Friday, March 22, 2013

The Creative Process: Many Things to Many People

This series is about the cross-over skills and concepts between creating art and doing genealogy. Admittedly, it's all very blue-sky.

I put a bit of new into text up at the top there because I am at the point where I'm kinda tired of trying to explain myself every Friday. Hope it's working and if you have another way to say it, please give a girl a hand and let me know:)

This week, let's chat about one of my very favorite concepts surrounding fine art and that's the idea that art is many things to many people (and so is genealogy). Some at the top of the food chain make plenty of money making or selling art. Big time artists, curators, gallery owners, dealers, and oh yes, art thieves are at the top. In the middle are the neighborhood galleries and frame shops, small-time dealers, art school professors, and only about 10% of all the artists who work at it full time and clear more than $10,000 a year after expenses. At the bottom of the food chain are part time art teachers usually working on contract for schools or teaching workshops locally, and the 90% of practicing artists making less than $10,000 a year. It can be very competitive (and often ugly) at the top as artists elbow each other for attention of a tiny collector base. Dealers will sell dear old mom for a rich collector relationship. I could tell stories, but not here because all are just plain mean.

The bulk of individuals who are interested in art don't make a dime on it: they spend money on it but not a lot. That group includes hobby artists who take workshops or classes, and art fans who go to museums and occasionally purchase a piece for their home because they love it and want to live with it. Typically the folks at the top openly express great disdain for anyone in this level. I've seen things and it wasn't pretty.

As you see, art is many things to many people. Some are just interested and are fans. Others want to try their hand. A few love how it ties into history and read about it and visit museums. Some get quite good at making art, often after a career in some other field. The young and ambitious want and need to make a living at it and there are legions of dealers ready to sell their souls.

While I was involved one way or another in the world of art I had much respect for anyone trying hard to make a living at it, especially if they didn't have a name art school education or a relative who owned a big gallery or was placed at a New York or LA museum or auction house. I'd give these folks a break whenever I could because it's rough out there.

You have to love the folks who retired and jumped right into making art! They are starry-eyed and love it in a pure way with enthusiasm. Or the people who work at a 9 to 5 job and make art on the dining room table on the weekends and holidays, especially the ones who have persistence and work at it off and on over years. For them, life comes and goes but art sustains and is always waiting for them. And it's a private place for their refuge. Knew a woman who took care of a gravely ill mother for many years and would hurry out to a small space in the barn to make art whenever her mother was safely in bed. She worked for just 15 minutes at a time for many years producing a beautiful body of work. She said to me, "It kept me sane." Much respect for her.

And I'm thinking that genealogy is like that too. There are the professional and/or certified genealogists who know where the goods are and nobly go get them for us. I read their blog posts, books, and take their classes and learn, picking up whatever crumbs they are willing to share and am thankful that they are so generous. It must be difficult for them to give away the knowledge they paid to get, one way or another. Much respect to each in his or her area of expertise as they try to make a living.

There are others who work in these fields because of love or devotion, hoping to find as many ancestors and relatives on as large and expansive a tree as possible. They work and learn often due to the "kindness of others" who share and help with no monetary reward. Many have been doing this work out of love and devotion for an awfully long time. Some teach or run blogs and often have the most practical knowledge. They are admirable and are happily still learning with the rest of us. Deep respect to them.

Then there are what we might call "hobbyists" for lack of a better word and we do need a better word, who perhaps came to this pursuit after a day job or now that they have retired. We come and we go, but love genealogy because it touches some note or chord within us and often moves our hearts. Yeah, we're not much in the eyes of others perhaps, but we have the love and passion for it as we stumble through the night looking for a wee bit of morning and keep searching for those we knew and loved and went before and others we're just now finding and claiming as our own.

Here are some tips for the "hobbyists" about dealing with the professionals, shamelessly swiped from the world of art and dealing with career artists, dealers, and gallery owners. For genealogists especially, supporting the professionals makes sense all around.
* Know the professional and respect their status. If they have click through ads on their web site, this is a pro. Help the pros you like by clicking through and checking out the wares. You might find the next new thing you couldn't live without.
* Give a pro a helping hand. See if you can understand where they make their income and don't ask for anything they charge for for free. Just makes it all awkward. If you are able, use their services and pay. If we don't use their services they won't be around down the road, and we need them to be here.
* Understand that there are pressures that come with trying to make a living doing this work. Most are entrepreneurs and running your own business is never easy, especially in difficult economic times. Be patient and give them the benefit of the doubt. If someone is a tad snippy it probably means they are dealing with an issue.
* We're not all equal, the pros and the semi-pros, and the rest of us. There is a hierarchy and it's good to know where you fit so that you don't step on toes.
* Give respect and send love and support to the pros you like and maybe our pros will send the love on back. They really should because that's where their bread is pleasantly buttered:)

Nutshell analysis and the obvious take-aways:
*  The art world is crazy.
*  We over here in genealogy are real nice folks.
*  We know that and are planning to keep it that way because we're smarter than they are;)

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:

The Williams Boys, sons of my GGF Daniel Williams, except for James Price who was my GGM Jane Price Williams' brother. Just realized that Daniel wasn't in this photo because he died in 1920. Gosh.

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