Art and Economy
Oh, give me a break – everyone today has something to say about the economy. Some of us even say “What economy”. Truthfully i decided to really ponder through something I have been noticing with our art shows. It is a bold statement – but here goes:
I think that this whole discussion about the economy has first hit a nerve in middle class thinking, and second – there is truth that the middle class has less expendable/disposable income.
Why say that? Well, we have always had our share of lookers visit the booth… people who stop by our tent and smell the soaps, finger the silks, try on the jewelry and comment on the reblooming bags. It often comes down to price. The moment they spot the price, see the sign, find the tag there is an immediate wrestling match in their head that might sound like this: “ok, love it, want it, hmm, the price is more than i think i want to pay, but it is local made, and hand crafted, but do i want to part with my money? Or can i live without it? maybe i should get it. Well, I do have bills due, and i was saving for that (fill in the blank) which i may need more. I think i am just gonna get it. No, maybe i better not.” You can see that mental battle in their eyes… they look at the item alot, and look at you. Their eyes connect with yours and you know they have an answer. And this is what they say to me “Thanks, i am going to walk around and i will be back perhaps.”
If you think i am a bit nuts believing that some customers have this dialogue in their heads, perhaps i am. I know this mental conversation first hand because often when i see something that my previously nice disposable income allowed me to buy… i now look at my precise budget that has to stretch to cover bills, and pay for life… which seems to be getting more costly each day, all while doing this on a salary that is not keeping up with inflation. So yes, that suggestion of dialogue came right from actual mental wrestling matches i have personally had with myself.
Our middle class has been the backbone of our nation… we work hard, pay the bills, pay our taxes which help the government pay their bills, and supply services to needed places. We have always chosen to work harder, put in more effort with the goal of building our American Dream… the good job, the house, car, education and family. But the news media does get one thing true… the middle class is getting stretched farther than we ever were, taxed more than we ever could be, and has less than we ever had.
So how does that impact an art business? Hello… no money – no buying. No buying, no income. No income, no output. Like everything involving economy, there are cycles, and this one only has to take it 180 degrees to a place where we are again encouraged, flourishing, and prepared to encourage others.
Why should anyone care about this cycle? Sooner or later it impacts everyone. Yep, the businesses cut back on staff, the unemployed staff draw on unemployment, become statistics, live on far less income than is really comfortable, find challenges paying bills, and slump into dark places… the spending stops, causing other businesse to shrink staff, cut back services, reduce hours, which ripples to another bunch of people.
It is hard living through a time that is textbook for economic slips… but we are Americans, strong, resilient, and we can turn things around. Not speaking of politicians, or any other solution. Suggesting that the answer comes in us. … working harder, turning on that innovation that once made America stand out from the world. Turning on that sense of importance of community…. helping someone in need, paying it forward for a time when perhaps you might need. Willing to reach back, and help someone else out of that dark place, give someone a break, hire someone, buy their product or be painfully honest. Tell me something like “I love your hand dyed scarves, but money is tight right now.” It is honest, and real. Lets start being real with each other. When we take back the role we have in building our community, of the greater good, not becoming great or good, but looking out for others, and striving to help them build up, shore up, get through.
The living example in Northern Ohio is the Amish community…. when someone is hurting the whole community is there… cook a meal, pay a bill, whatever is needed. And prior to the 20th century the idea of welfare, or support meant the community rallied around, or a church provided your need. Taxes were smaller, and in the case of Ohio theywere non existant. There was a freedom to spend that disposable income, but wisely, respecting that resources will always be limited. And limited means we each have only so much income, therefore only so much to spend… I get it. Just be honest, or dont say a thing to me.