Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Artist Pet Peeves

I try not to complain or to do so in as constructive a manner as I can, but I have to put this out there because it really rubbed me the wrong way. There are a lot of stereotypes and assumptions made about artists that I find bothersome, and though I have written about several of them before I will revisit the topic here.

I was just asked to donate my time and materials to a children's workshop-based event and it annoyed me for several reasons. First, there had been no thought given to compensating artists for their time and materials (the idea was that whatever exposure the artists got from participating would be compensation enough, and where materials would come from wasn't fully considered). Secondly, children would be charged admission to raise money for the organization, which is good as it will help minimize the craziness often associated with these types of events, but I think it shows a lack of awareness that the artists were not going to be offered something of that towards supplies and their time.

One thing that really irks me about this is the unspoken assumption that artists will freely offer their time, talent, expertise, artworks and even art supplies and do so gladly even in exchange for poor exposure or for nothing at all. This is perpetuated when artists do just that, or when they belittle their own art as a hobby, which undermines all artists because it fosters the notion that art is little more than a hobby and feeds into the idea that we don't deserve compensation because we're doing something we enjoy.

Another thing that bothers me about this is that it is assumed that artists love children and would be happy to work with large groups of them in their free time and in what are typically messy and chaotic circumstances. This is simply not true and is an unfair assumption to make of anyone, artist or not. Some artists love children and would love to engage in these types of activities but others simply don't, not necessarily because they don't like children but because they don't want to be placed into that camp counselor role. Some are very clean and tidy and don't handle messes well while others don't know how to respond to large numbers of children all at once and get stressed out by it.

A third thing that deeply bothers me about this is that more women than men are asked to do this sort of thing, which reflects other stereotypes and assumptions based in sexism. Just because I'm female doesn't mean I want to play teacher for a day in my off time or that I want to babysit other peoples' kids. These circumstances befall men as well, as is evidenced by the fact that, at a plein air event, a male friend of mine essentially found himself babysitting a young girl her parents left for several hours after exclaiming that she loved to paint. But this more often befalls women.

I offered some food for thought to those who approached me regarding this. However I felt like I was being judged as if I were selfish for not wanting to participate and should feel guilty. I know some of that lies in my own insecurities, but I shouldn't feel that way at all. It is a lot to ask, whether those asking realize this or not, and I strongly feel that those asking should be more appreciative and recognize just how much they are asking for. It doesn't behoove anyone to guilt trip another for something that they hadn't considered in reverse. So if you find yourself in the position of asking an artist to donate their time, artwork and/or materials, try the idea on for size yourself first and see how it fits - if you are taken aback by it then you probably need to reassess what you're offering in exchange and sweeten the deal.

Enough of my complaining though. To contrast my ranting I'm going to post something about a wonderful project and art & writing opportunity celebrating diversity that involves kids and adults and that I feel doesn't undermine the contributors. It is highly competitive but well-worth checking out and considering applying to - the more responses the better.

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