Death to the Starving Artist Myth

van, gogh, ear

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

Last night I was bemoaning the existence of the starving artist. For those who know me well, this is a common complaint and I am sure I sound like a broken record playing the same scratchy tune. I am also an artist but as I encounter my own kind in the world of business, it baffles me why romanticizing starvation and poverty is a winning strategy. So when I was playing that scratchy tune for my loved ones to listen to for the umpteenth time, I realized something about myself… I am an entrepreneur who happens to be an artist and not an artist dabbling in the world of business. I have some advice for my fellow creatives, entrepreneurs and starving artists: starving isn’t sexy.

I know that TV shows, plays and movies love the idea of impoverished artists struggling to create art at the expense of financial security and creating “art for the sake of art” alone. This idea normalizes the inability to support one’s self and artists have embraced this stereotype. I mean without this stereotype, we wouldn’t have Rent!  I know all throughout our art history lessons, we have heard about Van Gogh and his ear-munching mania and Edgar Alan Poe and his infamous death knell but the only death knell I hear around here is for your career. I understand that creating this idea has helped Hollywood but it is not helping you, my fellow artists.  It is not aiding in you in selling art or for marketing yourself in a winning way so please do us all a favor and step away from the stereotype.

So how do we usher in an age where we stop romanticizing poverty? We start treating your art as an actual business. So, repeat after me: “I am a f*cking entrepreneur.” And now that you have had that self-empowering mantra, you then prepare and plan for your career like you are fortune 500 company, well… because you are. Please follow these helpful hints to rock your art career in a big, bad way:

  • First conquer branding: Come up with your colors, mood, look and narrative that you will sell to the world and implement it. And that narrative had better have nothing to do with ramen noodles and homelessness. I don’t care if you are actually eating ramen noodles, the world needs to never know about it. You are successful, sexy and creative and you need to own it.
  • You will also need consistency, planning and follow-through. Big business, galleries and the general public have no use for your flighty ass. Finish a project before you start another. I understand creative ADHD. I fight it all the time. Find some discipline, rock your career like a Virgo and get it done and get it done on-time.
  • Promote yourself like Picasso. Picasso was the master of self-promotion. No other artist in the 20th century, not even Dali or Warhol, could hold a flame to Picasso’s shameless self-promotion and we all know his name now for his efforts. Take a lesson from history and put yourself out there and do not fear rejection. Get used to wearing rejection like a warm, fuzzy sweater you wear on cold, rainy days. You will be rejected and you will keep on living. The art world needs to know your name before they accept you. They need to know you are financially viable and not one of those starving artist types.

These tips certainly aren’t the answer to everything but it is a good cursory start to kicking that stereotype to the curb and starting to own your career and its subsequent success. I will quietly step-down from my soap box and tell you to rock on self-promoter and make the art world your b*tch!

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Trump tax reform just makes the rich richer

Trump, Tax, Plan

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Like most things that Trump hawked during his contentious campaign, his tax reform plan was purposefully ambiguous and sold as huge windfall to the middle-class. Of course, now that he’s been forced to put down some specific details, it looks like it’s nothing more than a huge tax break for the richest Americans and wealthiest corporations.

No surprise that Trump would endorse a plan that puts even more money in his own pockets and those of his obscenely wealthy friends while proposing huge cuts in programs that benefit the middle-class and poor. He desperately wants to lower the corporate tax rate and keeps saying that it will benefit working class Americans. What he fails to mention is that a reduction in the corporate rate will, indeed, boost profits, but companies will simply see their stock prices rise and use the extra cash to pay their shareholders higher dividends.

Just like Reagan’s ‘voodoo economics’, Trump’s ‘screw you’ economics isn’t going to result in companies hiring more workers or raising salaries. In fact, corporate America is currently sitting on tons of cash and the stock market is going gangbusters and nobody is going out of their way to significantly expand or raise wages. True, we’ve seen cautious, incremental growth, but certainly not at the same explosive rate that we’ve seen profits soar.

Trump’s ‘screw you’ economics is just another version of failed Republican trickle down. The problem is that not much trickles down because the rich tend to hoard their profits. This is why there continues to be widening wealth disparity and it’s why our middle-class continues to get slowly squeezed out of existence.

