The value of Art

The below continues thoughts raised in Queensland Literary Awards post, and specifically about the recent axing by the Newman State Government of the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards.

As the first arts-related movement of a conservative government (with a hazy track record regarding the arts), it was a bold move. Many community leaders voiced concerns that this heralded the return of the 'Joh' days. I think this is a bit of a stretch. This action wasn't a move to punish the arts or artists, but an ill-advised cost-cutting move. What it does suggest is that yet again the arts community will be forced to prove its worth, and particularly, its monetary value.
A continual argument in my house surrounds how much folks should pay to experience the arts, and how much artists should get paid for their work. I find these discussions have a cyclic motion to them: no-one wants to pay to experience a song/book/gig/painting, but they want to reap the benefit. Typically, the 'answer' falls to the 'art for arts sake' or 'suffering artist' model - an artist should seek no recourse compenation, but the satisfaction of creating something beautiful.

Frog-shit.

Carpenters, car-makers, tailors are all creating something 'beautiful' and they get paid. All other industries receive an hourly or commissioned wage, why not artists? Artists pay for paint, wood, tools, studios - shouldn't they be compensated for the money spent on materials? The answer is usually a reluctant yes, but when it comes to writing, it's even harder to argue. There is a perceived notion (pesky pesky notions) that if you can speak the language, you can write it - and if you can write it, you can write. As a trained editor I can say unequivocally that is balls.
Not everyone can write; not everyone can write and be understood; not everyone can write and create meaning, create subtext, create empathy, create sense.

And it's that ability that should be rewarded. That feeling of being lost in world that doesn't exist in reality; of feeling something for people, who may not actually exist, but feeling none-the-less, who are not us; for opening our eyes to the world around us; it is for this that we cherish writers and writing and the written word. And it is for this, that they should be paid.

The hours it takes to craft a compelling scene are worth paying for, because it's the scene that compels us that makes art, and literature, worth it.


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