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Before astronauts walked on the moon, there was a science fiction writer, somewhere, penning the impossible on a page.
Like that science fiction writer, artists have frequently led and amplified the charge for change, opening the mind to connection, joy, and possibilities still unknown. Miami’s own thriving art community—from muralists in Little Haiti to the artists tackling climate change in their work—has been a catalyst for social impact, shifting the inaccurate perception of Miami as nothing more than a party destination. The work of artists is often the cultural heartbeat of the city.
And yet, art has been overwhelmingly framed as a luxury. While there are definitely financial and socioeconomic barriers to arts patronage, support for artists shouldn’t be limited to or seen as the responsibility of only the wealthy few. There is a reason that expressions such as “starving artist” and initiatives to subsidize artist workspace exist.
While the work of artists brings real value to the spaces they occupy, that value isn’t always or so easily paid out directly to its creators. Even choosing to pursue the arts as a career can be a risky proposition that demands validation, a professional network, and the potential support of foundations along the way.
If we want artists to continue building our Miami, then we need to cultivate a new generation of art collectors and patrons who will support them at home: locals invested in this community, stakeholders in our creative economy.
Supporting artists may be easier than you think: galleries and artists themselves might offer trades, layaway, and other payment plans. Then there is the old-fashioned, reliable way of putting aside $10 every month to purchase work from an emerging talent you believe in. Miami Light Project’s Beth Boone worked with Rosie Gordon Wallace, whose Diaspora Vibe Gallery helped pave the way for Miami’s art scene, to acquire her very first painting by Asser Saint Val in 2000. I exchanged PR services for a portrait by David Zalben, then an artist-in-residence at ArtCenter/South Florida, when I first moved to Miami almost 13 years ago.
With options like these and an infinite number of models, many who have never collected art before, but think of themselves as part of Miami’s cultural community, can become an arts patron.
Now, let me introduce you to Commissioner.
Commissioner commissions new work from up-and-coming and established artists every three months. Those works go to subscribers, who pay a quarterly fee of $300. The way it’s set up, these Collector-level supporters will directly contribute to the commission and purchase of original limited edition works by four artists, while Patron-level supporters and Collectors will have access to programming that’ll teach approaches to collecting art, how collectors are integrating art into their lives, and the artists behind the work.
With subscriptions ranging from $50 to $1,200 for a year, Commissioner is opening a new lane for accessing art affordably by pooling resources and connecting patrons to artists. Multidisciplinary Miami artist Typoe, who you might know for his bright, immersive installations for Brightline and Soho Beach House, will be the first commissioned artist of the program.
Art may not pay your rent; it will not buy your groceries. And yet, art is all around us as a vital part of our everyday experience. It can define people, movements, and whole geographies. Commissioner is one among many entry points to arts patronage, and we hope it’ll create an enduring ripple effect. To learn more, visit commissioner.us. And come to the Commissioner launch party, open and free for everyone, on Tuesday, Oct. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. at “Tired of Eating Pigeons,” Typoe’s solo exhibition at 49 NE 39th Street in the Miami Design District.
Commissioner is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a Locust Projects WaveMaker grant.