Free Labor?

Hands in Cave

A few days ago, artist Gregory Coates shared a wall post on Facebook by Takos Boikat about how artists should be paid. I shared it out on Facebook– and of course I champion the cause. I saw a few reactions to it on Facebook from artists about working for free–how often they are asked to do something in the name of getting exposure, or a famous artist/person will bestow a favor later. Often later never comes around, or the exposure turns out to be little if anything that really drives a career. I have had fellow artists ask me to help them find artists to work for free for them—or work for sub-standard wages. And sadly, I cannot count the number of fellow artists who tell me they work for very little or free.

Gregory’s post is very timely. A society must value the sensitive creative people in the culture—the ones who create are the ones with the ideas, the real drivers of culture and how the future will play out rests on the shoulders of the artists. It is a heavy burden. Risk takers, inventors, social engineers, visionaries, and the creators, this is what makes us extraordinary. Not always knowing the outcome of what we do, we take up the challenge and forge new paths, new ways of seeing, hearing and feeling. 

The caves show work thousands of years old—the work of artists. There are arguments that the work might be spiritual—but we cannot know if the paintings were done for pure joy or for shamanic purposes. Whatever purpose the painters had no longer matters, what does matter is that they left images for everyone to see. Artists matter to society–lets reward them for their labor.