Sunday, September 4, 2011

Artists and the Economy - Postcard protest to the White House

Mat Gleason posted: "I want to curate a show of artists with 50 grand or more of student loan debt that they are behind in paying. Oh wait, there is not a gallery big enough for this exhibit...." That got a lot of us talking, and got me thinking... I ran my idea past Mat, broadened the scope to include all of the artists I had been hearing tell of economic woes, and, by request, arts supporters; this project was the result.            

1) Make a postcard
2) Write:
• "Artists and the Economy"
• A statement or two related to your finances.
• "Please donate to the Smithsonian American Art Museum."
3) Address it to President Obama.
4) Take a photo.
5) Drop it in a mailbox for postmark 2 September, (the Friday before Labor Day).

Sixty-seven US artists from twenty-four States and an additional two countries made, posted, and mailed postcards. Some people sent postcards but did not post them to the event page, and over 400 people responded and partook in considerable dialogue on the event page, which saw some technical difficulties in the home stretch, thus, the exact scale of this project is unknown. The impact, has yet to be seen. It has been a bitter sweet experience, and I have been honored by everyone's efforts. I hope this project inspires future readers as much as it has me.

With warmest gratitude~ CJ Nye

A Kimberlin Blackburn, HI

"In Hawaii one of the big health insurance companies is targeting artists challenging our self employee status??"

Amie Oliver, VA

"Please support artists and art education if you plan to grow intelligent, productive, innovative voters who contribute to a strong ecomomy. I am a painter in new of new glasses and a believer that art can be the most effective language of diplomacy."

Anne Thouthip, CO

Assunta Sera, NY

"Foster creativity by supporting and maintaining the arts."

Betty Tompkins, NY

Brenda Roper, NM 

Brian Goings, NJ 

Cayenne Linke, CA 

Cindy Corkill, TX

CJ Nye, NY

I am 36, live at home, have an MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University, over 100k in student loans, mostly private, & $7.83 in the bank.

Approximately 60% of artists are self employed.

Please support Bill HR5043, & the Artist-Museum Partnership Act. Please also segment Fine Artists from commercial artists for the purposes of BLS & NEA research or no one will ever know our real need. Finally, please exempt Fine Artists from Title 26, Subtitle A, Ch. 2, § 1401 (a) & (b).

[Changed slightly after my draft, but I've forgotten....]

Connie Goldman, CA 

Corrine Bayraktaroglu, OH

"Some may recognize the image, it's the Smithsonian in DC. I can't remember what I wrote duh, but it was along the lines that killing the support of the arts is not only cultural suicide, it hurts the economy, our legacy and the chance to nurture great art from it's roots."

[That's okay, Corrine, I can't remember exactly what I wrote either, the important thing, is that we wrote.]

Courtney Wendroff, NY

*Support Artists + the Economy*
I am an artist, a wife + a mother living in Brooklyn, NY. I am a firm believer in the importance of the arts to our society as well as to our economy.
*The Arts are an Economic Engine*
I have a BFA from the California College of the Arts + an MFA fron Parsons School of Design, NY. Although I graduated in 2001, I still have over $40,000 in student loan debt. My husband has about the same amount as well. In order to keep our heads above water we have day jobs. I am the Visual Arts Director at Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), a not-for-profit that provides service + support to artists + orgs. in Brooklyn. Being in this sector, you can imagine I don't earn a lot of money. As funding cuts have increased over the years, but services have not decreased accordingly, so I do the job of 3 people w/o increase to my salary. With more cuts to arts, artists need services more than ever. My husband is also an artist + working in mental health so we are struggling. Although the income based repayment (IBR) program sounds great, we don't qualify because it does not take into account dependents + cost of lving in NY. So we fall short each month, but will not abandon the art world. 

Damon Freed, MO 

"Some believe that fear is necessary to rule and wars continue to be fought. Yet, it is plain to see when looking at powerful works of art that fear is not the motivation. It is really beauty that moves us to positive action. Power, beauty, and freedom are all the same. And all are external manifestations of inner victories over fear."

