A Seat At The Table: Selling Out

Lately, I’ve gained access to some exclusive events and spaces in San Francisco. These things are catered to the nouveau riche, the gentrifiers, new San Francisco. These spaces are imbued with a cultural homogeny (tech), and often times I find myself asking: where are the artists? Where are the movers and shakers? Where are the beautiful people?

Part of the current class divide in the Bay Area is cleaving artists from their sense of community and belonging in the Bay. Newcomers seem disinterested in supporting the arts community – but sometimes I wonder if it’s that newcomers are disinterested or if it’s that artists are too burdened by the social climate to seek out a seat at the table with potential investors and advocates.

I understand, though, that carving out a niche in the new Bay Area is something few artists want to do. Really, we want to continue to be ourselves, to live in our homes, to live our lives. I certainly don’t want to adapt to the new changes. I don’t want to sell out and sit next to rich investors who only view me as a token.

But maybe that’s what we have to do to survive.

Part of the allure of being an artist is this recurrent theme of low self esteem. Self loathing and self deprecating artists can find exoneration in artistic success. That’s a myth that is sold to us because we’re naive, and it’s also self defeating. In order to be successful, we have to have faith in ourselves. We have to self promote. We have to seek out people with money if we want to survive here. This is the name of the game now. Otherwise, we suffer. We deserve better than suffering.

I guess what I’m saying is: you might have to sell out. Just a little bit. Sell out or move out. We need to find a seat at the table with the people with money. Not just for the sake of getting their money, but because the arts need to be represented in these private, elite social circles. These people are not seeking us out. But they do not know yet that they want us there, with them. Sure, it can, at times, be insufferable and demoralizing and defeating. But we need to be here. We need access to their spaces and their resources and their time. We need someone to listen. We need to turn these people into patrons of the arts. This is our job. And no one else will do it for us.

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