Making the best of a bad situation

People from all walks of life are being affected by the financial crisis. However, in times of financial hardship, art, which many people consider a luxury, is the first to be cut from people’s budgets.”It’s one of the first things to go when it should be the opposite,” said Jennifer Koch, who runs a framing shop called Frames for You and Mona Lisa, Too and was recently featured at the College Street Artist Co-op. Instead, “people should take solace in art.” Surprisingly, many artists aren’t dismayed by this country’s recent economic troubles. Some of them claim it has pushed them to be more creative with their materials and to undertake very different artistic projects.”I am an educated glass artist making glass art. Obviously people don’t buy collections right now as much as they used to,” said Tove Olander, owner and curator of Atelier TOVE, a new art gallery in Pine Street Art Works. Olander has begun teaching children in order to support herself, “It’s actually helping me to evolve, because I’ve been pushed in another direction.””People tend to make smaller works, because if big works don’t sell they tend to take up a lot of space,” Koch said on how art is often affected by times of financial difficulty. “I’ve been thinking about making a series of works called ‘lucky charm boxes.’ They’d be just little charms, like little kids carry with them,” Koch said.The artists of Green Door Studios believe that artists will respond to what is happening to the U.S. economy with their own projects.”Often art is a direct reaction to what is happening,” Drew Cameron said. Cameron works with other artists at Green Door Studios on Howard Street. “This is just another layer that artists will use. So, if anything, it just creates more material for them to use,” he said.Cameron has been involved with a project called “Combat Paper,” in which veterans create new paper out of their old uniforms. He believes this project is intimately connected with the financial crisis. “The economic situation is a direct manifestation of what our government has been doing with our money as far as investing it in war and spending it recklessly,” Cameron said. “We work with a countless number of veterans who feel isolated, so we want to share this with them as a means,” he said.Clark Derbes, who works with Cameron at Green Door Studios and has been making a living selling art for about six years, hopes that the financial crisis will have a Darwinian effect – weaning out those who are simply creating art in order to make money from popular forms or products.”Before the market crashed in the ’80s, there were a lot of what you might call ‘sham artists,’ and when the market crashed, those artists were out of work,” Derbes said. “I think that’s built back up into the art world, so the people who aren’t in it for noble reasons are going to quit.”Most local artists believe that due to the lack of a stable art market in Burlington or in Vermont as a whole, it is difficult for them to predict the future of the industry post-crisis.”Emotionally, I think it had a strong effect on my friends in New York. I heard some stories of galleries saying ‘we’re done, this is it,'” said Steve Budington, an art professor here at UVM who recently had a show in the Colburn Gallery in Williams Hall. “But here I think the effects have yet to really trickle down.””It’s too early to tell,” said Jennifer Koch, “because there isn’t much of a market for artists in Vermont, so it may take a while to see the effects.”Still, some artists say it continues to weigh on their minds. “I came here a month ago,” said Olander, “and [since] we’re always talking about the financial crisis.”However, she feels that the changes could be very positive for art in Burlington and even throughout the United States. “We have to start looking for affordable art instead of high-end art,” said Olander. “Maybe more prints, maybe more recycled art. Artists in Burlington can be role models in this.”