Wednesday 29 May 2013

Arts Festivals and Self-Image

The other day I was reading an article in The Irish Times on arts festivals around the country and among other things, how exciting they were and seemed to have an edge on regular museums and galleries.  The image below was included in the article; it is a sculpture by David Mach which was placed in a disused space during The Galway Arts Festival last year and drew more than 30,000 visitors. Very impressive figures indeed - I only wished I was among those visitors, as this sculpture of Golgotha looks amazing!

The Wicklow Arts Festival took place last weekend in Wicklow Town, and my husband James had been invited to join a panel to speak about a number of art related issues. While preparing beforehand, going over the topics, case studies and the other panel members a curious but noticeable thing came to light.  As one would expect, all the panel members had a job title after their names as a shorthand for their biography; however, what seemed like "important" job titles were capitalised while anything to do with being an artist was in small case letters. For instance, after my husband's name came the title "Creative Multimedia Consultant/artist", and someone else was an "arts worker" and someone else was a "musician/Teacher".  It struck both me and my husband that this was an odd thing to do for an arts festival event, i.e., place something in the arts as being of less importance than the "day-job".

I thought it was quite a coincidence then when reading an article in Brainpickings "The Pace of Productivity and How to Master Your Creative Routine" that there was a quote from Seth Godin "The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don't feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby."

By placing the "art job" in small case (whether musician, visual artist, writer, arts worker) in this context, I think the organisers of the panel in Wicklow minimised the professionalism of the members of the panel with regard to their art career. While this may be an entirely unconscious act, it reflects psycologically on how the public sees those involved in the arts -- generally as hobbyists. Unfortunately artists rarely openly complain about this (I can be pedantic, and James did raise the issue with the organisers) and I worry that this reflects how artists may all too often see themselves!

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