I love the premise here. Two thoughts:

"Investing in artists the way we invest in startups" is an intriguing idea but only if it has the advantages of the old patronage system *at its best*--investors with good taste, with a commitment to the arts for their own sake, who are not going to judge books by their "marketability" and who will stand by artists like, say, Cormac McCarthy as they develop. In other words, if the word "investment" is stripped of ideas like ROI.

Second, sustainability, climate emergency, and biodiversity has to be paramount on everyone's minds. It has to be a value globally held, or at least globally held *enough* such that societies have momentum and capacity to address them. I think the arts and philosophy have a key role to play in that!

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Hi - here is a link to my contribution, a story called The Great Docility.



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Hey Elle, I like the prompt. I honestly think the #1 obstacle to creation is just how easy it is to get stuck consuming instead. Here’s my thoughts:


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Will another Renaissance 'look' like the former? The historical essence of the Renaissance is quite different from its shiny surface. It was a soft rebellion against the church, with Protestantism going harder. It would have been seen as a blasphemy of secularity unless the authority was weakened.

I hope this discussion can reach beyond capitalism, the status quo. The Renaissance was such a progressive social movement at the time, not just the creative individuals or the money. I think what Elle meant by 'fund' is more than "making a living doing what you want to do while the capitalists allow you."

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May 3·edited May 3

Hey Ellie,

I finished my article, and here's what I have to say: https://open.substack.com/pub/heliosy/p/what-artists-need-in-the-world-today?r=1sn972&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

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"Create so you can connect. Connect so you can create." I like that. Redefining connection could get us closer to a Renaissance.

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Amen to that.

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I would argue that trying to recreate the Renaissance is, given the confluence of trade, wealth, guilds, and new influences that allowed it to happen and flourish, unlikely to be replicated. Also, that, in truth, there is a real creative art scene in all its genres. You just have to find it first. Do the leg work as there is no longer any general critics corner to use. As an example, the Heard Museum in Phoenix hosts an annual native American art market that showcases not only traditional art, but what we would call modern takes on it, blending new and old ideas. I think this is happening all over. We just don't hear about it.

To me, as constructed, art is a commodity, and as such is at the mercy of what the market , and those with the power to manipulate it. This is illustrated by news that focuses on the cost of high-end art, which represents wealth and not art creation.

Art for art's sake is where most of us who create live because of the abundance of art introduced and the difficulty in finding an audience within that sea of abundance. And that doesn't include the ideas or basis on which "great" art is defined.

Perhaps the question is how, or whether, or if we even should, tier art so that more deserving-and I'll leave it up to others to decide-is recognized and supported.

As for overall support, we would have to radically redefine modern capitalism to accommodate those who want to spent their time in the creation of art in all of its manifestations. With so much capital being amassed in a smaller subset of society, it puts the mega-wealthy in the driver's seat of what is and is not supported. Or we would have to enact legislation to direct some of that excess capital into the arts through the tax code as was done in response to the excesses of the Guilded Age which led to the creation of entities such as the Carnegie Foundation, et. al.

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When we have an abundance of things, actually be generous with the surplus instead of going "muh capitalism" and price gouging everything just because it strokes some CEO's ego.

Get over the fetish to quantify everything and grow endlessly and rediscover the Buddhist magic of "enough" without commoditizing it.

Make the possession of grossly imbalanced power an anti-virtue signal.

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Creative thinking is a survival instinct. It's not exclusive to artists; it's something we all do.

Art is not utopian, magical, or rare.

Art is stuff people make.

We call art "great" when it validates our beliefs and glorifies our existence. When art doesn't amuse us, we call it trash.

I love art; I write about it and sold it for a living.

If you can afford to and care to, viewing art and buying work helps artists more than grants. Knowing their work has truly connected with another person can be meaningful to the artist.

Though the art world can feel glamorous, the barrier to entry is low. The word "art" once meant the best something could be—the art of painting, plumbing, gardening, medicine, and so on. Now, anyone can call themselves an artist. And many do.

If you want your version of a "better" life for artists and your version of a "better" society, teach people to love learning, to think original thoughts, to be daring, to constantly hold power to account, and to be productive. Those communities will have a good chance of success.

That said, some of the best artists who have ever lived were poor at times, and many struggled personally to create work we now think of as timeless. Some didn't even sign their names.

Art making at its best is an organic process, almost an accident.

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Quantity is the wrong goal. We already have too much on the supply side, and most likely we'd earn more demand if people made >3x less, spent twice as much time on each and the rest learning how to properly sell.