Danyel Wendroff, NY

"Man is not to seek and end within himself but to submit and sacrifice his all to some strange thing that commands him and gives through him / I love that which devours him."

David Berube, NY

Deborah Colleen Martin, NM

"I'm a bronze sculptor, self-empolyed, 57, no health insurance or retirement,still have 20K in student loan debt from grad school. Here's my card, It's polished and engraved sheet metal with patina and applique lettering. Hope they get the message...."

Dorian Nisinson, NY

Elisa Pritzker, NY 

Elizabeth Briel, via Thailand

"Creative thinking really can change the world, from villages to nations.
Here's my art-bomb postcard: Directions on how to operate bombs, from a fuze container dropped by US pilots in their secret war in Laos, circa late '60s/early '70s. The women I met in a village have transformed these articles of war into papermaking tools."

Elizabeth W. Noyes, WA

"Making Art Makes Humans more Humane"

Emery Martin, CA

Fran Nicholson, NM

"I am a bronze sculptor who also makes molds for other bronze sculptors. This has been my career for 30 years.
Like a Canary in the Coal Mine, I started feeling the 'recession' shortly after 911. When money gets tight, 'luxuries' such as Fine Art, are the first to go. My sales dropped by 75% and so did work coming into my studio from other artists. Everyone was starving, and even though the world as we knew it was imploding, WE ALL KEPT MAKING ART!. Stubborn little birds we are! "

Frank Ettenberg, via Austria

Georgia Griffin, TX

"Back has quote from President Barack Obama:

'American artists, performers and thinkers - representing our values and ideals - can inspire people both at home and all over the world.'"

Gillian Pokalo, PA

“'To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great' - President Barack Obama
I write to you as an artist and art educator. I teach in Philadelphia and its suburbs, where arts programs are consistently threatened. I hold a K-12 teaching certificate on top of a BFA, and I’ve been searching for full time employment to pay for my student loans, working three part time teaching positions to do so. I also create artwork in hopes of making ends meet. I work hard, pay my taxes, vote; I love my country.
We do our future a great disservice by putting cultural funding on the chopping block. I see the power of an art education every time I step into my classroom, as it is in my classroom that students innovate. With no budget for my art program, my students create sculptures with recycled materials. They see a world of possibility, and are encouraged to, by thinking creatively, come up with solutions for a better world. As you know, from being a father, children are naturally inclined towards thinking creatively. They look to adults to teach them the values of self-reliance, environmental stewardship, and compassion. When we look at the aptitude of young people based on test scores from “No Child Left Behind”, we limit their abilities to only those of reading and math. And as a father, you know that your children are made up of much more than their ability to fill out a bubble test sheet accurately.
As I struggle to make ends meet, and am grateful for opportunities to show my art and the help of my family for support, I cannot help but despair at the realization that my American dream is less valuable than the American dream of the generations before me. I’m 28, hoping to start a family, with qualifications and an education that should make me valuable to society, and our society values the arts. Please support the arts economy, and donate this message to the Smithsonian Art Museum. I hope you read the messages of other artists and art educators who look to you for the moderate, democratic voice of your people. Please represent us well."

Gina Manola, IL 

"Bouncehouse to Arter Space!"

Helen Ferguson Crawford, GA

Jan Harrison, NY 

"I worked for many years in jobs to support myself, while at the same time, making art and exhibiting it. I paid into Social Security. Now that I am retired it has become evident that Social Security is in jeopardy. The cat's money cloak is slipping off. It is frayed, and is no longer protecting it. Parts of the cloak keep being appropriated by others."

Janice Tieken, CA

John F. Kennedy, Michele Obama and Barack Obama have stated their support for the arts, have declared their importance for every society. Most visual artists are at the lowest level of income and respect by any poll or measure. Yet we are part of what makes any civilization worthy of its name. 
In my Fine Arts program working for a degree we were told we would never make a living from our art but would have to find  other work to support it. MAny of us did exactly that and still do because we believe in our work. Other civilized nations put America's support of the arts to shame. Your leadership can make a difference in this.

