Conservatives Can’t Win Without Artists

Originally posted on Liberatchik on Jul 10, 2013

by , Director/Co-Producer of the Documentary FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN

Recently, I have read a number of articles written by members of my Conservative tribe attacking the new film WHITE HOUSE DOWN regarding its fantasy President’s agenda and the film’s anti-Conservative and anti-Military perspectives.  And then there were many stories about the mainstream media’s treatment of people disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions and the major LGBT Group’s hypocritical response to Alec Baldwin.   And that was just one week.

When the few articles on Films by Conservatives are written, usually the writers and commenters’ question the production quality or casting of “Conservative” films (as if budget is no object and all politics are non-partisan).  Additionally, these articles and comments often question why or if these projects should even be supported by the Conservative community.  Quite frankly, most of these critics have no idea of what actually goes into (and not into) making a film or a work of art.  It is as if most artists on our side of the aisle shouldn’t be supported… without extra deep thought and consideration.  Liberal Art smears and attacks trump Conservative Art and Artists.  Which is a shame.  We don’t get to read, see or hear enough Conservative Media stories about new films, shows, music and artistic works or a discussion of the art forms that were created.  If there are any stories done, they usually are devoted to propaganda-ish projects or are ones preaching to the same choirs and not advancing the ball or the argument.  Effective Conservative Art starts in the trenches with integrity, fortitude, ingenuity and leadership.  Not by simply writing a check from a real (or imaginary) trust-fund or a political action committee’s bankroll.

Ask just about any filmmaker of the Conservative stripe what they think of Hollywood and the Media… eventually they will say something like, “why are so many of us questioning Hollywood instead of questioning ourselves?”  What frustrates many Artistic Conservatives is that our Fellow Conservatives complain so much about Hollywood, the Literary World, the Art World and the Music industry’s output and at the same time, do not support the burgeoning artists, musicians, writers and filmmakers in their own community.  I asked John Sullivan (Director of 2016: OBAMA’S AMERICA) about this subject for an interview on Townhall and he said, “every year, we have about a $4B cultural deficit that runs against us. Against the values of conservative people… And that’s not even taking into account the marketing and advertising. That’s just production budgets on stuff.  Look, we pat ourselves on the back when we match them (Democrats) dollar-for-dollar on the campaign trail.  “Guys, you are already down about the $16 B culturally over the last four years over to where the country has been.  Politics is defense, culture is offense.  And I don’t think the Republicans want to play offense.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCDKcqBL05g

In full disclosure:  yes, I am a Conservative and yes, I am a filmmaker trying to get my own art out into the greater world.  So, I do have a financial stake in this discussion.  But for the life of me, I have never understood monetarily and socially supporting artists, studios and media companies while simultaneously berating them for what they offer us.  If someone delivers crummy pizza that looks great and tastes okay, but gives me indigestion – would I still call the same pizza place every time?  Heck no!  So, why do so many Conservatives keep calling the same pizza place when making entertainment or artistic buying decisions?  I hear Conservatives say they are against boycotting or directing their funds elsewhere… because “They (Liberals) do that to us!”  Well, by giving “They” (Liberals) your money and time – they own you.  And their connected Media and Liberal Arts professions and Government Organizations own you, too.

FOABR Poster via Discmakers 411 4 11 2012 JPEG FORMATIn film, you don’t get to shoot on 35 mm film stock with “big-name” actors, with the best script material, with the best Directors of Photography and with someone else’s budget unless you have a great track record and make money from an Audience.  To become a great artist, to become a great filmmaker… you need time and opportunities to develop and hone your craft.  You need to be able to make a living as an artist to justify being one and to gain that 24/7 time integral for creating (and editing) better and better material.  Having an Audience supporting your work makes that happen.  When you are starting out as an artist, you need to build an Audience or Following before you can grow one and then convert one.  Not all “Conservative” projects or Art will be great, just as not all will be bad.  But, all should be given a chance by the people most pre-disposed to enjoy the material… Fellow Conservatives.  This brings us to another intermittent hurdle… the high expectations of many Conservatives when the art comes from “one of their own.”  Without the big corporate logos or indie brand labels that are cool to see or give us confidence, too many Conservatives are not willing to take a chance on something new or somewhat “edgy.”  Some instead want guarantees.  Life doesn’t provide that, so why should your art?

