How to be a Patron of the Arts on the Cheap

We can’t all be Lorenzo de’ Medici.  But even without a family banking fortune and the resources of Renaissance Florence to draw on, there are things an average Joe or Jane can do.  For example:

Buy your favorite authors’ books. This will not only earn them royalties, it will help keep them in good odor with their publishers.

If your favorite authors are self-publishing their backlist, or their beloved but quirky projects that never caught the eye of a regular publisher, buy those, too.

If you run into one of your favorite authors in the sort of social venue where such things occur, offer to buy him or her a drink.  (Some of us learned to drink good scotch back when normal human beings could afford to purchase it.  Now that a bottle of Laphroaig  costs $55 and up even before the taxes kick in, we’re not likely to buy some unless we’ve got an advance check burning a hole in our pocket.)

In a similar vein — many authors attend conventions and related gatherings, either for the sake of furthering their careers or for the sake of getting away from their keyboards and having some much-needed social interaction.  Often (the writing life being what it is) they’ll be doing it on a shoestring.  In which case, you can earn your Patron of the Arts badge by saying, “Can I take you to dinner?”  If they’ve already promised elsewhere, they’ll say so; if they’re flushed with funds or burdened by pride they may decline; but the odds are very good they’ll be delighted, and tell you so, because even writers who are flush with funds today are keenly aware that the same may not hold true tomorrow.

You can be political.  Programs like art in the schools, or library funding, or state grants to artists and writers, are always in danger of being defunded, and most of them contribute to the income stream of working artists.  Fight to keep them going.  And continue to push for better health-care options for self-employed people — since the passing of Obamacare, it’s no longer quite as easy as it used to be to depress a room full of writers just by whispering the words, “health insurance,” but things could still be better.

Your average working artist has a mixed income stream very similar in most respects to the income stream of small farmers — a bit of this and a bit of that and a little of something else on the side. Or, as  a sign on Route 3 once said: “Fresh Eggs. Aromatherapy. Tarot Card Readings. Chain Saws Sharpened.”

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