Jeff Quattrone, NJ

Jeff Wright, NY

"What's the deal?"

Judy Rifka, NY 

"The Parthenon, home of love of art and democracy."

Julia Nielsen, IN

Julie Shapiro, MA

Kerstin Hovland, CA

"JPEG code for this photo was botched by the figures and history of my student debt."

Linda DiGusta, NY

Linda von Geldern, OR

"‎'Without art the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable' G.B. Shaw"

Lisa A. Foster, MA

"I wrote: Artists have the courage to know and the power to heal. We must ensure this continues. Support artists and the economy including the Smithsonian Museum.
Then listed my debt and how I make ends meet for me and my kids."

Lucy Hunnicutt, FL

"I am sending Sojourner Truth. What a woman, what an American."

Lucy Meskill, NJ

"If the government is the arms and hands of a nation, then its artists, writers, poets, musicians, thinkers and dreamers are its heart, and as such, are one of its most precious natural resources. The life's blood of a nation runs through them and into its libraries, theaters, museums and institutions of learning. Please don't staunch the flow of creativity, support the Arts...."

Margaret Pettee Olsen, CO
Mark Brown, NC

"I'm sending a postcard because I can't see to work yet. Caption on verso:

No health insurance
Suffered an ischemic stroke 6/24/11
Can't work*Can't drive
$9K in medical expenses"

Mark Wiener, NY

Martha Thorn, NC

"Excessively Excessive (USA) 9/2/2011"

Melanie Parke, IL

"From a member of W.A.G.E. :: Working Artists for the Greater Economy.

W.A.G.E. draws attention to economic inequalities in the arts, and works to resolve them. W.A.G.E. believes that the promise of exposure is a liability in a system that denies the value of our labor. W.A.G.E. demands payment for making the world a more interesting place."

Mia Pearlman, NY 

Michelle Klein-Hass,  CA

"The Hebrew text repeated in the background again and again is the actual text of Leviticus 25:10, talking about the Jubilee Year. It is the origin of the inscription on the Liberty Bell. 'Proclaim liberty...' And the liberty in question was that of indentured servants, and the cancellation of debts."

I have a student loan burden that will likely follow me around until I die. Which is one of the only ways you can be released from student loan debt now. Please help! This is unconscionable.

Michelle Schwengala, HI

"My 2.75 year old and I collaborated on our postcard (he did the art and I did the text)."

Nancy Oliveri, NY 

"'To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great.'
-Barack Obama"

Patricia Fabricant, NY

Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving. 
- Jimmy Ernst

Perri Neri, NY

Ravenna Taylor, NY

People working in the arts contribute to the cultural esteem of our nation. The arts are among the lowest-regarded on the social ladder. Producing artists & workers in functions supporting education, marketing, distribution; all operating on the barest of means, with all the usual basic expenses - food, heat, housing, medical care, space to work, most paid for by working other jobs. When the entire economy struggles, those at the bottom find there is no bottom, they sink further. Yet workers in the arts file & pay taxes, receiving no assistance whereas highly-paid executives in agribusiness, finance, energy and more reap benefits through gov.t protection. We are here and paying attention. 

"I found a stamp with Martha Graham on it and used it even though it was more postage than needed!"

Richard Christopher Patterson, SC 

Sand T Kalloch, MA 

"'American artists, performers and thinkers - representing our values and ideals - can inspire people both at home and all over the world.'
- Barack Obama"

Scott Schuldt, WA

Shirley James, CA

Slot Head, AZ

"I am not a professional artist, but I feel art is really important to have a healthy life. I like to modify my car in an "artistic" way and drive it around. It makes people smile and laugh. That is all i ask - to be able to make people smile and laugh with art."

Steven Gordon, CO

Tamas Veszi, NY

Please Continue to support Artists and the Economy

I have an MFA from Brooklyn College, and a BFA from Pratt Institute
I am a self supporting Artist and I have over $100,000 in Student Loans!
Most Artists I know, have also an other job!!!
Creativity is the major driving force behind America's forward thinking!!

