Following the Arts…?

Is there a difference between following the arts and running a business? I see confusion about this, and it appears these two things have become muddled, bled into each other. Maybe I’m the one confused, or maybe I see it differently because I studied business while having an arts degree, and I learned to look at these two things in different ways.

I see people who approach the arts as a business. They create a corporation with the goal of making money, and they seem confused why they can’t practice ‘their art’ as they see fit. There’s a legal case out of Phoenix, Arizona, where the two young business women apparently don’t understand why they are being forced to ‘create art’ that goes against their religious principles. Lawyers with a conservative group are taking their case through the courts, and it seems the women are being taken for a ride.

The problem as I see it is that they are functioning as a ‘corporation’ not as artists. By creating a corporation, they are subject to public accommodation laws. They must provide their services to everyone. If they wanted to create art and sell it, they wouldn’t have created a corporation providing a service. They would have created their art and tried to sell it. They could also sell their ‘art’ in advance of making it by doing a commissioned work, but instead they chose to open a public business providing services—creating wedding invitations—which means they can’t choose their clients. It seems they want to have their cake and eat it too.

I guess this is how the world has changed. Facebook did away with writer and artist pages, and now you can create a business page as a writer or artist. Business comes first, which means you aren’t really following the path of an artist or creator. You are providing a service and are bound by public accommodation laws, which you agreed to when you incorporated. As a writer, you can even buy writer’s insurance in case something you write libels or hurts someone. It seems strange to me to force the arts into a business plan or to have insurance. Arts come from the creative or the heart, and you can’t exactly plan that or insure that.

Few people seem to understand what it means to follow an artistic path. Maybe it can best be explained by photography. The wedding photographer opens a business and gets paid to go to a place where they take hundreds of pictures of a staged event. They choose the best ones and make a portfolio of the event and that portfolio belongs to the client. The landscape photography is an artist who goes to a place and takes one picture or a few pictures trying to capture the perfect light of a unique moment hoping they can sell the image as ‘art’ later. Even after they sell their photograph, the ‘art’ still belongs to them.

Does anyone get this anymore?

The sad truth of my life is that I’ve never been very successful at either kind of writing, creative or business. My creative writing is too off the beaten path to sell and business writing feels like watching paint dry. Neither feels like success, and I’m much too old to get there from here. Add to that the gaslighting and lies about an artistic approach to life, and it feels like time to let it all go. A wasted life? I guess I only did it for myself anyway.


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