Monday, April 16, 2007

maslow meets the parents on parliament hill

There's a great opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen this morning about how the desires of parents can affect the career choices of aspiring artists, writers, musicians, etc. It was written by the younger brother of Dan Hill (Canadians of a certain vintage will remember his signature hit song Sometimes When We Touch). Marianne Lepa of Arts News Canada says this about Hill's article:

A career in the arts is not the choice most parents would make for their children. What parent would want to see their offspring toil away for merciless hours making pennies a day? What parent would wish garrets and draughty spaces as their child's dream home?

But then, a career in the arts isn't about the money, is it?

"I can't imagine a saxophonist, painter, ballerina or poet deciding to follow his or her passion because of the money," says Hill. "Truck drivers, plumbers, teachers and even people flipping burgers at minimum wage earn steadier money -- and more money -- than most Canadian artists." But art is a social need, says Hill. "We need art as individuals, and we need art collectively, and virtually every civilization I have visited or read about has valued and thirsted for artistic expression. To me, art springs from individual genius. But that genius is fragile, and it won't flower if it's not cultivated. We need parents who read to their kids and encourage their creativity and teachers who know how to nourish artistic promise, but we also need institutions, business and governments to support the arts vigorously and creatively."

This pervasive money=success attitude was typical in my family and affected my younger brother (a storyboard artist) and me for many years. But it's not just non-creative types like our parents who don't get it. An old friend who does fabric art in her spare time never asks about my creative process or buys any art herself (in spite of her own financial success in city management), only about how my sales are going. (When I was making a lot of sales at a certain point she quit asking. What does that mean do you think?) The only artists who seem able to take a break from the questioning and criticism are those who have become financially successful or those who are surrounded by family and friends who understand (a) the psychological need for creative people to create and (b) the larger societal benefit. Unfortunately it usually takes someone with the same kind of creative drive to really get it.

But enough finger wagging; I ain't no saint myself. We all make judgements and deliver opinions through the filter of our own experiences, upbringing, interests, jealousies and desires (I'm doing that right now) and many people are not able to break out of the Social and Ego levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in their own lives, so showing support for those whose needs are in a different category altogether is a leap some are simply unable to make. Often they have the best intentions, and most parents do want the best for their kids, but this can get hopelessly lost in translation.

Having been a teacher I value education like no other 'intervention,' so I'm rooting for the "coalition of writers, actors, dancers and others who will be on Parliament Hill today. They are holding an 'Awakening' that organizers hope will 'open the eyes of the Harper government to the cultural and economic contribution the arts make to Canada.' The group is urging for the reinstatement of the $11.8 million dollars cut from Foreign Affairs' international cultural promotion budget last fall."

Keep your fingers crossed.


Blogger susan said...

aye matey, but i wouldn't change my life for the world of gold.

16/4/07 11:27 a.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

You said it, Andrea! This is why you have that thinking blogger award.Any chance someone in Canberra could take notice,d'you think?

16/4/07 2:43 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

How are you sales?


17/4/07 4:26 a.m.  
Blogger HMBT said...

Great Post! I am constantly talking to myself, using my passions for building my own definition of isn't always about sales, or money but feeling good about what I do and why I do it. I have definetly done better money wise in past careers, but the joy in my daily work life wasn't there as it is now. Again...great post! Thanks.

17/4/07 4:41 a.m.  
Blogger ziggi said...

I love your pictures and appreciate the opportunity to acquire them when I can - you can give them to me if you like ;o) but I really enjoy buying them. I like to buy something nice out of the money I earn. Isn't there a value in this without it being totally commercial - or am I missing the point?!

17/4/07 11:51 a.m.  
Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Holy Maslovian Chartstoppers Batman!
I love Maslow's chart and although I continually congratulate a handful of bloggers for hitting the 5th Element (SA) few have understood the enormity of such an accomplishment.

It is hard for some to digest the intrinsic value of having 'Artsy Fartsy' people around. They seem to forget that this world would be a dreadfully dreary place without them.
Art for Art sake,
Money for God sake! (10cc)

If we left it all up to the pragmatic accountants and statisticians (who we need to satisfy my OCD impulses by creating LISTS, glorious LISTS) our world would be a hellish 9 to 5 conveyor belt ride chugging along from drab to blasé...

For the record I loathe 'Sometimes When We Touch" by 'Downhill' Dan...perhaps only the Pina Colada song and Feelings can rival this crapola for sheer mindnumbing chalkboard-fingernail-raking excrutiating aural torture!
"Is my honesty too much?"

17/4/07 12:47 p.m.  
Blogger nadine said...

This is how I want my tax money spent ... Support our culture. Make our country a more beautiful place to be :-) This is a wonderful, and well thought out post Andrea. Thank you!
(Needless to say, being in the States and having to give taxes to GB is driving me to madness...)
PS Hadn't thought about adding a site feed, but on your suggestion, am going to get out my Idiots Guide to Blogging for Dummies and figure it out :-)

18/4/07 12:49 p.m.  
Blogger Bibi said...

Interesting pov Andrea and I think anyone who follows their passion or works in the creative field experiences this kind of judgement at some level.

My siblings and parent supported my decision 100% when I left being a "VP" to go freelance. My dad even said "about time!"

But almost everyone else thought I'd gone NUTS and I could see them waiting for me to fail. HAH ... now who's laughing (in a nice way of course!!)

18/4/07 5:26 p.m.  
Blogger Merisi's Vienna For Beginners said...

"The Arts" are a very fickle business.
Many of my friends are involved in one art or the other, also on the business side, I understand what you are trying to say.
I am all for the arts, I educate my children in that spirit. It is a life of incredible sacrifice for most artists, though. How sad, given the pleasure they provide.
I must say that Austria is spending a lot of money for the Arts, unfortunately they still do not give tax breaks for supporting the Arts.
Hug for you,

23/4/07 12:38 a.m.  
Blogger Bendtherulz said...

Very thought provoking article Andrea...I saw art & sports getting sacrifised ( well I was not even born - however heard of the stories of my uncles) - One was selected in a premium institue for Fine arts when he was quite young however my grandfather wanted all his kids to get educatd and get proper jobs...such a waste as I see his paintings...You will not believe my uncles and my dad their career were chosen for them...yikes...I think we had easy time...whatever we wanted to do ...we followed that...!

Someone asked me - what is my hobby - and I replied - my hobby is working and earn money - so that I can follow my passion....!
I would love to follow my passion full time.

I think truly courageous people follow their passion - straight and through.

24/4/07 6:42 a.m.  
Anonymous donna said...

What's worse is being into self actualization and having your shrink keep bugging you to get a job. ;^)

1/5/07 6:43 p.m.  

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