Richardson: The art (and business) of livingWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently had a birthday and needed to renew my driver’s license. Besides dinner at the Beirut, going to the License Bureau was the highlight of my day. I’m serious.
Since it was my birthday, I allowed myself to fantasize in symbolic terms all day and considered this an important activity involving philosophical renewal and the beginning of my next exciting year. It also removed the looming responsibility from above my head, which was just a simple relief.
I think it was around my third year of college that my dad stated so forgivingly, “Daughter, you are better at the art of living than you are the business of it.” I believe that may have had to do with past-due parking tickets he would periodically receive from Kent State University, having rarely parked his own car there. So, the fact that I am about to discuss various kinds of licensing and business obligations is, no doubt, making him snicker.
Please don’t look for dollars and sense (or cents) in the following argument. Let’s look at it like an artist. Along with my driver’s license, I also have a busking license. Busking is a fancy word for street performing. This past summer, The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (ACGT) sponsored the licenses of myself and somewhere around 20 other performers so we could each set up on sidewalks and play during various events or just whenever we felt like it and maybe finish with a few legal dollars in our respective tip jars.
I’m already calling back to days in July and August when my guitar and I would run into Ben Langlois and his accordion on a Saturday for a few tunes on South St. Clair Street. The prospect of repeating that next summer is what is getting me through this winter. Which reminds me, I need to renew my busking license soon. Not because I think anyone will ever ask to see it or because I am in any danger of punishment for not having it renewed, but because it lends legitimacy to the idea that musicians and other performers are taken seriously around here and are respected as a valuable class with valuable skills.
I do recognize the other school of thought on this issue that would say artists are subversive almost by default and that playing music on a sidewalk shouldn’t require any kind of bureaucratic control. And let’s not forget how fun it can be to “Damn the man!”
I’m even a little surprised at myself for falling on this side of the fence. I’m sure it’s because it is evidence of a solid layer of brick on top of an already strong foundation Toledo has built by being a city populated with artists who are really, actually creating art all the time and really, actually trying to make a living doing it. Which brings me to an area I know very little about — making money as an artist. Just because I’m lousy at it, though, doesn’t mean other artists should be. And in true ACGT form, the commission is also lending its support and expertise to visual artists who seek to sell their work. The Well-Fed Artist Workshop series is a resource for local artists which provides free education in topics such as marketing and pricing. They also recently presented a workshop on how to get a vendor’s license.
So, again, conceptually as well as very practically, the creative class is being recognized as producers of a valid service in that they are part of the local economic structure. Toledo is not kidding around.
We take our art seriously and we take good care of our artists. As is the Toledo way (and no ACT column would be complete without mention of) the activists are also being well taken care of.
The Center for Nonprofits Resources is constantly offering workshops in board development as well as fundraising and marketing for local nonprofits. It’s as if art and activism are automatically built into the culture and the big guys really want to see the little guys succeed. They will do whatever they can to help. More of that support and cooperation I’m always singing “Kumbaya” about.
Rachel Richardson is an activist, musician, co-founder and co-director of Independent Advocates, and a product of Toledo, Ohio. E-mail her at email@example.com.