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Letters to the Editor: Want a society enriched by the arts? Then make sure artists get paid

New Orleans mural
Artist Brandan Odums works on a new mural on a warehouse in New Orleans on Nov. 23, 2019.
(Paul Morse / For The Times)

To the editor: I could not agree more with William Deresiewicz about the need to pay artists for their work and publicly finance art.

Over my 50-year career in the performing arts, I have seen how people of every socioeconomic group want quality cultural experiences in their lives, how artists of all genres are interested in using their art to speak to the issues of the day, and how the entire arts field recognizes that the United States lags far behind most of Europe and many other countries when it comes to public support for the arts.

I know that price is the barrier for artists and for people who want to access art, something I learned at downtown L.A.’s Grand Performances, which I directed for 27 years. We were renowned for having America’s most diverse audience.

During my 12 years on the California Arts Council, I also heard from artists statewide about how they were serving their communities as educators, performers and public art makers.

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If we as a society want artists to keep creating works that soothe us, encourage us to think deeply and spur us to action (even if it is just jumping up on the dance floor for a good time), we must push for new systems that protect artists’ intellectual property rights along with their right to an adequate income.

Michael Alexander, Los Angeles

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To the editor: On artists being essential, Deresiewicz writes, “The idea that artists will make art no matter what is the product of naïveté, ignorance or privilege.”

In fact, not only have artists always made art no matter what, many have made art even when knowing that it could well cause their death (and sometimes did) at the hands of those whose definition of art is strikingly sympathetic to Deresiewicz’s ideas on artists here.

Tom Wilde, Santa Monica


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