In Trump’s ‘screw you’ plan, he also intends to eliminate the estate tax and cut the top marginal income tax rate. Hmm, that sounds like a big gift to Trump’s offspring and their progeny for generations to come. Oh, but wait, there’s more in Trump’s ‘screw you’ strategy- his plan would really raise taxes on the poor by eliminating the head of household deduction for single parents. You know, the people that could use a deduction the most.

Ivanka probably threw that one in after she endorsed the roll back of Obama-era policies that would have eliminated the gender pay gap. As an advisor to Trump, Ivanka sure knows how to be a champion for single, working moms. Remember, she gave women invaluable advice saying,” You can be born into privilege, or you cannot be born into privilege. You can be born into the opposite extreme and into poverty. I think from there on, though, you really do have to make your luck.” Don’t you just feel so damned lucky that she’s on your side?

Well, at least Trump has been forced to release a few details of his scheme. We’re all still waiting for the details on his top-secret plan that was supposed to eliminate ISIS months ago. Oh, we’re also still waiting on that amazing magical healthcare plan that insures absolutely everyone at much lower cost and much higher quality. Remember, Trump’s plans are the best because no one knows plans like Trump knows plans- he invented plans.

So, be sure to call your congressmen and tell them what you think of Trump’s ‘screw you’ economics before people start buying all his tax reform snake oil. They are going to market it as a simplification of the current code and they’re going to try to rebrand ‘trickle-down’ economics. Just remember who got trickled on the last time the Republicans tried that scheme.

What we really need is to reform the tax code so that rich people actually pay their fair share of taxes instead of taking advantage of tons of loopholes and tax shelters that are only available to them.

Trump’s plan is like most things that he creates- a gaudy façade to hide a scam that only benefits Trump and his wealthy friends.

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Hustle like Mercury is in Retrograde

mercury, retrograde, caution

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

When anyone in the know talks about a mercury in retrograde they begin with the phrase “Uh oh…”. Mercury is in retrograde starting on August 12, 2017 at 11◦ Virgo and ends on September 5, 2017 at 28◦ Leo. For those people that tend to be of the astrological persuasion, this is a noteworthy planetary trend. Mercury is the messenger and is the planet of day-to-day expression and communication.

This is a powerful cycle that could lead to changes in your love life or your wallet. The effects of this trend are universal: it effects all signs of the Zodiac. Whether you are single or in a relationship, trust and love will be the topic of conversation. It is not the time to enter into a relationship or anything binding. Step away from the prenups people! You will want to wait until this phase is over and then begin negotiations. And don’t plan any medical appointments or surgeries.

So how will it affect your hustle? The mercury retrograde is known to cause communication and technology breakdowns, nervous anxiety, travel delays whether by train, plane or automobile, and lost items. These issues can be pretty frustrating so watch your words, don’t overreact, take a break from the hectic pace of life and double check all social media posts before sending.

This is the riskiest time for contract negotiation and decision making so take a beat before signing on the dotted line.

But before you jump off the proverbial cliff, these issues can be minimized with open communication, love for those around you and maybe a couple trips to the shrink. It is a time to re-think, re-plan, re-organize without taking any action. This is a good time for writers to go back and edit their work so back to the drawing board literary geniuses! You should clean up old paperwork, start new filing systems, pay old debts and most importantly Netflix and CHILL.

So hustle on zodiac warriors! This too shall pass.

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Manvertising and Why Ads Need to Change

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

Since I work in the world of marketing and design, I generally pay attention to ads and T.V. shows, particularly the ones my kids are watching. I have noticed for a while now that ads and shows have been showing men as stupid, inept and incapable of any real contribution to the family life.

Men have gone from the strong, rugged men of the 30s and 40s with suits and fedoras to being portrayed as x-box playing morons in t-shirts that are ignorant of what their wives do on a daily basis. This reminds me of a favorite line in a movie where Anne Hathaway asks how in one generation we could go from Harrison Ford and Jack Nicholson to… well… the likes of Adam Devine or his other sloppy t-shirt wearing cohorts.

As a millennial woman, I am a strong woman but it doesn’t mean I want a weak partner. In fact, my partner will have to be stronger to put up with my stubborn ass. I certainly do not want my son thinking that is an acceptable line of behavior because all of the Disney children’s shows are posing men this way. So why are marketers positioning men as the weaker sex?

