Step right up, ladies and germophobes, and see the amazing local artist maneuver the treacherous tightrope of everyday life! See him firmly plant one foot in the studio--time, tools, time, materials, time. See him wiggle the other foot in and out of reality--rent, groceries, laundry, maybe a family, maybe a day job. Watch as his head remains high in the clouds--vision, inspiration, ideas, creativity. Maintain absolute silence, ladies and gents. He's working without a safety net, and the slightest bit of trouble could send him smashing to the sawdust.
Too much drama, you think? Your life is a balancing act, too, you say? Sure, but the difference is you get paid when you work; you probably have minimum benefits such as health insurance and disability pay; and your career is probably your passion. For local artists, they don't get paid when they work. It takes at least a year of solid studio production to have enough art to begin talking to gallery owners, who may or may not agree to represent them. It takes even longer to make enough work for a gallery show, and the paintings or sculpture may or may not sell. If artists also have a day job, their hearts are not really in it. They're doing what's absolutely necessary to get by, and then to get back to making art.
When local artists get knocked off balance by a life event or an emergency, there is a safety net. The Emergency Artists' Support League, a volunteer group of community members with special skills, such as law or social work, and a strong commitment to raising money for a contingency fund of emergency support, was founded in Dallas in 1992. "We've responded to a variety of situations since then," Jeanne Chvosta, EASL steering committee member, says. "We keep these artists' situations confidential, but in general I can say we help in medical and dental emergencies, fires and thefts in studios." Artists in crisis don't receive cash directly, Chvosta explains. "We're able to negotiate with and pay doctors and work directly with hospitals to try to get the bills down to something we can pay," she says. The professional volunteers--lawyers, social workers, physicians--give their time and expertise when needed. "We do what we can to directly work with the people involved and make the money go as far as it can," Chvosta says.
EASL sponsors one large-scale art auction every other year to raise money for emergency support. "We don't try to do this every year," Chvosta says, "because we are asking artists to create and donate an original work of art. We don't want to impose on their time too much, and we want to have extremely high-quality pieces of art to sell." Artists create original works around an EASL-selected theme. This year, "Fantasy Furnishings and Fetishes" is the concept, and some of Dallas' and Fort Worth's well-known artists, including Nancy Lamb, Jim Woodson, Ann Ekstrom, Beth Lea Clardy, Cindi Holt, Greg Metz, Pamela Nelson and Mary Nicolett, have donated art. The 120 works on view and available to bid on during the silent auction include every medium, plus nontraditional art items such as clothing and furniture pieces.
Over the last 12 years, Chvosta says, EASL has awarded more than $200,000 to at least 100 artists in need. "We do what we can," Chvosta says. "It's a sincere effort to strengthen our arts community by keeping life's disasters from devastating the life of an artist and his or her family."