What has struck me in all this is the constant tug-of-war between the need to create and the need to make a living. "I wish someone would pay me just to make mosaics," says Lorraine. "I have lots of projects in mind, but I have to make some money, so they'll have to wait," says Vinny.
It's not so different for writers, particularly fiction writers. We're warned not to expect much remuneration for a novel, and payments for short stories are usually small. It's wonderful to do the work you love, but most artists and writers can't pay the bills with it.
Oh, for the days of patrons and wealthy arts-loving families like the Medici! The Italian Renaissance -- now there was the time to be an artist.
Today, the rich patron has been replaced by either grants applications (which take a tremendous chunk of time and effort out of the real work) or the machinery rule of marketing: He who churns out the best promotional campaign wins.
I suppose there are teabaggers and other free-market advocates who would prefer to eliminate all arts grants in favor of letting the market decide if an artist can eat. But then we'd be awash in Thomas Kinkade paintings of light and Dan Brown's 14th take on the Knights Templar while equally- and more-deserving painters and writers go unnoticed.
OK, so I'm a bit of a socialist when it comes to the arts. But I know that the age of patrons no longer exists and the idea of federal and state support for the arts is shrinking fast in this age of austerity and cutbacks. So what to do?
Well, it's a small gesture and only a start, but here's an unoriginial idea: Support your local artists. Decorate your home with furniture and artworks from some of these arts shows. Visit studios and find a pasta bowl that comes with the artist's explanation of technique. Shop on Broad Street instead of in the Pottery Barn catalog.
Oh yeah ... and buy my book!