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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Why Do We Undervalue Art?

You can see my reflection in the computer screen and it's super creepy.

Seriously, why do we undervalue art? I'm talking all kinds of art from writing to music. We want it free or, at least, super cheap. We (and I'm using the societal "we" here) need art, it has many emotional and neurological benefits, can relieve stress and its negative effects on the body, and yet, we under-fund the arts at every turn and try our best to get art for free. Ironically, the Internet, a system of communication and connection, which is the largest depository of art in existence, has contributed to this expectation of free images, free music, free TV, free online lit mags, and so on. Art is vital to our emotional - and physical - health, is a source of human connection and understanding, and a powerful community-builder. So why don't we treat it likes it's essential and properly compensate artists for their work?

Another writer friend and I were recently commiserating the ridiculously sub-par prices some freelance editing clients seemed to expect. One of the freelance sites I'm on frequently seems to have jobs posted for huge amounts of work for next to nothing. Edit your dissertation for $5? No thanks. That shit will take me hours. Proofread a 20,000-word manuscript for $100? Nope. I'll take a week or two with that, and that barely buys groceries. We're both professional, MFA-educated writers, and yet, can barely scrape by as writers. Seriously, what's with that?

I think some people (somehow) don't understand what an essential part of their lives art is. Have a favorite song? Art. Wear clothes? Art. Ever read a book? Art. It's everywhere. Literally. No society is without art.

One time I posted in outrage on Facebook about Trump threatening to defund the National Arts Endowment (NEA), and a Trumper I went to high school with commented that people who wanted those kinds of programs could pay for them, but that he wasn't going to. I left a civil response about how I agreed that those who could afford to contribute should, but many families can't, and they deserved to have access to the essential, educational, and diverse works and programs created with NEA funding (or something like that). I didn't tear into him the way I wanted to (didn't want to take the bait that time, at least), but I wanted to say your kids, I'm sure, have seen a performance at school, has made art there or somewhere, listen to songs, reads books. NEA funding contributes to all of that (what, is the NEA paying me here? Nope. Because art is underfunded.). Art is key to your kids' lives, mental, and physical health. So why do we think it's free? Is it because we don't understand the incredible amount of work, creativity, emotion, and talent it takes to write and perform a song, paint a self-portrait, capture the right light, or agonize over a single line of a poem? It takes guts, and brains, and a whole lot of work to create. So support artists in your (or our global) community. Buy books, literary journals, concert tickets, whatever you can afford. Defend the arts. And pay for them.



Artists Everywhere

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