Boost Local Art This Year with 20 AND 17

Art is vital to a healthy city. Most of us put a high value on beauty and creativity and want the voiceless to find a voice. So why is it so hard for an artist to make a living?

Financial sustainability is a common struggle for almost every artist I meet. Many would like more time to create work, or a more stable platform to create from, but their art just doesn’t translate into a paycheque. 

I’ve just finished asking for donations for a solid month, so I’m not doing that again today, but trust me, I know how much arts institutions need financial support. So do individual artists.

Last year I made a decision to pursue an income from music and writing, leaving a stable part time job behind. The first two concerts I played netted me $30 and $34. And that’s if I don’t factor in any costs. Most shows since have paid better, but not all, and not by a huge margin.

In a time when people are not paying for recorded music, I wonder how viable a career in music can be. 

Musicians are not the only ones wishing for sustainable creative careers.  All art is a hustle, and those of us who make it need to help each other out any way we can. 

I’ve got a plan that is going to make a big difference for a lot of artists, and it might be the best $37 you spend every month.

I’m not asking you for donations, but I am asking you to spend some of your hard earned money on local art and artists.

This plan is called 20 AND 17 and it has just 3 steps. I’m going to do it too, so we can compare notes throughout the year. Each month I’m going to report here on how I’m keeping my commitment and I’d love to hear the same from you. I believe we’ll discover some beautiful things together in the next 12 months.

Here’s the 20 AND 17 plan.

Step one. Spend $20 on local art experiences. 

This might be a live concert or a play. Maybe you go to a gallery opening and drop a twenty dollar bill into the donation bin. Maybe you donate to a dance company who puts on free performances or pay for a night of live comedy. Spending more is, of course, OK. You might also pool your money for a bigger spend in another month.

Step two. Spend $17 on local art products.

This could be a new vinyl record from a local band. A crocheted hat at a craft fair.  A screen printed poster or a few hand-embossed cards to give with gifts. Maybe you download 17 songs from local musicians on iTunes.  Once again, feel free to spend more. Saving up for a bigger buy is also encouraged.

Step three. Repeat every month in 2017.

That’s it. It’d be great if you check back here and tell us about your experience, too, but really the spending is the challenge. 

Around the same time I started looking for paying gigs, I realized that most people in the ‘machine’ of concert promotion are not in it for the money. They are trying to cover costs and pay artists, and the money that is divided up needs to come from someone. Those someones, I realize now, are you and me.

We don’t think twice about paying $18 to watch Star Wars or over $100 to see Coldplay in concert. But paying $10 to watch a local band we don’t know seems like a stretch–a risk we rarely take. This thinking is broken, and it is hurting our local artists.

You may already spend plenty on local arts. Good on ya. I’d love to hear what events and artists you are supporting. 

For those of us (yep, me too) who have not yet made a regular, intentional practice of supporting local art with our money, now is a perfect time.

Some of you may not think $37 is much. For others, it may be a stretch, but I think it’s within all of our reach. Multiplied over dozens or even hundreds of people it will make a big difference in the viability of local arts careers. 

Where will you spend your $20 and $17 this month?

And next?

And next?

You in?

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