own efforts to learn more about the art world and the business of art:

How Two Companies Dominate The $67 Billion Art World

The Art Market: Part 1 - Auctions

The Art Market: Part 2 - Galleries

The Art Market: Part 3 - Patrons

The Art Market: Part 4 - Art Fairs

SO, YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST? The Business of Being a Professional Artist

Instagram Changed This Artist's Life

In addition to general info about the art world, you should also start learning about local and regional resources relevant to your needs.

In the state of Washington, there is the Washington State Arts Commission. One of their programs is directly relevant to community development work: Creative Districts

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