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How to imagine a world where art is compensated, valued and therefore thrives...I saw a LinkedIn post the other day with a policy document (akin to a political party manifesto) from the speculative Ministry of the Imagination. This document (which is also beautifully designed from a graphics point of view) has a fascinating combination of concrete policy proposals and ideological aspirations. A potentially inspiring resource for anyone imagining future worlds!


(also - Rob Hopkins...are you on Substack?)

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This is my first substack post. This inspired me to write, and I talk briefly on how if a couple people buy into an idea, it can get larger. Let me know your thoughts :


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I was in a rabbit hole one day about the Federal Graphics Improvement Program and it led me here (https://designobserver.com/feature/a-design-oriented-national-endowment-for-the-arts/7697) where I learned about the New Deal-era Federal Art Program. My view on the matter is in concordance with that open letter’s (increased NEA funding overall, plus revival of the program). I would also suggest that in addition to the NEA, there be a nonprofit arts corporation chartered by Congress and able to use philanthropy for funds, akin to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Legal Services Corporation, to mitigate any funding challenges from, say, an angry/skeptical Congressman chairing the House Budget Committee.

Even more imaginatively, what if we created a Polymath Corps? The NSF has the I-Corps for researchers who want to move their findings to mass markets (https://new.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/i-corps), the Labor Department has Job Corps for youths who want blue-collar jobs (https://www.jobcorps.gov/) and one think tank is pushing for E-Corps for aspiring entrepreneurs (https://fas.org/publication/establishing-a-u-s-entrepreneurial-corps-to-foster-an-inclusive-small-business-ecosystem/), so it’s not a big stretch to see that happen for aspiring Renaissance People, who would only have to pass government aptitude tests in a STEM field, a humanity, and an art to get in.

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As for how it would persist into the future, perhaps the corporation/P-Corps would exclusively fund platform cooperatives, such as streamer-owned versions of Twitch, and the cooperatives would carry its mission farther into the future. Other countries would adopt my plan as a template as necessary, and integrate it into their cultural exchange programs.

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The European Rennaissance happened because the plague killed 1/3 of the population of Europe, resulting in a massive disruption of the economic and cultural stablility of the time, and led to a vast reallocation of resources. This new availibility of resources gave many people who were flexible an opportunity to do new things, since many of the traditional barriers to change broke down completely.

An influx of resources and a dropping of barriers to change - what do we need to do to have those things happen?

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I support this approach. The most puzzling part of modernisation is that its two pillars, Protestantism and Renaissance, are reactions to the catastrophe no one has intended. It's both inspiring and disturbing to observe the history of critical systemic failure enabling the abundance we indulge in today.

If that's the analogy, could climate change be our renewal? Could AGI or some abusive digital technology open up the world of Matrix? The inflection point in the plot is literally named "Second Renaissance."

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I love the prompt! It’s juicy and thought-provoking.

As a recent aside, author Chuck Palahnuik wrote about a proposal he was to give to a group of benefactors. Simply, it’s a tax credit that accrues for each hour a creative spends time working on their craft. It’s not direct compensation like the benefactors who provided means during the Renaissance but, as an incremental idea it’s pretty good. https://open.substack.com/pub/chuckpalahniuk/p/since-you-asked-a-proposal?r=1lzdg&utm_medium=ios

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I'm up for it for sure. I have something very personal in mind that I want to share.

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Can't wait to read it!

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Great initiative!

I think that we’re in an interesting age where the means for a new Renaissance now exist. Naturally, we still need in-person communities for a truly artistic and creative culture to thrive, but the platforms for disseminating new art and ideas is definitely something we should be thankful for and capitalize on.

I founded a journal of classical arts and letters, The Chained Muse where we regularly publish new poetry, translations and essays, with an emphasis on original creativity. And we recently brought everything to substack. We’re now going on our sixth printed issue. Printed material and books are definitely an important part of reviving a Renaissance culture, but also leveraging the internet and social media to help promote these things. There’s still work to be done, but I think if we can capitalize on the latest innovations and pair that with a revival of lively in-person cultural events and forums, all sorts of things become possible. One doesn’t have to depend on the gatekeepers anymore.

We’re in a new kind of golden age, we just haven’t realized it, in my opinion. The conversations I see happening now would have been nearly impossible 10 years ago, even five years ago…

With that said, I think part of the Renaissance tradition means building on our best traditions. There’s often been an obsession with conserving and preserving, but forgetting that unless this is animated by a living culture with new and original creative enterprises, there will always be something missing.

