The Gift of Art
Creating art is a rigorous, incredibly personal and challenging business. Like all business owners, artists need to review their market, create a business plan and make opportunities that bring people to see their work. For many artists, their lives are a constant struggle of trying to maintain a viable cash flow. With all its challenges, however, the arts still make a significant impact on our economy.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts show that the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, more than agriculture, transportation or warehousing. The arts also employ 4.9 million workers across the country, with earnings of more than $370 billion. Furthermore, the arts exported $20 billion more than imported, providing a positive trade balance.
The arts professions include the creation of jewelry, music, ceramics, graphic arts, architecture, performing arts, architectural services and visual arts.
In Louisiana, artists’ works make up $7.7 billion (or 3.2 percent) of the state’s economy. In 2018, 57,657 Louisiana residents were employed in artistic professions.
Fine arts artist Chris Clark has been honing his craft since 1976.
“I was miserable doing a 9-to-5 job,” she says. “At a retreat, I decided to make the commitment to art and pursue a degree.”
At the age of 30, Clark attended the University of New Orleans and one of her professors tried to warn her off the profession.
“She told me it was hard work and so few can make a living from it, but I knew this is what I wanted to do,” says Clark. “And she said, ‘Oh, well, here comes another one.’ It is a feast or famine business and finding the balance between cash flow and making art is a Herculean task.”
Art is in Clark’s DNA — her father, Lloyd Clark was an artist, who studied at the John McCrady School of Art, a school that also taught artists Ida Kohlmeyer and Robert Malcolm Rucker. Art was commonplace in her childhood home.
Throughout her career, Clark has been represented by galleries, had art openings and sold to private collectors. She also spent many years supplementing her income by making smaller, more commercial artwork such as art boxes, note cards and pins.
Her pins were one of her more successful ventures. One series was created for the Jewish Women’s Federation and graced the lapels of such women as Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton.
Another way artists support themselves is through teaching at every level — from colleges to after-school programs. Clark began teaching at the Contemporary Art Center’s Artists’ Studio Days 25 years ago.
“I think it’s another way artists support the community and impact our city,” she says.
Clark still sells to private collectors and continues to teach a few private students. She’s also selling art boxes again and working on a new series called “Eve.”
“You make a lot of bad art until you find the groove and find something that sparks,” she says.
An original piece of art has a soul all its own and enriches every environment it touches. This holiday season consider buying the gift of art. Buying original art supports the artist directly and allows him or her to continue creating.
Check out Jackson Square or the French Market or the many galleries on Royal and Magazine streets and in the CBD’s art district. Also, on the third Saturday of each month, you can shop for art from local New Orleans artists in art markets at Palmer Park, Royal Street and Piety Street.