Artists Deserve A Living Wage Too
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Artists Deserve A Living Wage Too

We as a society undervalue art and the artists that produce it. What's up with that?

Artists Deserve A Living Wage Too
Pop Up Art Sale

Imagine for a moment that you have a job in a corporate setting in America. You go in to the office, work eight hours a day on one project for days—maybe weeks—and when payday comes around, you only make a hundred dollars. To break it down (assuming you’ve worked for one week on this project), that’s just $20 a day or $2.50 an hour. To put that in perspective, the minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour. So what kind of job would expect people to work for less than minimum wage and somehow still be stigmatized? I’ll tell you: artists.

Many people have the impression that artists are lazy, that they don’t have “real jobs”, or that art is just a hobby. But for many artists, the sale of their art is their only income and their way to survive. I’ve made generous estimates in my earlier math, but in some cases, artists work far longer on their pieces for less money. This doesn’t just include artists who work with paints, sculpture, and canvases, but it also extends to authors, poets, musicians, and craftspeople—basically anyone who creates and sells something. Everyone deserves a fair living wage, and artists are no exception.

Independent artist Sarah-Faith Bean says: "I would say that artists' work can be undervalued because sometimes people think of art as a product and not a service. Artists put a lot of time and effort into their work, but the people that are wanting to purchase it do not take that into consideration. A customer is not buying the paint or the frame, the customer is paying for the "painter". Another reason art is undervalued is because artists often undervalue themselves in order to make sales. A frustration that comes with being an artist is the temptation to discount the work you do, so that your potential clients are willing to buy from you."

Artists aren’t lazy, or simply hobbyists. (Some are hobbyists, but that doesn’t invalidate their art or their right to a fair wage!) Many people go to school for years and get degrees in order to make good art because it’s their life’s passion. And yet, there are critics who say that artists are overpaid, who expect to consume and own art for free because they don’t appreciate the work that artists put into their craft or how expensive art supplies and training can be. Much like an engineer or a doctor, artists go through years of school and training in order to pursue their life's dreams.

The reason that engineers and doctors are valued much more than artists is perhaps a reflection of how much our society values art. Look around you: there are probably ten things that were designed and made by an artist. Your table and chairs were made by a woodworker, your clothes were designed by a fashion designer, and the hangings you have up on your wall were created by an interior designer or another artist. Art surrounds you, but as a society, we don’t appreciate it—or the artists who create it.

This might be because people look at art and say, “Hmmm, I could do that.” Sometimes that’s true, but there’s a critical second part to that statement: “But you didn’t.” You didn’t buy the canvas, or the paint and brushes, or the clay, or the tools to make the art. You didn’t put hours, days, or weeks of your time into making it. You didn’t go to school in order to hone your artistic talent. So behind every art piece is an ocean of experiences and hard work that made it possible. Consider this the next time you see an artist selling their pieces, and instead of criticizing, remember that like everyone else, artists deserve a fair wage for their work.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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