Artists Take Risks, Regardless of Economy

August 29, 2008 02:30 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Despite the recession, creative types around the world are pursuing their dreams and quitting their day jobs to dive head first into risky, but exhilarating endeavors.

Taking the Plunge

Three bands from Portland, Ore., are not letting financial concerns get in the way of their musical dreams. According to The Oregonian, experimental group NIAYH has taken to the road in a converted school bus, twin sisters in the band Acoustic Minds have quit their financial industry day jobs to pursue indie music full time and the rock quartet Oh Darling has left affordable Portland behind for Los Angeles in hopes of making it big.

Freedom seems to be a prime source of motivation for these bands. Without ties to home or steady office-type work, the musicians feel more in control of their decisions and destinies. Some sound calm when they talk about their decision, perhaps taking solace in being able to devote their energy to a passion.

“It’s a little bit unnerving,” said a member of Acoustic Minds. “We know we may fall a little, but we know what’s going to happen and why we fell,” she told The Oregonian. 

On the Web site Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items, there are stories of multiple artisans who’ve quit their day jobs to focus on their craft full time, despite the poor U.S. economy.

Painter Rachel Austin lives comfortably by selling her own work, and has even given her husband a job. In an interview with Etsy, Austin described what she liked best about being a self-sufficient, full-time artist, echoing the desire for freedom expressed by the Portland bands.

“I like the limitless possibilities of being my own boss and being able to explore new ideas,” she said.

That limitlessness could be even more fruitful in times of economic instability, contends Sinead Gleeson of Ireland’s Evening Herald.

Gleeson highlights blues musician Robert Johnson’s success during the U.S. Great Depression, and the rise of the band U2 during Ireland’s 1980s economic struggles. Gleeson points out that those who can’t find jobs typically have time to spare and little money to spend, forcing them to stay home and focus on art, writing or music.

“Anyone I know with creative aspirations, wanting to write books, be an artist or play in a band, finds it very hard to do so after working full-time all week,” she writes.

Background: Art trumps recession

During the 1930s and 1940s, FDR’s New Deal legislation included the Federal Arts Project, intended to act as “an unemployment program” and way of bringing “more art to American citizens,” according to the Illinois State Museum’s Fine Arts Collection, which includes many works by Illinois artists who participated in the project.

In December 2002, The New York Times reported that “despite a tight economy,” New York had plans in the works for several new museums, including the Rubin Museum of Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in SoHo. Citing FDR’s efforts during the Great Depression, Senator Hillary Clinton asserted the importance of moving cultural institutions forward when faced with financial hardships. 

''If you go back and look at the great public works in our nation's history, they often happened in very difficult times,” Clinton said.

Related Topic: Pursuit of the American dream

Bill Moyers of PBS recently asked various guests for their “vision for the future of the American Dream.”  Individual video segments with each respondent are available for viewing online.

PBS is also leading a project called “Deepening the American Dream,” which includes essays that delve into “the inner dimensions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The essays and information on the essayists are provided.

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