Should some of us live purely by our creativity, and what might that pursuit offer to our civilization?
Not everyone has to build a road, or manage a team of mid-level accountants, or can tomatoes, or bring water to parched villages, or refine the valve synchronization of the artificial heart. To me it seems vital to our species that some of us stay apart from the very real daily demands and problems of the practical world. We call these "apart" people artists, and though we've clearly cleared a space for them in society, it sometimes feels too
apart. One catches wafts of sentiment that portray the artist as the aloof idler and the arts as hopelessly removed from reality. And of course the art world (and more specifically the art marketplace) should take a good amount of responsibility for this head-up-the-butt perception. This seems wrong.
My guy JFK, who strove to be a "total" human (in some super-flawed and incongruous post-war way), genuinely saw the pioneering of imagination and crafting expressions as a "real job" that factored critically in the larger community. Mind you he wasn't out there silk-screening images of Jackie with Andy Warhol at the Factory or anything, but he absolutely placed value in this arena. For example when he says:
"Art unifies the human experience. The artist has labored, amid deprivation, to perfect his skill; turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation's purpose - and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization." (From JFK's offering to the book Creative America
, Ridge Press, 1963)
There is so much in us to be unlocked. The stuff of our better nature and our collective becoming. Yes, build the road, can the tomato, and yes, sell the painting, the song, the story in the marketplace. Money and ideas should intermingle. And yes, create for the sake of creating alone, so that we might inspect the honest contents of our imaginations and discourse on the pros and cons of admitting them into reality.
("It Didn't Involve a Raise" by J.J. Cromer