My Sunday piece on the inhabitants of the Tannery Arts Center brought about more than a few comments both attached to the article on line and in my e-mail in-box. Surprisingly, the themes of much of the responses were depressingly the same: that artists are parasites and moochers, and that the Tannery is just a state-sponsored Animal House.
It’s frustrating to have to state the obvious, but apparently it needs to be stated: Artists, like any other group of people, can’t be lumped together as all of one kind, and yet so many people have no problem in doing just that, in way they would never characterize other groups of people such as teachers, or Christians, or carpenters.
Most of the artists I know are hard-working entrepreneurs, self-employed people who get up every day to figure out how to make their business run better. The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County came up with figures to state what artists and other creative people contribute to the local economy, equating to millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
It’s perfectly legitimate to oppose and speak out against government-sanctioned projects on either principle or financial grounds. But too often that opposition takes the form of cheap broadside attacks against people who don’t deserve it. The truth is that the government gives assistance to wide swaths of the population from homeowners to farmers, and often government policies and subsidies make possible many of those private, entrepreneurial businesses we value in this country. Enjoying that tasty all-beef burger for lunch? Thank government corn subsidies that make it affordable.
Artists also shape the identity of a town or a community in distinctive ways. Santa Cruz is what it is, due largely to musicians, writers, painters, sculptors, actors and other artists. Too often the criticism aimed at them has nothing to do with government policies or taxpayer debt. It has to do with petty resentment, an unfortunate by-product of our culture.