Can Artists Figure Out Their Money Problem?


Photo credit: Poster Boy, Flickr


YES! Magazine published a interesting article entitled “Craigslist Saved 5M Tons of Stuff From Landfills—And 4 Other New Stats on Local Economies“.

This quote struck me,

We find inspiration in neighbors, local governments, or small businesses taking risks and building a “new economy” of alternatives to our current system. …“Most economic traditions tend to focus on analyzing and interpreting how capitalism works,” activist Keith Harrington has said, “while neglecting the need to develop ideas for alternative systems.”

The article discussed economic successes that were evaluated according to success as defined by capitalism, but also through an alternative economic lens that measured positive social and environmental impact.

It made me wonder, what alternative economies can artists come up with that lead to their personal economic sustainability? There are different ideas implemented here and there, but what are they and how well do they work to overhaul the feast or famine system of creative work? For example, now we have things like art CSAs. What are they worth to artists, including but beyond income? What other models have we come up with? What combination of economic approaches do we need to create a world where creative workers can sustain themselves on their work? I say combination because right now it seems that’s they way things are headed. Alternative economies need to be pieced together until we can envision a bigger, newer picture.  Or maybe not. Maybe that approach needs to also be examined.

We need to think beyond gallery sales; record, ticket and merch sales; book sales, and so on. Too many of us are unquestioningly wedded to capitalism.

What ideas are floating out there that we ought to implement and try out? Or at least begin to discuss.

And how do we define success? Maybe process and outcomes of cultivating a community’s investment in local arts is something that should be examined? Or looking at how to achieve equal access and participation across socio-economic status? Or examining how other systems (institutions and social norms that perpetuate racism, sexism, ableism, and so on) impact the life of the creative class and addressing those? And how do we contribute directly or tacitly to these injustices?

What have you seen? Any creative ideas for alternative economies?

Do you have a story of the challenges of making a living wage as an artist in a capitalist economy? What’s your story? We are seeking written or video submissions for our Artist Stories online library, a social justice project, and would love to hear from you.


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