It has been a year since Artmistice repositioned and reinvented itself as a more solid commercial performing arts organization. I am proud of what we have accomplished this past year and the great strides we’ve taken in reasserting ourselves in the industry. Looking back, it required a significant amount of funding and risk; but the fact of the matter is worthwhile endeavours and successes usually do. However, the rewards and the results have been more than positive and certainly effective.
Having worked in the industry quite some time before starting the company, we had accumulated the necessary resources and are fortunate enough to be in a position to reinvest in ourselves when needed. But what is the situation like for those just starting out? Or those who have hit a wall and do not have the resources to revamp their business?
Funding for the arts is, without fail, always one of the first things to be cut during an economic downturn. The perception that art is not a lucrative business tends to create an unwillingness to invest in the arts, or rather invest in new artists. The companies who get the support and have had time to prove themselves continue to receive funding past the moment where they have become self-sufficient, likely by hiring professional grant application writers, taking away much needed resources to develop new talent. It is not so much a question of cutting the funds available to artists anymore, but where existing funds are going. When the potential interest and consequent value of an artist’s work becomes secondary to how well their application is written, there is a problem.
As a company, we went the commercial route believing that if what we do continues to be interesting, people will pay for it. The perception that art is not a lucrative business is just that: a perception. And it is a wrong one. Look at Montreal’s summer festivals, New York’s Broadway scene, London’s West End, the art museums of Europe… Art should be regarded by the governments, society, and corporate investors as an investment and not a write-off. If art were treated like any other business; with funds going to artists and organizations that truly need it, allowing the more successful ones to self-finance, it may just have a chance to thrive as a viable economic contributor.