One of the three Talking Art panels this year took on the wooly business of trying to live as a self-supporting artist, which in the city of Vancouver can border on masochism: today's costly studios in marginal, leaky, vermin-infested buildings are tomorrow's "luxury" residential investment units. Even before the global pandemic, exhibition spaces were scarce.
Vancouver might shimmer like a global city but it doesn't have the cultural pulse of Toronto or Montreal or Chicago or even nearby Seattle. It has more of its fair share of billionaire investment but for artists looking for exposure and opportunity, it's pretty small-town.
Yet every November over the last 25 years, the Eastside Culture Crawl gives a glimpse into this pretty/pricey city's vast — even overwhelming — community of self-identified artists and makers. And it's a little dumbfounding: How do all these folks survive, let alone thrive?
That was my question to three local artists.
Through my research into these three artists' practices and the lively online discussion I learned a thing or two myself:
• My art practice is an unviable business model (ie. there is no model).
• I have no interest in selling my creative energy for corporate profit (anymore).
• When I'm finally satisfied with an artwork I lose all interest in repeating the process.
• When people tell me what I should be doing I retreat into the artwork at hand.
• I do not plan any series of works but take things one stitch, one knot at a time.
• I do not have a signature style or lines of sellable artwork.
• Throwing open my studio doors to the public is like taking off my clothes in a crowd.
Some of this could form my own incomplete manifesto; some of it is just fear and loathing of the business end of things. It all reminds me to take Mau's No. 14 point to heart (below).
I'm looking forward to continuing these kinds of conversations during First Saturday Open Studios, the brainchild of Valerie Arntzen, also a founding director of the Eastside Culture Crawl back in 1996.
My studio joins others opening their doors Dec. 4, 12-5pm. Don't be cool; come by, say hi.