Patrons & Benefices: Modern support of artists & musicians

"The artist in our society is in a very peculiar position.  On the one hand he is regarded very highly, almost like a high priest of culture who knows the inner secrets of reality.  But on the other hand he is a completely superfluous person whom people like to think highly of but are quite ready to allow to starve." - Hans R. Rookmaaker 

I've been meditating lately on the artist and the role of support in artist's lives.  (By artist, I mean to include music and any creative vocation.)  On the one hand I see a deep need for creatives to learn the value of responsibility and the cultivation of order in their personal lives.  On the other hand, I see the deep need for understanding, value and support to be given to the artist that he/she may freely engage the work they are called to produce. 

There is often a breakdown in an artist's life between the pragmatic and the intuitive.  Most artists are inclined toward the realm of the subjective, imaginative landscapes from which creative vision is born.  The practical world of jobs, finances and everyday details rival the deeper meaning and purpose of their lives.  Simply said, everyone has to have some source of income to function in the world.  Yet, the time and energy given toward a completely "secular" form of work leaves little time to pursue the real work of becoming an artist.
Artists typically handle this conflict in one of three ways.  One, the artist forsakes the practical world altogether (or as much as possible) refusing stability and conventionality for the sake of devoting themselves to their craft.  Two, they sacrifice the integrity of their work for commercial ends, employing their skill for whatever demand that brings income.  Third, the artist resigns altogether, relinquishing creative work to the level of a weekend hobby or a memory from their youth.

I make no judgment on either of these conclusions.  These are simply observations I've witnessed in lives I've encountered along the way.  I do find it sad that the world has been robbed of many great works from various artists simply because they did not find the means to make creativity a form of livelihood, therefore they felt forced to give it up or reduce it to commercialism.

What I want to present in this writing is that there can be another way right in front of our eyes if we give ourselves to understanding and developing it. The subject is huge and will take several blogs to even scratch the surface but you gotta start somewhere, right?  (For those of you reading this who consider yourselves part of the Church, you have a very special role to play in this. I encourage you above all to keep reading.)

Somewhere around the late 13th-14th Century in Florence, Italy, what we know as the Renaissance began to gain in momentum.  (The Renaissance could be described as a cultural movement where all facets of society began to flower; Art, Science, Religion, Politics etc.)  There was a system in place during that time called "Patronage".  (The Patronage system was much older and broader in its use but is well known for its influence in Florence.)  Basically, the Patronage system was a system of support primarily to, but not limited to artists.  Patrons would support an artist through housing and provisions to enable them to create their work.  The Church was among the earliest to employ this system. Most of the art created during the Renaissance was either commissioned by the Church or created for the Church.  (The motives and details involved in this, I don't claim to know or support.  Still it remains true, the Church even in its historically rocky relationship with the arts, lead the way in supporting the art of the Renaissance.)

In short, it is baffling that the Church would not still be leading the way in the support of art, music, science, creativity etc.  Human creativity is the echo is God's very nature.  Whenever a creative work is brought forth into the earth, a glimpse of heaven, a peak into the nature of God is given.  What a shame it would be, to forgo these Divine expressions in greater and greater measures because the artists themselves were left to lesser forms of work.  (I used the term "secular" above because the creative work is a "devotional" work).

I'm not suggesting that we return to the historical form of the Patronage system by any means.  However, it should be noted that the Church led the way during that time in supporting art and science and the result was some of the best work the world has seen.  (Chrétien de Troyes, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson all sought and enjoyed the support of noble or ecclesiastical patrons.[2][3] Figures as late as Mozart and Beethoven also participated in the system to some degree. So did Galileo.)