A word about Patronage


I figure there is no better time than now, to publish an article on Patronage, since I am currently posting regular updates on a fundraiser for my own creative projects.  Our band, Songs of Water, discussed at length whether or not to raise support for our new album & documentary, through the growing trend of “crowd sourcing”.   

The idea of going to our friends, fans and families and asking for personal contributions toward our work made us feel a bit wary.  In the end, we chose to give it a try and I am grateful we did.  Though perhaps more now than ever, I feel compelled to share my personal views on Patronage and the support of the Arts in general.

A friend of mine once said to me, “Stephen, do not rob us the opportunity to invest into your creative work.  I may not be able to go where you go or touch the people you touch through your music, but I can participate with you through financial support.”  I had never thought of it in those terms before.  It became much broader than seeking support to fulfill a personal dream.  It became a communal effort to change and beautify our world through the realization of a work of art.  I was surprised to discover that not only were there people who were willing to give to something they believed in, but there were people who would be offended if they weren’t given the opportunity to do so! 

This idea raises quite a slew of questions I couldn’t possibly address here. Generally speaking, however, this model of supporting artistic creations affords Patrons a platform to express their value of creative works.  It permits an active participation in the creation of a work that exceeds marketplace, monetary value.  Rather than paying the determined cost of a product, it is an investment into a person (or group).  Therefore, it takes on a personal, almost spiritual quality.  The tradeoff is that it calls the artist to a greater level of accountability for what he or she creates and how the given resources are used.  The end result then, is (hopefully) that greater artistic works will be created, for the artist will have been freed from financial strain to focus on crafting their creative abilities.

This is nothing new in one sense, for patrons have been around at least since the Renaissance or before.  Educational systems also have offered grants to support working artists for a very long time.  The difference is, at least for musicians, that the modern industry no longer solely carries the power to determine how far a person’s music may travel.  The power has been given to the listeners.  You and I have the ability to place value on the music we love and the artists we believe in. 

Let me leave you with a few thoughts to consider.

For communities of faith, what better impetus for supporting the arts, than viewing creativity itself as mankind’s reflection of the Creator?  There is an eternal value to creative work that enables artists to transform the earth through beauty, contemplation and grace.   

For artists, creating good art and leading a bad life is still bad art.  Creativity is not something to be confined to the canvas or the studio, but like yeast, is to permeate every facet of our lives. 

I have great vision toward seeing a cultural shift (especially in communities of faith) where the greater eternal value of art is realized and artists are empowered to live out the “good works” pre-ordained before time itself.  I also strongly believe in hard work and do not endorse a system of freeloading in the name of art.