Being an Artistic Conservative trying to win over Fellow Conservatives is often a lot like being the guy or gal who struggles to make it in their own hometown in an indie rock band.  The hometown crowd is much tougher on you and their expectations of success are so high that the bar they have set for them to just say, “You know, it’s alright” can be almost impossible to leap over.  Are “Conservative” audiences really saying that until you start winning Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Grammys and Liberals – you haven’t achieved that much?  Or until they see you on Fox & Friends’ “Curvy Couch,” or anointed by Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly or El Rushbo… you aren’t worthy of their time?  It seems that way for newer artists.  How many Conservatives do you know of who announced their political orientation at the start of their careers?   Did any of them get to make a second or third album, movie, etc.?  Probably not, because is actually quite rare for any artists to get a shot at a second major project even if they are a Liberal.  Project Financing Decisions are based upon money, prestige and impact.

How do you expect to see more artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc. who think like you do… if you aren’t willing to support the ones you already have?  Can you really expect those who are successful and established to risk all in making the brave decision to “come out of the closet” politically?  God bless Gary Sinise, Patricia Heaton, Jon Voight, Angie Harmon and the other stars who have come out, gotten involved and led from the front.  And Producers like Gerald Molen for putting their money and prestige where their mouth is.  They are an inspiration for sure, but they are safely nestled in “the system” with agents, managers, assistants and production companies.  The rest of us aren’t and probably never will be.  “The System” is too toxic now.

If you don’t support Conservative artists’ material with your money, especially when they are putting their livelihoods, careers and more on the line… then don’t pine for “better” films, shows, etc.  And don’t berate them for not outnumbering or outperforming the artists you can’t stand or agree with.  Because at the end of the day, you’re part of Hollywood (and the Art World) too… with your time and hard-earned dinero.  And your hard-earned dinero really is the world-maker and the great equalizer.

And what Conservatives don’t do with their hard-earned dinero is just important.  For example, far too many Conservatives feel it is wrong to take a Snickers Bar from a CVS on Walgreens without paying for it – yet think nothing of buying a bootleg CD or DVD from “the guy at the corner store” or illegally downloading the same.  Many think it is almost a right to not have to pay for the art they see and enjoy at their leisure.  And then there are the Conservatives who don’t bootleg music or films, but still feel an Artist is freeloading or asking for some type of welfare when asked to economically support the art they are enjoying.  Artists are amongst the most entrepreneurial people out there, but a conundrum exists.

In America, our culture doesn’t see Artists as businesspeople, but as esoteric, irresponsible, no real job-having, hippie-wannabe, granola-eating, organic milk-drinking, foreign car-driving, mass transit-using, day-dreaming, pie in the sky-believing, no tangible good-producing Kato Kaelins.  Guess what?  Most of us have mortgages, expensive equipment, studio-space rental fees, distribution or gallery fees, insurance policies, advertising fees, paint or craft materials fees, supplies, marketing expenses and “How Apple screwed me” stories.  And that is before we even get to paying ourselves a salary or buy our own health insurance, let alone pay taxes.  Or replace equipment that is becoming more rapidly obsolete every month or year.  You can only amortize so much.

I can hear some readers saying, “Well, if it sucks that bad, go get a real corporate job like the rest of us!”  Okay, I’ll accept your argument… but, just exactly who is going to fight the Culture Wars for you?  Think you can win the Culture War by just getting offended, complaining and saying, “I don’t like that”?  You can’t.  Our side, the Conservative side, must offer other options, more perspectives, varied attractions for people’s time and attention.  That is how we will win the Culture War.  Not by bitching, but by doing.

Mary's Mystery Piece From "The Hesociis tincidunt tempus pellentesque cursus convallis ipsum Suspendisse. Risus In ac quis ut Nunc convallis laoreet ante Suspendisse Nam. Amet amet urna condimentum Vestibulum sem at Curabitur lorem et cursus. Sodales tortor fermentum leo dui habitant Nunc Sed Vestibulumartland"

Let me close with a story.  Recently, I was in a Mid-Western town (in a “Battleground State” where Romney and McCain sadly lost) and came upon a Fine Arts Fair.  The local high school had a booth for its Arts Club or Artistically-inclined students.  I saw a small sculpture that intrigued me.  My wife and I couldn’t figure out on our own if this work of art was meant to represent a cat or a bear.  But, I liked it and as it was for sale… I wanted to support and reward the young high school student (and Artist) who made it.  So, I asked the cool Gen-X teacher in charge of the arts group, “Do you know who made this?”  After some cajoling by the other students… a fresh-faced, energetic, somewhat nervous blonde girl named Mary came from the back of the booth to meet us.

