Art and money.
In the time I’ve been a creative, I’ve learned illustration, graphic design, sculpting, painting, drawing, photography, videography, acting, singing, dancing, mask work, puppetry, and how to facilitate political theatre. I’ve learned ceramics, jewellery making, sewing, weaving, felting, dyeing, screenprinting, writing, poetry, and how to work with soft electronics. Despite my extensive skillset, however, money was a creative tool I had to teach myself how to use.
Money and art are intrinsically linked because it’s impossible to separate ourselves and our work from the capitalist system that we’re creating inside. From the artists who make up the creative elite and whose work comes with hefty price tags to the creators who use their chosen mediums to criticize, rework, and/or dismantle current capitalist power structures, all art is influenced by money in one way or another.
Still, while the intimate relationship between money and art is undeniable, so many of the creatives I know were never taught how to hold money within their creative practice. This has also been my experience. In the 11 years I spent getting a formal arts education, money was only ever treated like a mystery or an afterthought. It was generally accepted among my teachers and peers that money should be held at arm's length from art at all times.
Now, many years later, at the core of most of the conversations I have with my peers is the question, “How do I make this project/process/lifestyle work financially?” Beneath the work that’s being made is the pervasive anxiety that the money will run out. Or, sometimes, the fear is that the money will never be there in the first place. Creative visions are constantly being downsized to accommodate shrinking bank accounts.
Of course, I understand. I spent over a decade thinking that the trade-off for being a creative was to be perpetually stressed about money. I also believed that to concern myself with money would cheapen my work and rob it of its authenticity. In truth, not reworking my relationship to money meant that it took me much longer than necessary to be able to sit down and start doing my best work.
It doesn’t need to be this way. The longer you spend hung up on money, the less time you have to do the creative work you’re longing to do and that our world so desperately needs. Money, like paint, fabric, a pen, a computer, an instrument or your body is a tool. Something that can shape change. That can fuel you as a human and as an artist. Like it or not, money is a part of your creative practice. And you get to decide if your relationship with it is supportive or stressful.
So, how do you hold money within your creative practice?