Letter: We owe artists an opportunity, not a living

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I just read the article today about the plight of our artistic community [“Gimme Shelter: Is Asheville’s Creative Community Getting Priced Out?” Sept. 18, Xpress]. I wish to share a thought.

Let’s say 100 artists are struggling to make a living in downtown Asheville. Assume 50 decide to leave for economic or housing reasons. Also assume the population of Asheville continues to grow, and tourism does also. Instead of 100 artists splitting the growing revenue pie, now there are only 50, so each artist stands to double their sales opportunity. Also with 50 fewer artists renting spaces, it is reasonable to assume that the supply of spaces would exceed the demand, thus benefiting the 50 who remain.

I do not wish to see any artist leave, but in business, the cream has a way of rising to the top, and our most talented and business-savvy artists stand to benefit in a less-saturated market. As the supply of art increases, the average artist might have to reduce prices just to sell anything. That is not a formula for success. Can their industry seek a profitable and sustainable level without community funding? We owe them an opportunity, but not a living.

— Charles Peele


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15 thoughts on “Letter: We owe artists an opportunity, not a living

    • Lulz

      Why yes, sometimes the scum does rise. But who’s the bigger scumbag? The business owner or the government on one end that allows it to get its cut? Or the employees on the other end who work for them? Good thing about America is you have choices. Too bad you’ve raised an entire generation of people who are ignorant of that fact. And assume the same government that looks the other way on everything from corporate criminals to open borders is going to take up their cause. LOL, they’re going to get steamrolled over and left behind. The only thing the government cares about is keeping it’s own corrupt system going. It’s why downtown Asheville went from buy local to a corporate mecca of hotel chains and shops. And the real estate market is full of PREDATORY REALATORS who seek people that are underwater on their mortgages to make money off of them. And why you’re seeing continued articles about Asheville enticing people to keep moving here. Logic is that the more money they pay for real estate, the bigger cut the government gets does it not? Pretty scummy in my opinion.

  1. Justin Reid

    This belief that life is a zero-sum game or that hard living conditions cause “the best” to rise to the top is why the quality of life has not only fallen in this town, but across the country. Scarcity mentality is what gave us reality TV and talent-less pop stars, alongside unemployment and rent that is way too high. I would think you would be singing a different tune if *you* lost your job and were worried about making ends meet. But oh I forgot you think you are one of the “deserving” ones who “earned it” and it’s those “other people” that caused own their problems. I hope this mindset sails into the sunset with the aging Baby Boomer generation before it kills the planet. This so-called “personal responsibility” narrative is one of the top problems of this violent broken society.

    • Lulz

      LOL yes place the blame on Americans for the entire planet’s fate. But that’s the mentality of someone who thinks punishing people will make their own lives better. The zero sum game you speak of.

      Meantime allow open borders and the suppression of wages that they cause. Even be progressive and give out free health care to the entire world. And then ask yourself why illegals seem to have 5 kids in tow and how they can afford to feed them while artist can’t even find a place to live. Here’s a hint, they ain’t nothing like you. And that’s the entire issue. People like you are being replaced by others . And are allowed to game the system on top of it to speed up the process.

      • Justin Reid

        Fascist xenophobic hate screeds like this are why my politics are the way that they are. You need to re-evaluate your life.

  2. Mike R.

    While I enjoy art and have supported artists (through purchases) over my lifetime, I have always considered it to be a tough way to make a living. I don’t think that is any different now than years past. So to the author’s comments about the best will survive financially, I agree.

    That said, I also agree that this is a very difficult (maybe impossible in some ways) economy for many young people who do not have higher paying jobs. Price inflation has increased in many have-to-have areas of our economy while wages have stagnated for years.
    Even higher salaries have not increased with inflation it’s just that those salaries started at a higher level so the basics such as housing, car, etc. could be obtained without undue stress…but not much more.

    The economy is headed for a major fall in the coming years. We have managed to totally screw it up over the last 30 or 40 years. It no longer works for the majority of citizens that are willing to work and save.

    I don’t know when the reset is coming exactly, but the writing has been and continues to be applied to the wall.

    • Lulz

      Being an artist should be a hobby, not a lifestyle. Some of the most valuable paintings were done by artist who were poor in their day.

      Maybe they should paint houses for a living and do art on the side. Naw that’s medial work that’s beneath them. Jobs and good pay is out there. But the one’s complaining aren’t seeking to do that type of work. In an area saturated by art galleries and artist, many are going to find it difficult to earn a living unless they have connections.

