WHY MILLENNIALS DON’T BUY OUR ART? Their Definition of “Real Art” May Be Bigger Than Ours
Times have changed. We can, too. If we choose.
(5 minute read)
Welcome back to the series that explores why our work may or may not appeal to millennials!
Again, for a less stressful reading experience, I’ve broken up articles in this series into pieces. But we’re getting pretty close the end of the series, so bear with me!
Last week, I wrote about our definitions of “real art” and “real artists”. Along the way, some folks have shared their thoughts, especially the belief that for many reasons, millennials just don’t get “art” in the first place. So why bother?
I’m leaning in, because I’m willing to test my assumptions from time to time. I hope this is a way for others to do the same.
So, back to the definition of “real art”.
6) What if we looked further afield at other forms of “real art”?
The term “visual arts” covers a lot of fields besides paintings. Photography and movies (technically “moving pictures”. Much fine craft approaches the standards of visual art, going beyond “functional” and verging on pure aesthetics.) I was mesmerized by the Bayeux Tapestry in college, and yes, it was in an art history class, not history. It is history retold in fiber, long considered “women’s work”, considered a craft, and not “real art”.
And “visual arts” goes beyond 2D work. There are the performance arts, theater arts, music, writing, etc. Even sports could be considered an art, as combat and competition have been with us since the dawn of time. (The Olympics, for example, inspired many Greek sculptures and Roman recreations.) I have friends who are deeply drawn, and moved, by opera. (I love “bits and pieces” but don’t have what it takes to sit through an entire opera. On the other hand, I attended a lot of rock concerts in the ‘70’s. Who knows, these may be “classical art” a thousand years from now?)
Who among us has not been moved to tears by a poignant song, a beautiful voice? How many movies have broadened our horizons and expanded our point-of-view? I’m guessing, most of us. Music, song, moving/movie art, are all art media that can be found in Ice Age cave art. I consider all of these “real art”.
7) Not everyone can support themselves making art.
When we can make our art as a vocation, that’s a good thing. Not everyone can, nor wants to.
Art teachers, historically, got there because making a living with art was hard. Teaching is a way many artists get money to do what they love. Are they “less real”?
There are a slew of people in the world who make good money making music. There a bajillion more who won’t, and never will. Same with acting, singing, dancing, etc. The world is full of people who will never be famous, or rich, for their pursuit of art.
And yet they persist.
BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT.
They may eventually make it their avocation, pursuing it even though they will make less money over a job they are good at, that pays well, but aren’t passionate about.
Below that (respect-wise) are the amateurs. They know they will never make any money for what they do. But they can’t live without it.
The worst definition of “amateur” (especially today) suggests the person doesn’t care enough to get good at it. Even today, that’s true.
Except that our modern times have broadened the definition, moved that negative tone to third place.
“Amateur” now means, “for the love of doing, not money.”
If our society valued pursuit for love, if we were paid for the time and effort we put into the work that means everything for us, the work that we’re really good at, then preschool teachers (teaching arts), stay-at-home moms (care-taking art), home health aides (same), social workers (healing), etc., and us artists would make just as much money as rock stars, famous actors, surgeons (which I consider “healing art”), etc.
Yes, we need standards in all those fields. Training and certification certainly helps. Sometimes accredited education is mandated.
But standards, training, certification, college degrees, don’t necessarily guarantee us, their clientele and customers, satisfaction.
I don’t care how many years a surgeon spent in school, nor even what school they went to. I want to know how good their skills are, yes. I want them to know what they’re doing, and that they are who they say they are.
But I also want to know if they’re only interested in being a rock star in the operating room, or if they understand my needs, my issues, and what will work best for me. (For example, one surgeon talked me into getting a partial knee replacement. Now, two years later, I’m looking at a third surgery, for a full replacement, because it didn’t work out that well. Standard knowledge now says partials only delay the inevitable for a few years.) My time, my quality of life, and our budget has been deeply dented. That surgeon is a good one. But their need to be a rock star overrode my desire for this to be my last knee surgery.
I don’t care how amazing a film director is. If they have shown themselves to be a toxic person, all I can see in their work now are the tell-tale signs and hints of their abuse and power over others.
Again, this matters to some people, not to others. There is no single definition that will make us all happy. Only the one that will make us happy.
But there are ones that can be inclusive, uplifting, expansive, as opposed to strict borders, narrow definitions, and “the only way” to be a creative person in the world.
And artists? More on that to come, next week!
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