I just got back from an intense and packed six days of pre-, mid-, and post-discussions at Theatre Communications Group‘s annual conference. During a TCG Peers debrief facilitated by the very effective KJ Sanchez (director of ReEntry), we were prompted to share our thoughts, even those that may have made our ‘blood boil’. We heard lots of different responses. I wrote down: “How can we convince America that the arts are a viable career choice?”
Some found this confusing. What was the prickle exactly? I explained, I hate the question itself. We hear it all… the… time. As if all our problems will be solved if only America would get on board. But get on board what? A sinking ship? Artists and admin alike frequently complain about lack of funding, poor salaries and wages, and lack of support, and then want to convince America – and its youth – that the arts are a viable career choice?
*Screeeech* Please, pump your brakes.
Make no mistake, I will always be an advocate for the arts. I will always be an artist and I will always be an arts educator (As a matter of fact, I just wrapped an acting workshop series that I’m extremely proud of, working with recovering addicts in a program called “I Can Do That” – and my students rocked!) But as you’ve read many times since the inception of this blog and at every talk I’m blessed to give, I am also an arts myth-busting fanatic. So, I can no longer take part in the culture that recklessly puts “art” and “career” in the same sentence.
As leaders in the field, it’s up to us to make the arts viable FIRST. And THEN sell the idea. Not the other way around. Am I crazy for thinking we may want to save our own kids before we try to save everyone else’s? That we may want to put bread on our tables before we tell others how to put bread on theirs? As abrasive as this may sound to some that read it, know that I draw this line in the sand not to be an antagonistic downer but because I believe we CAN do it. Let’s each make art AND money, all of us.
Sustainability starts with self. Cultivate your garden, then YOU spread the wealth.