An old saying says “When merchant bankers meet they talk about art, when artists meet they talk about money.”
Obviously it’s very old because now, merchant bankers would be more likely to talk about lap-dancing clubs, or how to increase their over-inflated packages at the expense of people with real jobs.
Ignoring the (possibly justifiable) chorus of objections I hear from all those wealthy bankers who read Panic magazine (and the sudden childish urge to work out a meaning for the word ‘bealthy’) I press on to say that artists, when they meet DO tend to talk a lot about money.
They need it to live, and to do art.
Some might say that artist’s activities are about as useful as those of the merchant bankers. Well, perhaps: suffice to say here, that our society does choose to fund art along with other cultural ‘things’ like museums, parks, etc; and in a democratic society, that choice is ultimately down to the ‘will of the people’.
Largely art is funded via grants. Arts Council Grants, and County Council grants. The authorities have found that this is a cheaper way of funding art than doing it themselves. It means they don’t have to employ the staff, and they don’t have to do the admin because artists, given something to be getting on with, will do the leg work for free.
ECC has just announced their 1st round of arts grants for this year. Around £20,000. And I’d like to highlight one particular project in Chelmsford which attracted some funding.
‘The Shiny Shed’ is to be run by Holly English and it’s aimed at using empty shops in the town centre for cultural/artistic purposes: exhibitions, performances, talks, anything.
The theme of ‘The Shiny Shed’ is mutual exchange – of art, ideas, object, skills, its slogan – ‘Your money is no good here’ (unlike in all the other shops). So, an artist is being paid money to contend against the idea of money? Well, that’s art for you (and music, often – RATM?).
Experience of similar (but not exchange-based) projects elsewhere has shown that this kind of, literally, street-level initiative, does succeed in getting art, even the kind of art derided by the popular media, into people’s lives.
Conceptual art, live-art, poetry and so on is likely to be part of the mix, as well as purely visual art. And this will be located somewhere you walk past every-day, and if there’s something going on there which engages your attention, you might just be tempted not to walk past?
See www.theshinyshed.blogspot.com for more details. And remember www.myspace.com/snapstory for my short story competition. By the way, both projects are also supported by Chelmer Housing Partnership.