The Art of Trade is proposed by Bruce McKaig
How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?
I was inspired to propose building a barter network for the Crusade for Art grant because I see no shortage of artists, no shortage of people interested in having art, but bringing them together remains elusive. Art events can be so eclectic; it is almost comparing apples and oranges. Two commonalities across the board: artists are providing more work than artists are earning and people who want and could afford art are doing without.
How did you come up with the idea for your project?
I have been privileged to work on numerous community art projects in the last fifteen years and working with communities my attention and my art came to focus on issues of work and living wages. As I learn about the fight for 15, or personally live the adjunct faculty challenge, I see artists, including myself, as an additional labor group that struggles to earn a livable wage.
With my background as a visual artist and my academic training in economics and international affairs, I advocate for more humanitarian working models for artists. I am a 2016 Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in their New Economy Maryland program. This institutional support provides intellectual resources and rich human contacts for the work. I am turning to the Crusade for Art grant for the necessary resources to build the first working model, in real time, with real participants, real art, direct exchange of goods and services.
What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?
Starter Plus is an organization in Paris that opens theater seats to interested viewers in a very clever way. Starter Plus works with theaters to book seats for people for shows that are still running but not to full houses. The seats can be half-price, free, or for two. They mail out availabilities and people call them to book. They reserve with the theaters and people just need to show up. Theaters have increased presence for performances and people who would never have gone discover theater, performers, playwrights, spaces. Unlimited use, it costs about $140/year. Some single tickets cost more than that. People can be risk takers and discover new things without committing a few months spending money. It’s a win-win.
What do you think is the greatest struggle/weakness facing artists and the art community right now? What is the greatest opportunity/strength?
The arts are not immune from the greater struggles facing our culture today: what ways will we define and measure work and compensation? Caretakers, educators and adjunct faculty, fast food workers, are just a few. We operate and analyze with tools developed at the great depression when industrialization was the prevailing dynamic. Now, we are waist deep in the information economy, and the industrial definitions and practices are not keeping pace.
This presents a great opportunity for the arts to take on a leadership role in an evolution that has begun and needs traction.
How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?
I think this is a very personal thing. Some artists will be more revealing and discursive about their work, which is great. Others less so, and this is to be respected as well. The Internet provides plenty of opportunities to put out statements, images, videos, commentary. Whatever the format or vehicle, maybe the most helpful thing would be to avoid assuming ANYONE you interact with doesn’t want to engage with the arts. I’ve never landed in a community where I was expected to “bring in some art,” that wasn’t already celebrating the arts in many ways without anyone’s help.
Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?
History and culture currently have the artist niched in a very strange position. On the one hand, artist means transcendental, otherworldly, a portal to vision, enlightenment, problem solving skills – holier than everything else combined. On the other hand, elitism is dead so anyone can do it. Holier than thou means it’s priceless. Anyone can do it means it’s worthless.
I think the better we are at linking the labor of an artist to the general issue of labor, qualifications, and compensation, the more obvious and fluid the links will be between artist and viewer. The drives are there. The mechanisms are outmoded.