Often when I talk about the mission of 773 Dance Project I get one of two reactions. The first is one of agreement and gratitude. They’ll give a look of understanding and go on about how badly free arts programming is needed. The second is one of confusion, questioning how we can give away something so valuable for free. “Dance is worth more!” they’ll tell me. And to this I ask, is a price the only way to denote worth?
Living in a capitalist society, we are accustomed to using money to express the worth or value of a thing. The general rule of thumb is if it’s really nice or important, you pay good money for it. With that logic it makes sense to spend hundreds of dollars to see a ballet or thousands to own an art piece. But I want to remind us that value is a feeling. Everyone can identify with what it’s like to value something. It’s a feeling very close to gratitude. Think of a person, place, or thing that you want to do well and naturally always show it care and respect. You feel a sense of value for whatever you just thought of. But with differences in income, while we all may feel value we’re not all able to express it through capitalism.
This is why the commodification of art is so upsetting to me. To value art is a natural, common human experience. Art in all forms has contributed to the mental, physical, and spiritual sustainment of communities since before money was involved so it has always had worth to people. Capitalism has made it so that in many settings, people can only be involved if they have a certain amount of money. This creates barriers to poor people and we excuse that by highlighting the importance of “valuing” the art. I understand the need to acquire money in exchange for art. Artists have to survive. But if it’s possible to create a way for artists to thrive without barring lower economic groups from the experience, I am determined to make that a reality.
So as we continue to present work and programming for our community, if you value it please express that in all the ways available to you. If you can, please give us money! But we’ll also know we’re valued if you show up to an event, discuss our work with us, or just tell us through our social media. All forms of appreciation are accepted here.