Thoughts and writings; “Artists Don’t Need Money”

I wandered across this poem  today by American composer Linda Robbins Coleman. It is a classic, and sums up how I think most artists in British Columbia feel these days with the impending budget cuts and the current demise of Arts funding in this province. I hope everyone follows through the link below to Linda’s blog and reads the entire entry. It is not a new poem, but very, very relevant to us here in BC in 2010. Out of respect for copyright I am not posting it here, but please follow link at the bottom.

The following poem first appeared in the Iowa Arts News magazine, volume 27, number 2, in 1994. It is, by far, the most published and requested poem I have written to date.

I originally wrote it in reaction to a telephone call I received asking me to donate my performing services to a luncheon celebrating local philanthropy. As an arts advocate I was happy to participate and to donate my services. But when I was at the luncheon, performing jazz on the piano while everyone ate the catered lunch, my mind wandered. I looked around the room and saw more than a billion dollars of personal wealth in that room, and much more in corporate wealth.

Suddenly I realized that everyone working in that room – from waiters, sound engineers, luncheon organizers, the hotel, the awards manufacturers, the florist, the decorators, the utilities, and the staff who ran the company bestowing the awards – had been or were going to be paid for their services. Even the piano tuner had been paid.

It struck me that I was the only professional in that room who had been asked to donate my services. I was the performing artist. At that time I wasn’t making much more money annually than the waitstaff, either.

No one would have dreamed to ask the caterer to donate the food or the hotel to donate their room. I found it a bit amusing and ironic that I was donating my services at a luncheon celebrating philanthropy. Needless to say, my own philanthropic contribution was not recognized or acknowledged.

A few months after that luncheon I was again called and asked to donate my professional services for another equally worthy cause. Ten minutes after I hung up the telephone, this poem was written.

Thoughts and writings “artists don’t need money”
Linda Robbins Coleman

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