Mary immediately asked us if we thought the price she asked ($15.00) was too high?  Smiling, we said “no” and asked her what inspired her to make her piece of art and if the sculpture was of a cat, a bear or something else?  She proceeded to tell us that she just started forming it with her hands one day after classes and she couldn’t stop from working on it for several hours.  Like all artists, her creative energy just came out and through the artistic medium she chose for herself – ceramic sculpture.  Mary created the piece of art I was about to buy without intent, just with creativity and execution.  When I asked her if she could wrap her sculpture in some tissue paper as we had a ten-hour drive ahead of us, her face exploded with such a radiant smile… it was worth our fifteen bucks just to see another human be so happy.  I could see that she felt honored that a person she never met before saw value in her work and enough value to spend their hard-earned American currency on it.  When we told Mary that it was going to our house in New Jersey, she immediately yelled to all her friends and her teacher that it was going to some place on the East Coast.  Her schoolmates were quite impressed.  Now, I don’t know if this sculpture is the first piece Mary ever sold… but it felt good to instill that sense of Artistic entrepreneurism in another person.  Especially, a young high-school student just feeling out her place in our world.

Will she vote for Republicans or Conservatives during her lifetime?  I don’t know.  However, I do know that at least for a little while she saw value in making something with her hands and her vision.  Then, selling it.  If she sticks with her art, she’ll meet a lot of good, hard-working, entrepreneurial people and unfortunately, some bitter and not-so-good “where’s my grant, dude?” types who will try to bring her down to their level.  Who knows how it’ll all work out?  Maybe Mary will go on to exhibit in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles or the Museum of Modern Art in New York City?  If she doesn’t, that’s okay.  She can make a decent living, buy a house, rent a studio, purchase supplies, contribute to our economy and be a positive influence on American Culture… but only if someone is willing to pay for her art, love it and help it thrive.  As we left with Mary’s sculpture, I told her to never give up on her art.  With a flip of her hair, she said “I won’t” and smiled.  I won’t either.  I hope we’re both making the right decision.

Art Sculpture Picture 2

6 Comments

  1. This is a great argument for patronage of the arts. I hope (but don’t really believe) people are listening. I’ve got it doubly bad; at least you’re creating overtly political content. I’m not. A lot of the time I wonder if the majority of conservatives have any interests outside of politics and religion. Despite being a conservative and a Christian, I do, and I really feel lonely a lot of the time. Just from listening to the popular figures in the conservative media, there are no conservatives who like rock, metal, or anything that deviates from Contemporary Christian or hot country. It’s really pretty sad; meanwhile hundreds of millions of hearts and minds are up for grabs if we could just stop evangelizing long enough to make an art product that non-rightwing non-news-junkies would be interested in. Why are leftist activists the only ones who can create marketable entertainment products? The answer, of course, is that people support them. It really sucks being a conservative when you’re in a field that requires others to support you, because the strong individualist nature of conservatives gets wrong-headedly applied to everything, even things that don’t work unless there’s support from the base/community/whatever.

    • Christopher Cook | July 11, 2013

      I LOVE lots of metal and hard rock, especially female-fronted bands like Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Halestorm, etc. I like lots of other genres too.

  2. Mark,

    I agree with many of your points for sure.  Thankfully, since we had a chance to travel a lot of the Country with our film, I can report that there are a lot of people who do want the opportunity to hear your kind of music – and a lot of others.  They also want the chance to see more works of art, literature and films than they are currently being offered by the “official” Conservative realm.

    For the moment, they have the same type of problem we do – access.  They, as a market, very well may want what we collectively have to sell as Artists but they can’t find us.  At the same time, we don’t have the bandwith (Media Push + Advertising Dollars) to find them.  I’m afraid that it will be a tough dance for us and them for a while.  I do believe though that we will find each other before too long and sites like Liberatchik and Twitter for sure are helping us do that.