On the other hand, offering new original works which further elaborate the timeless nature of our greatest traditions is arguably the greatest testament and demonstration of why these traditions are truly timeless i.e. they continue to bear new immortal fruits. So, the Golden Renaissance wasn’t just imitating the styles of the Ancient Greeks, but infusing it with the ideas and lore of their own tradition. Out of this emerged Dante’s epic, which served as a bridge between the ancient and the modern world. Let’s remember: Dante’s guide was Virgil, until he reached a certain point and then needed a new guide to reach the higher spheres. And it was all told from the first person, which was unheard of in the epic tradition. Boccaccio essentially created an entire new genre by developing the vernacular of his age through original storytelling. That’s another one. But there are many. New stories and a revived culture of storytelling are definitely other important fronts. Hence, my publication’s civilizational short story series where we narrate original short stories. This is one example:


On that note, I’m working on my second full-length dialogue, Daedalus. The first dialogue revisits the theme of Adam and Eve. They are now in their old age and a “second snake” visits them, asking them what they’ve learned and how they would advise future generations. Voiceovers are also provided. The substack voiceovers allow one to now fully dramatize original works, which is great!


People can find our journal of arts and letters here:


I look forward to discovering many new creative offerings on this forum!

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I don't think 3D printing will make housing cheaper in the western world as many VCs claim. Although I think 3D printed homes can enable us to move away from modern, utilitarian designs to more ornamentation heavy architecture that we common before the 20th century. Plus middle class might also be able to afford statues. Every home should have gargoyle in their backyard.

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The Renaissance was a rare alignment of: a cultural hub, a family of patrons, and exceedingly artistic talent. Today's mass consumption society is not oriented towards one off masterpieces, rather it wants mass produced clones. The question, how do we create a modern day city like Florence?

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The Renaissance was a time of one-offs. Paintings couldn't be reproduced by the thousands. Neither could books. For an artist, there's good and bad in that. The market was never flooded with more crap than anyone knew what to do with, but neither could an artist gain income from offset printing and the like. Yes, there was some of what we call 'traditional' reproduction.

And not everyone was well off. It wasn't an easy life even for the rich, compared to today. No running water, no electricity, pathetic heating and no AC. Healthcare didn't amount to much. As we consider how tough it is to be a 'starving artist' today, remember that in many ways we live better and more comfortably than the rich of the Renaissance.

I'm not trying to deflate the Renaissance. For all that I've said, I might prefer living then to now. We just need to keep some perspective. And remember that, for every Michaelangelo who was very successful and had patrons, there were doubtless countless numbers of artists who never did more than subsist. Their names and biographies are lost to history.

Individualist that I am, I don't warm up to the idea of just making sure everyone has a comfortable life, regardless of what they do. Even in the Renaissance, artists had to gain a patron; patrons weren't just handing out money and commissions. Each of our lives is our own responsibility. Being an artist doesn't remove that responsibility and it doesn't make it someone else's responsibility. As Elle demonstrated in her excellent previous post, we are saturated with works of art of every kind. There is not the bottleneck of high cost of reproduction and distribution. The floodgates are open. I have two novels, a play, and various other works that have, so far, made me a grand total of about a hundred bucks. That's the way it is. If we guarantee every artist a 'living wage' where exactly does all that money come from? The federal government is spending us into oblivion even as we speak.

For what it's worth, I used to live in a farm community. Once upon a time, those farmers could make a living out of a fifty-acre farm. Now, they can't. So small farmers often have full-time jobs AND farm. Or the wife works and the husband farms. Whatever they can work out. That's a hint. I don't think it's realistic for all artists to think they can make a living with just art. I wish they could, but I see no way for that to happen.

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Yes, very good points. So how can we re-create that? And create a modern day Florence? I hope you write about it!

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The Renaissance continues up to present day. Our entire planet is a global Florence.

Technology allows us to be: the writer, the publisher, and illustrator of our thoughts and ideas

It provides a library more massive than dreamed possible only a few decades ago.

Wings and wheels provide access to the wonders across the globe.

The internet is a hive of tiny salons where like minded souls can gather to socialize.

The arts are less dependent on a single patron as wealth spreads beyond just a few.


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It's a Utopian idea.

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Nice photo with a thought-provoking prompt. We need patronage networks that elevate beauty and truth over ugliness and lies. Here is an example: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/macarthur-fellowship-leftist-patronage-network

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