Ted Herlinger, AK

Tim O'Flaherty, ME 

"It is high tide. The roots of culture are being undermined. Besides having to struggle to create, artists struggle to survive. Our poverty is a reflection of national will. Where is leadership?"

Tracey M. Kessler, CA

Tracey Physioc Brockett, MA
"Art made in America by an artist who works 40 hours a week as a Home Health Aide. If history judges a civilization by it's art, what will they say about us when all the artists need to work at other jobs? What legacy can we leave if we have not the time to practice our craft?"
Tracy Fetter, CA

"I took a side of a card of my painting, 'Hana.' I picked the 'To remain competitive...' quote from Barack Obama and added "Please continue to support and fight for the arts."

["To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great."
- Barack Obama]

William Evertson, CT

"In this climate of reducing government spending at all cost, please remember that the tiny Federal expenditures on the arts reap enormous benefit. Not only are great societies known by their commitment to the arts, their artists provide visions of hope and possibility. Please fight to prevent any further cuts to the arts."

Val Zaba, SC

Additional thanks:

• Emily Citraro, CA, sent a card but didn't post a picture. Good priorities.
• Jim Simms, KY, sent a supporter postcard addressed to "Current Resident." Nice touch Jim!
• Kathy Isabel Stockman, OH, spread the call on her excellent blog: Cincinnati Art Snob.
• Lisa Derrick, CA, spread the call on the political action site:  

And, just in case anyone out there is inspired, here are a few facts and quotes to get you going:

• "Artists are generally more educated than the workforce as a whole." NEA 
• "Artists generally earn less than workers with similar levels of education." NEA 
• "Artists are 3.5 times more likely than other workers to be self-employed." NEA 
• "About 60 percent of artists and related workers are self-employed." BLS
• "Only the most successful fine artists are able to support themselves solely through the sale of their works." BLS
• "Most fine artists have at least one other job to support their art careers." BLS
• "[A]rtists advance professionally as their work circulates and as they establish a reputation for a particular style." BLS
• "[T]he demand for artwork is dependent on consumers having disposable income...." BLS
• "Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year" Americans for the Arts
• "To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great." Barack Obama
• "[A]rts education is the most important known factor in influencing arts participation trends." NEA
• "If [the decline of childhood arts education] continue[s], the health of the arts ecosystem will be in jeopardy." NEA
• "American artists, performers and thinkers - representing our values and ideals - can inspire people both at home and all over the world." Barack Obama
• "Ensure Tax Fairness for Artists: Barack Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act [H.R.1190, amending the Code regarding charitable contributions]...." Barack Obama

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500



Janice Tieken said...

Fantastic to see them all together and because here not have to have missed any! Such a diverse and exciting collection.
Grateful to be part of this stellar group and important project.
Kudos Caroline!
Perhaps it should be an annual event?
Best to all,

Cayenne Linke said...

Agree with Janice -- love seeing them as a comprehensive "show." Thanks again for herding the cats!

Foster Collective said...

I love this project! Disappointed to have just found it now.

cjn212 said...

Janice, Cayenne- thank you for your beautiful works, and beautiful efforts. xo

Foster Collective- please, make a card, keep it going- in many ways that is more important than the project itself.

And I am gratified that others have expressed the wish to do the same, so:
- Postcards should be standard size so that they present well together (4x6, 5x7").
- Images for the blog should be sized greatest length 375 at 72dpi.
- Post a pic to my facebook page /CJNyeArt and I will add it to the blog under a "follow up cards" subhead (make sure I know what State to note by your name).

When it come right down to it, it's not over until we see a change~ CJ

Georgia said...

Hmmm... my first comment frame disappeared.

I just wanted to say that I think seeing the rich diversity of pieces made in response to this project all together is terrific. What a wonderful thing to know it is inspiring others to continue the idea, and agree completely that "it's not over until we see a change".

Leigh said...

Oh, this is marvelous. I was happy to see this at the beginning, and near tears after seeing the beautiful art here and what the artists had written.

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

~Dylan Thomas