I suppose in some sense we are all artists, living lives of free expression and improvisation, following our muses, engaged constantly in the act of creation and destruction.

But really, artists are the ones who make things; everyone else is just there to watch. Or, you know, make money off the artists.

It’s easy to make money off of artists. Not by getting them to give you some, as they generally don’t have any money, and if they did, they would spend it on paint or amps or fabric or whatever. But they’re notoriously bad at setting their own value, bargaining, enforcing contracts, marketing themselves and other basic business skills. Part of being an artist is being humble. Remember that.

And remember this: There’s a difference between supporting “the arts” and supporting actual artists.

Here’s something else about artists: They don’t do it — act, sculpt, play the harp, make murals, tap dance, whatever “it” is — for the money. Artists become artists because they have no other choice. It’s a calling. In most cases, they would do it, whatever “it” is, for free, except they like to eat food.

But people are always asking them do their art for free anyway. Which is bananas because it takes a lot more time to become an artist than it does a lawyer, and nobody asks a lawyer to work for exposure. And often, as was recently the case in Greensboro, the entity doing the asking has a lot more resources than any artist would be able to get together.

So at the intersection of art and commerce, the power dynamic is almost never in the talent’s favor.

But believe it or not, it’s just as easy to pay artists as it is to make money off them. Easier, even!

The best way to support an artist is to directly give them money for their work — buy a ticket to a show, purchase a painting, drop some dollars in their Patreon, get their merch. If you’re broke you can show support by sharing their content on social medial or even sending them a few words of encouragement now and then.

And if you really love the arts and the artists who make it all happen, you’ll stop asking them to do their art for free.

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