Well for one, marketers are trying to harness the buying power of women and appealing to women by making men look stupid. But is it working? One word answer…. No.

This assumption is rooted in the belief that the deep foundation of every marriage is resentment. Not the case folks… time for the advertising agencies to wake the hell up. Advertisers should be showing both sexes towing the line in life because geez, that is what is actually happening these days.

The Advertising Standards Agency is working to combat negative and harmful gender stereotypes from advertising. They are working to prevent ads that show a woman cleaning with her husband lying around but also to prevent ads that make men look incapable of doing simple household tasks. They hope that this initiative will go a long way to successfully selling products in a positive way without the harmful stereotypes. After all, feminism is about being equal but not by belittling others.

Advertising plays a big role in our lives and I hope this move to a more understanding and informed advertising business which will improve the roles for both men and women in the media.

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The Hustle Generation

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

I recently read an article that says that millennial women suffer from what is called the “confidence gap”. Really? I have read more articles and seen more videos that say we are self-entitled brats. So which is it? Neither really.

We are the generation that demands our turn at the wheel. You can call us self-entitled if you want but we are driving business. And our drive has nothing to do with entitlement, it has to do with achievement. But not achievement for the sake of achievement. Achievement with a nod toward the greater good.

Our turn at the wheel may include a beater that we drive back to work every day to our own business but as long as we can put “founder” behind our name, then we are good.

Our parents and grandparents worshipped shopping malls and marveled at big box stores and participated and bought stock in corporate greed. Which harkens to a favorite line in one of the movies I enjoy, “Former hippies turned yuppies pedaling crap for the masses.” Yep, those were our parents. We, the millennials, have turned away from that line of thinking and believe in smaller brands that tell a story and believe in value over quality and ethics over greed.

So what is society’s answer to their mourning over TGI Friday’s? To call us narcissistic, self-entitled brats who have won too many participation trophies. Please hold while we millennials pause over this criticism… okay, we’re good.

We are not going to apologize for bypassing Applebees for Blue Apron or for skipping the dive bar for a place with discerning taste in adult beverages. And by believing in brands that care about sourcing and ethics, we are actually less selfish than our predecessors. You know because we give a crap for other people and don’t want Indonesian children putting together our clothes.

This desire pushes us to strike out and build a company or seek a job with a purpose. A now because of this push from our generation, workforces are changing the way they do business. Have they suddenly seen the light and want to walk away from the corporate greed that drove the 90s? No but with a generation the size of the baby boomers making up the current workforce, they really don’t have a choice.

So ignore the haters and power on hustlers and conscious consumers. It’s time to power on. Welcome to the Hustle Generation.

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Alexa, please purchase Whole Foods.

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

In the acquisition heard round the world, Amazon acquired Whole Foods last Friday for $13.7B dollars and the internet went nuts. The jokes were endless with “Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck” jokes and many speculated that Bezos told Alexa to purchase Whole Foods accidently. Amazon has come a long way from its book seller roots to now permeating every aspect of our lives. But with this “prime” price tag, Amazon is positioned to give the online grocery market a run for its money.

This acquisition is the biggest Amazon acquisition to date and the damn thing paid for itself. Amazon’s market cap appreciated by $15.6B after the announcement which means they essentially got Whole Foods for free. And now are looking to transform the brand which has always struggled for its market share as they struggled to compete on price.

This is not the first foray into the produce world by Bezos. AmazonFresh was launched six years ago and with anemic success. It turns out that the general public still likes to inspect their produce before purchasing but Amazon is poised to integrate Whole Foods with their 460 existing distribution sites though I think they will need a few more to take this newly acquired spending power for a whirl.

This move is seen by analysts and those in the “know” as a power play against Walmart. With Walmart’s online grocery ordering as well their recent acquisitions of online retailers such as ModCloth (which I am still mourning), Amazon and Walmart are about to go head to head in an all-out e-commerce war. If Walmart wants to beat Amazon, they are going to have to work on their negative press to get anywhere with Millennials. Millennials want to say F*** you to the big box retailer and Walmart is paying that price. So with the victor go the spoils, may the best retailer win!

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