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The Best Ways to Support Broke Artists

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Guest post by Haley Reen

I am an artist, a writer mostly, and the writing work I do is sporadic, piecemeal, and varies widely in payscale from client to client. In the beginning, I did a lot of writing unpaid, you know, for “exposure” and while it did pad my resume, it did not feed me. So of course I have a day job, like most artists. I’m lucky I can manage to do both, but not all artists are. Bay Area residents live in a strong art-positive community. But just because there are art installations and murals all over the greater Bay Area, that doesn’t mean it’s a great time or a great place to make a living as an artist. In fact, for the most part, trying to pay bills and eat while making art really sucks. Artists are responsible for nearly all of our entertainment. Artists create the clothes we wear and the furniture we sit on. However, for every rich designer, there are thousands of people who make art every day for nothing. Some of those people are our own friends and family.

Being a good friend means that if you enjoy your friend’s art, you pay for it. Buying the actual art is the best way to help your artist people. However, this being the time and place that we live in, precious few of us can actually afford to pay for art, and even less can pay what it is actually worth. There are non-monetary ways, to support your artist friends, though. If you want to be a good friend to an artist and you can’t afford their art, there are things you can do: 

Promote Them:

If you own or work in a cafe or bookstore or whatever and there is a place to put stuff on the walls, ask the boss if you can put your friends’ art on the walls for a month or so. Play their CD over the speakers, put their book or CD on consignment in the store. Reblog, share, like, @ their handles whenever possible. Review their stuff! If they wrote a book, put a review on Amazon, GoodReads, etc. If they make visual art, share it (with permission, and while maintaining the watermarks, signatures, etc.) and credit it on your own social media. If you yourself are handy with a camera, offer to photograph them, their fashion, their craft, their paintings and sculptures. If they are a performer and you can’t afford a ticket to their shows, then the least you can do is share their events and links. If they have a Patreon or a Ko-Fi, surely you have at least a dollar a month.

Support Them Physically:

If you can, help them bodily. Give them a ride, help man their stall or booth at shows, babysit their kids while they snatch prescious hours to work on or sell their art. Some of your artist friends might be on food stamps. Maybe feed them. 

Have their back if someone is stealing their art:

Unfortunately it happens. Occasionally there will be some viral article about how an independent designer had their concept bitten off, or straight up swiped by a major corporate retail entity. Less heard of, but still a huge problem, is folks stealing visual art and reposting it as their own. Some go as far as to have merchandise of stolen art on Redbubble and Cafepress. Mostly, though, its someone lifting something off a website or taking photos of items on display at art events, and not crediting the artist. People don’t even think of this as stealing most of the time, and it happens a lot. When you see that stuff, alert your artist friend! Document it! Screen cap it! Don’t let people get away with that crap!

A number of years back someone totally ripped off the classic BAS Young, Broke and Beautiful shirt. The original is on the left.

I’m not proposing that everyone run out and worship their artist friends. It is their choice to make art for a living and we don’t owe them anything for that. I’m simply proposing that if there’s an artist friend that you believe in, that you want to see do well, but you can’t personally afford their art, you can still support them. Just as you might cheer on a friend running a 5K, someone pursuing their degree, or striving for a promotion within their own career…just, you know, with art instead of that other stuff.

Art is part of what makes us human. It’s something we do, and sometimes it changes the world and becomes part of history, but mostly it does not. Creative self expression saves us from wallowing in the eat-work-sleep drudgery. As hard as it is to be an artist, it’s even harder to have that art within oneself and not let it out. Art is what gives life its flavor, we are just droids without it…So, support your favorite artists.


Haley Pollock is a Bay Area native and freelance writer

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