Local organization advocates for artists

Art$Pay hosts second annual visual arts show and sale this weekend, featuring work by more than 40 local artists

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“Float and Glow” by Christina Preece, one of the artists featured in the Art$Pay annual show on this weekend in Kitchener. [Submitted]

The popular notion of the starving artist – someone who suffers for their art, more interested in creativity than stuffing his or her wallet – is fairly ingrained. But it’s a view that is challenged by the likes of Art$Pay, a Waterloo Region-based organization that promotes and advocates fair pay for the often under-recognized labours of artists in the community.

To that end, Art$Pay will  be hosting its second annual member show and sale this weekend at the Catalyst137 building, 137 Glasgow St. in Kitchener. The show will bring the visual works of more than 40 artists, who will be in attendance to meet with the public and discuss their works.

“The mission is to provide visual art practitioners with opportunities. So looking at very contemporary approaches [to] provide them with opportunities, to connect them with the community,” explains Cathy Farwell, founder of Art$Pay.

Farwell doesn’t just want to showcase the talents and creations of local artists, she wants those artists to be able to work and thrive in their communities. As an organization, Art$Pay tries to educate the public on the inherit value of art, as well as help artists find business opportunities within the region.

“I often point out to people, when you walk into a restaurant and you’re asked to pay $30 for the plate that they put down in front of you, you don’t look at that and say, ‘Ah! This is only $4.31 worth of ingredients.’ But people do that to art,” she says. “Everybody knows, when you sit in a restaurant and you’re served, that you’re paying that plate price. [But] it’s also covering the server and the cook and the rent and the overhead and so on.”

By contrast, people are often hesitant to fork over at times hundreds of dollars for a painting or sculpture, or for that matter a music concert or theatre production. The market for arts – and specifically visual arts – has changed immensely in recent years, notes Farwell, and that has created both new challenges and new opportunities for professional artists to work and thrive in our communities.

“That’s some of the education that we’re trying to help with,” adds Farwell.

“Like you just can’t pay for the canvas. The artist, in order to produce, also has an overhead. They have educational expenses, they have material costs, they have to frame the work,” she says. “They have to buy materials to hang it to keep it on your wall, to seal it so it will look good. To transport it to a show, often they’ll have to pay admission fees into the show.

“So that price represents, yes, the art. But it represents all of the other things that took it to get it on the wall for you.”

The Art$Pay show opens tomorrow (Friday) with a reception, featuring live music, catered food and offerings from the Kitchener-based Red Circle Brewing Co. Throughout the experience, event-goers will have the opportunity to meet and talk with the featured artists, who will also have their works on sale.

There’s a benefit to meeting the artists in person and talking with them, says Farwell. Just like there’s a value in meeting with the local farmers that produce your food, or the local businesses that offer their wares – meeting with local artists gives consumers a way to personalize their art purchases. It’s a chance for the public to understand the intrinsic value that goes into making an expensive artwork.

The more people support their local producers – be it painters, quilters or, yes, even farmers, woodworkers and tradespersons – the more robust those local economies become. Educating people on the value of local artworks is a way to help those industries survive and thrive in the Waterloo Region.

While Art$Pay focuses mostly on the visual arts, the benefits of promoting fair pay for artists can haven an impact on other mediums.

“When you live in a creative environment, whether it’s your workplace or city in a macro scale, it benefits all creative industries,” says Farwell.

“One person put it this way. Could you imagine if one day all the pictures on the wall disappeared? Anything that had an artist’s hand. All of a sudden you can see TVs go and cars go, because there’s an artist’s hand in all of that. But it’s still taken for granted.”

The Art$Pay annual member show runs over two days, starting November 9 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Keeping with the principle that artist’s deserve due compensation, event-goers are charged an admission fee of $20. On Saturday, from 1-4 p.m., admission is $5. Tickets may be purchased online through the organization’s website.

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