As someone who has worked in the arts for 18 years both as an active visual artist and an arts administrator, I have seen my share of “entitled artists.” By this I mean those people who seem to perpetually have their hand out, asking friends or acquaintances to go above and beyond what is normally expected from those relationships. These types of artists often make grand assumptions that they neither have to pay for nor work hard to receive something of value in return. This personality type is not limited to artists, mind you. Perhaps it is something in the artist persona – they play into what has historically been a lifestyle defined by struggle, financial hardship, emotional torment and other such stereotypes, and that somehow putting their art into the world is worthy enough.
I would like to suggest that this attitude is neither acceptable nor in the best interest of artists as a whole. When you ask a friend or colleague to assist you hang your art show, volunteer their time for your project, review or critique their work or written materials, thank them! It is a simple concept that we teach children when they first learn to speak, yet it often eludes many adults.
Our world has become increasingly complex and people’s lives have become busier; our interactions with others have become less formal – email and texting has allowed us to abbreviate our thoughts, oftentimes this leads to misinterpretation. There is a time and a place for informality. However, situations that warrant formal thank yous and other demonstrations of appreciation should be done with well-thought out written sentiments, and may warrant (dare I say), a handwritten card or note sent through the mail!
When someone takes the time to explain how you have impacted them, that they have learned something from you, that they appreciated your time, effort and dedication to your cause, it shows an act of respect and professionalism. It doesn’t cost you anything but it is usually of great value to the receiver. Conversely, when someone neglects to do this, it feels like your efforts went unnoticed and unappreciated, and you won’t likely want to help this person again in the future.
Think about people who have helped you, guided you, shown you a leg up somewhere – did you thank them, and thank them properly? Doing so might just help you in the future.