      • Jason Williams

        Speaking as an artist, I can say that almost all the artists I know work “day jobs.” Most of them in the service industry. We do paint houses, print shirts, serve you drinks, nanny your kids, teach, and bag your groceries. We are not beneath “medial” (sp) work. It’s just in Asheville, and really in the last 7-8 years, one has to spend most of their time working in order to live in the place one wants to do art in. There is no point to work those MENIAL jobs if they don’t afford you the time to do what you are really passionate about.
        Artists were a part of making Asheville what it is today, and now, unless you’re Jonas Gerard and can make obscene amounts of money selling utter crap to tourists, artists can’t afford to live here anymore. Also what exacerbates the situation is moneyed out of towners, who come in and buy up the cheap spaces where we do our are, and convert them into yet another brewery, or event space, or restaurant, or boutique hotel. Those people don’t care about the cultural fabric that makes Asheville such a desirable place to be in, they just want to use their capital to make money off the latest trend.
        If only Asheville had more visionaries like Julian Price or John Payne who understood that there is greater value in creative spaces that make a community more culturally rich, than monetarily rich.

        • Lulz

          No one said life is fair. If your priorities are to seek your passions, well good luck. Hope your passions pay but in all reality it won’t fior the majority. What you’re talking about already happened to the ones pushed out by gentrification.

          LOL cultural fabric?;Jesus it’s the mountains and climate. Asheville was a better place in the 1980s than today. That’s when your cultural fabric was due to the people here. Not their passions. That’s when there was an actual plumbing store downtown. Not an art gallery.

  3. Carlos A. Fernandez

    As a photographer, I have personal understanding of the ups and downs of the business. I did not begin my photography with the idea of it being a profession. It was pure passion. Over time, there have been opportunities for me to make money, but not nearly as much as my “regular job”. I never had the delusion that I could make my living, provide for my family, or plan for the future. I never expected any outside help to fund my art.

  4. jason

    I’m quitting my job and following my dream as a full time mountain biker. It’s my passion so I plan on making at least $70k/year. I expect full benefits, sick leave, vacation days and cost of living raises each year. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!

  5. 3G

    I lived 10 minutes from where Bruce Springsteen grew up and let me tell you that man busted his ass to get where he is today, he worked odd jobs until his band became more and more popular then he was able to loose his day job and go full time music career. When he was starting out he lived in sub par conditions, rehearsed in Clarence Clemmons family’s old basement and made some of the best music he ever created, it was only when he got rich and had a sprawling house in Colts Neck NJ that his art suffered in my opinion. So yes suffering does create great art, people relate to suffering because mostly everyone has suffered sometime in their life, not to many people can relate to living in a bad ass house on a farm in Colts Neck with it’s own recording studio. Just my opinion…. And to quote the great a great song “Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues
    And you know it don’t come easy” Peace out…….

  6. Jason Williams

    One point that the original letter writer and many of the people commenting are overlooking is the fact that the artists profiled in the article, and others around town have been here for a number of years, some upwards of twenty years. In the past they have been able to support themselves in Asheville, whether it was directly from sales of their art, or working a side job to support their art habit. However over the last 5 or so years, it has become increasingly difficult to work, or sell, enough to afford their house payment, and rent, and cost of living in Asheville, and still have the time/finances to make their art. What has changed? Rising cost of living, gentrification, and stagnant wages contribute much to that change. The original letter writer said that artists are owed on opportunity, but in so many ways that opportunity to live in the place we love, and make art is being taken from us by profit driven investors that think capital is better than culture.

    • Lulz

      That’s not just a problem facing artists. This was happening 30 years ago as outsiders started moving in and pushing others out. No one cared because they were viewed as unwashed masses. Here’s one thing that many don’t get. In corrupt Asheville, money is priority and to continue making it, you need new blood with more money. And today’s makeup of the area will be pushed out for it. Arts and artists now are on the list to be replaced. And the ones left will cater to a smaller pool of wealthy clients. As the hotels, restaurants, and breweries are already doing. You cant act surprised when upper six figure condos in downtown sell and believe those buying them wont influence the place. And surely enough 10 years from now downtown will be totally different from today. Much more exclusive for sure. As will the city. If you’re foolish enough to think Asheville is a place for artists to thrive, joke’s on you. Problem is that it also applies to many more people than just them. And it’s not changing.

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