    As you probably read, I (and many others) are as frustrated as you.  Just wish we knew of each other when we screened Fear Of A Black Republican in Buffalo and Rochester!  : )

    Best,

    Kevin

  3. Kevin,

    Your opinion piece was spot-on.  I am sure their are plenty of conservatives in America that have an artistic side that is waiting to bust out.  However, most conservatives (aka Republicans) are viewed as too vanilla to have a creative and liberal side when it comes to the arts.  As my palm reader told me awhile back ….. Jack your creative side is repressed and needs to be cut loose.   Mmmmmmmmm.  Here is to all those conservatives out there who need to encouraged to cut loose and show how the liberal arts and conservatism can coexist.

    Jack Garland, Texas

  4. Kevin, Thanks for posting. I am happy to see you are getting some feedback.

    We have had many of the same experiences in trying to create and promote our work, though our mediums are different. There are many of us out there fighting this cultural battle and the lack of support from a community that proclaims disgust with the status quo. I think it will take enough of us getting fed up and realizing we have nothing to lose, making a heck of a racket, and breaking through the blinders the average American has in regard to art. After 10+ years of fighting an openly political cultural battle, I truly believe that time is coming.

    You are absolutely right that there is a market for conservative art, though I don’t understand the claim by so many that they don’t know the work is out there. I suppose there are two issues at play here. One, most conservatives find political work like mine too confrontational – I get that. The other is, they don’t know who the conservatives are among the established artists, because those people don’t want to lose business making any kind of political statement – art or otherwise.

    I hope that all of the hard work at Liberatchik over the past 5 years or so with Christopher Cook will begin to pay off soon for all of us. This movement isn’t about pushing a conservative agenda in an effort to shut out Liberal views. It’s about giving conservative artists a safe place to show their work and discuss culture from their point of view. We don’t push in any way for overtly political work. That happens to be what I do in my personal art, but I am not the primary voice for Liberatchik by design. I encourage everyone to post their work and writing in an effort to show the conservative community how many and diverse our artists are. This movement is first and foremost about good art.

    That being said, we also have to work within the comfort zone of our audience. This is something I struggle with because I am, frankly, a confrontational person. I’m passionate and loud and I won’t back down. That intimidates a lot of people who are not so sure about art. We need traditional artists to help bridge that gap, and frankly, just a lot of good art. The ideology will come or it won’t, but the movement won’t succeed without support. Art is a business like any other and we need the community that is claiming to want to see a cultural change to invest time and money in supporting our efforts. We can’t work for free and we can’t make art working some other full-time job.

    This is why I am working so hard on the Big Hollywood articles. That is a great opportunity to get the word out about a conservative art movement and shift the dialogue in the direction of patronage. It won’t happen over night and I face as much criticism from the conservative readers as the liberal, but it is worth the trouble. For as long as they take my submissions, I will give it my best. Please keep the dialogue going here and on our FB page. I often read through the discussions for ideas and insight on the topics I am researching for the next article. I don’t want to work in a vacuum, preaching to the choir – there are too many people doing that as it is.

 

About the Author:

Jennifer Williams is an accomplished writer, interviewer and critical reviewer having written about or covered many subjects of interests. Having graduated from Tulane University, La Salle University and New York University, Kevin's career background in Politics and Civic Affairs, Public Relations, Marketing, Non-Profit Management and Filmmaking have helped inspire much of her past artistic and creative efforts. Jennifer directed and co-produced the documentary feature film, Fear Of A Black Republican. Her latest film, Rebel Song, looks at a middle-aged American Celtic Rock band and the music inspired by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Rebel Song is expected to be released in 2014. In addition to The Williams View, Jennifer is also the Entertainment and Politics Editor for Politisite, a Contributing Writer for Townhall, Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Liberatchik and Hip Hop Republican. Jennifer has been interviewed or profiled across many Media outlets such as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, L.A. Weekly; Current TV, Christian Broadcasting Network, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera and BET News; radio programs ranging from National Public Radio, Voice of Russia - American Edition, the Mark Davis Radio Show, the Chris Stigall Show, the Steve Deace Show, the Bob Grant Show, Victoria Taft Show, to the Michael Eric Dyson Show and many others.

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