Saints, Martyrs and the Modern Artists

Artist Empathy posted a great article this week about how we treat artists in the US. As a writer and someone who has spent a lot of money on street art I think about this a lot. It comes into my activist work as well, when as a culture you start to devalue art you lose a vital  empathetic part of society. Art gives people glimpses into lives they otherwise wouldn’t understand and it gives us catharsis regarding our own experiences. But the US doesn’t value that any more, which we prove every time we say we love the arts but not enough to pay for them.  It effects us as the consumer but it also effects the creators as well.

This explosion of vitriol illustrates the absurd standard America holds artists to. It’s a dangerous, impossible standard that is repressing self-expression and killing culture. It’s not dissimilar in impact to the political arguments that keep so many living in poverty by voting against their own interests for politicians who take away services that were at least intended to make the middle class accessible to all. The American artist is expected to be both a saint and a martyr. Operate outside the capitalist system and we’ll praise you for your creations, call your poverty a quaint kind of martyrdom that has nothing to do with us, and at the same time resent you for being holier than thou. Try to operate within the capitalist system and we’ll call you out as an impostor.

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