More Than Money
Issue #18

Art and Money

Table of Contents

“From the editors...”

Once I spent an afternoon volunteering for the Aids Memorial Quilt when it came to Boston. I was awed by the tens of thousands of colorful quilt squares, each commemorating someone who died of AIDS, sewn with love and tears by those left behind. Stitched together, the assembled quilt covered heartbreaking miles.

My job, along with a dozen others all dressed in white, was to watch out for disrupters, to hand people tissues, and to offer emotional support if needed. The afternoon left me deeply convinced of the power of art to serve the needs of acommunity: in this case, to bring home to viewers the mammoth proportions of human loss, to reach from the heart past barriers of prejudice, and to alert people to this dreaded disease in a way that no treatise or expert research ever could.

Rarely do the arts serve social causes so explicitly. Nor should they always. Sometimes souls need to be nourished from the wells of creativity, imagination, and expression in very personal and private ways. Literature, theater, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and crafts all have the power to make human beings more whole.

It is a wholeness that I've been drawn to all my life. As a child my friends and I put on endless theater shows. In adolescence I poured my loneliness into song and, into my twenties, I was passionately involved with music and dance performance groups. Then I was introduced to nonprofit causes that shook my world by communicating the extent of human suffering and need. I soon turned towards helping people (both poor and wealthy) on more pragmatic levels, and there my time and attention has remained for the ensuing decades.

Creativity, beauty, and the arts still bring joy to me, but I wonder how to judge their value when so many lives are threatened by violence and poverty. How much time and money do I invest in nurturing my spirit, versus more "practical" goals, including helping to meet the basic needs of others? I hear many of my friends wrestling with the same essential questions, whether they are professional artists, community organizers, or simply people who love long days in a museum, write poems to loved ones, and read storybooks to children.

In this issue of More than Money , we explore these themes by asking questions of people with wealth who are connected to the arts: "What role does art play in your life? Do you experience any tensions in choosing how much time and money you put into art compared to other things you care about? Are there tensions in having wealth when so many in the arts struggle to get by? How do you resolve these tensions?"

As we listened, we were struck by dizzying contradictions in how art is valued in our society. On one hand, it is extolled as the highest pinnacle of civilization, while, on the other, dismissed as incidental and elitist. A handful of artists are celebrated and extravagantly paid (e.g., several movie stars now make $20 million per film), while the diminishing public support for art means most artists are not able to make a living in their chosen professions. How can anyone develop a balanced approach to art in the midst of all this?

Our aspirations for this issue are to legitimate these questions and to offer options and inspiration to all people searching to integrate their love of art with the other pulls on their hearts, heads, and hands. We hope that artists and art appreciators alike become emboldened to use their wealth and talents to create a world where there are both "bread" and "roses" for all.

--Anne Slepian, editor  


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