Just to warn you. There may be swears.
The last few days have been lovely. Wednesday, I hung out with my sister from a whole other family, October. Thursday, live music at C’est What with Neil Traynor and band. Had another productive cafe writing session with Heather Babcock and John Oughton on Thursday, Saturday, my fella and I crammed in watching Street Poetry in High Park, a second viewing of the cherry blossoms and then dinner and live music in The Junction. After an amazing few days of enjoying local independent art, music, and poetry with the people I love, fellow creatives, why do I not feel content? Why instead am I feeling contempt? Here’s why.
This has been nagging at me, scratching at my gray matter for some time now It’s been bubbling just below the surface, pulling at me, like that song, that sits on the tip of your tongue and it’s driving me mad. I have talked to others about it. I’ve occasionally posted status messages about it and tried to get people’s attention and their consideration for it. Now… now I’m at my wit’s end and I’m pissed. No, I’m fucking angry. It’s time to make a change.
Those were the swears. I can’t promise those were the last.
What initially pushed me to the brink was a group of four women who were in their early twenties. As we were having our writing session at a local Mom and Pop run cafe Thursday, these young women were standing in line waiting to be served. A long line. The cafe was busier than normal due to the cherry blossoms in High Park. When they were about three people away from being served, one of the young women loudly exclaimed, “I want to support local, but they are too slow here. Let’s go to Starf*cks.” (she didn’t call it that and used the proper name, I did. Guess who will never be sponsoring me.). Did these women not notice the cherry blossom festival chaos across the street and consider it might be affecting the businesses in the hood? If you really wanted to support local, wouldn’t you be patient? Wouldn’t you take how busy the shop was into consideration? I did.
This, however, isn’t what I want to talk about. It was what triggered everything. Thursday night, a good friend was playing with his band at a popular downtown venue. When it came time to pass the tip jar, we went around to everyone who was, what we thought, enjoying the music. We asked everyone to throw in a loonie or toonie to help support local music. Some put money in funds (mostly other artists), while the corporate types (I have another name for them, but won’t write it) declined — very rudely in most cases. This really bothered me.
I’ve put on many events and attended an even greater number of them. I’ve observed when the tip jar is being passed around, for the most part, artists will always put money in, even if it is whatever loose changed they have in their pockets. Artists will go out to other artists events without batting an eye. We support each other, promote each other, help out at each others gigs, artist supporting artists. This, sadly, does not help us grow, help us get noticed outside of our community and when we try to get others to come to events or if they are at an event, put a few dollars in the tip jar, they don’t or rather won’t and they make you feel awful for asking. On Thursday night, we received snarky comments and evil stares when we asked. I felt that we were asking for their first born (no thanks) or for a donation of blood. (again no thanks) It was frustrating.
Once upon a time, artists were revered. If this was the 1920s or 1930s we would be looked upon at a higher level, would make a nice living from our art and be respected. Why is it, in 2017, we are looked down upon, brushed off and disrespected? We are asked to work for free and when we do get paid, it’s for way less than minimum wage. We struggle to get anyone, who isn’t an artist to come out to events (when was the last time our families, workmates or other acquaintances came to see us). We work hard to promote our events, prepare for the events and then put on the show. How do we get people to start supporting local artists? How do we get them out to events? How do we get them to respect us?
This city is full of performers, writers, playwrights, theaters, bands, songwriters, singers, visual artists, photographers, poets, spoken word artists, designers, painters, sculptors, magicians, burlesque, comic artists, comedians — the list goes on. How do we get the average Joe to support us? How do we get the city and venues to support us? And speaking of venues, how to we keep the supportive ones going? I see my fellow artist struggling every day to get their art out there and to survive financially. I see musicians like Cynthia Gould trying to get awareness out there through her TO Rock Cult Facebook page. Yesterday I witnessed Street Poetry trying to raise awareness. I applaud these artists and all the others that are making an effort, but my question, the thing that is bothering me, nagging at me is how do we as one huge collective, make this happen on a bigger scale? How do we get the populous to once again respect and revere artists?
I will keep promoting, supporting and helping my fellow artists. I will continue to walk around venues asking everyone to put some money in a tip jar. I will keep posting and voicing out how much we need to support independent artists, but I need help. Cynthia needs help. Every person who is fighting to survive as an artist needs help! Here is where you can help. Everyone who reads this, please share it. If you see an artist’s having an event, go to it, buy their art, books, CDs, merch. Post about their events, tell your friends. Better yet, gather your friends and bring the to events. If you are an artist, keep promoting your fellow artists. Let’s, as one huge collective get the rest of the world to see us!
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