At Modernist, we aim to help our communities build a self-aware and integrative relationship with money, one that nourishes all areas of life and our collective well-being.
I know it sounds lofty, but I believe if we talk more openly about money, we can change the world. Conversations about money are at the heart of the work I do every day, but I've long known that I must take this work outside of client meetings and into the community. We do this through pro-bono financial planning workshops as well as our Modernist Money Stories gatherings.
I am so curious about how our money stories drive our collective decision-making, in many areas of life, but especially around the arts. So, for our January edition of Modernist Money Stories, we brought together some of Portland’s most prominent philanthropists, artists, and nonprofit leaders to help us answer this question:
HOW COULD WE ENSURE SUSTAINABILITY FOR ARTISTS AND THE ARTS?
Now, you may be wondering: what does art have to do with wealth management? Of course, a successful economy includes a thriving arts sector. And yes, I trained as a sculptor and writer before entering the financial industry. But most importantly, I believe that the creativity practiced by artists is crucial to building our collective wealth, especially as we experience disruption across many industries. This is why in Modernist’s philanthropy plan,we prioritize access to arts education (along with fighting wealth inequality).
During our recent Money Stories event, the arch of the questions we asked and answered were these:
What are 5 words or phrases that come to mind about artists? What are 5 words or phrases that come to mind about art?
Can you think of an example of a group that has been a champion for the arts? (It could be a social movement, government, company, or community, real or fictional, from the past or present.) What is it about them that is inspiring?
Imagine an ideal structure or system that sustains the arts. What would it feel & look like? Who would be involved?
What is one small step you could take today to make this vision real?
What did you appreciate the most about this conversation?
The answers that came from these questions were fascinating and varied.
The words that people used to describe artists ranged widely: from beloved, thoughtful, and rare, to chaotic, provocative, and hungry.
We discovered many potential models for supporting and sustaining the arts. Oregon’s Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) involves Portland residents in decisions about public art. Punk has inspired countless people to pursue unbridled self-expression, with minimal skill required. From 1935 to 1945, the Works Progress Administration, specifically Federal Project Number One, engaged artists in large-scale art projects on behalf of the public. And for centuries, the Catholic Church has funded artists and integrated their work into the daily lives of millions of people.
While it’s true that these examples have their shadow sides, they still provided great starting points for imagining sustainable art ecosystems. We went on to envision a required national arts service program (a-la Americorps) for two years, post high school and retirement; real estate development of timeshare-style studio spaces; a federal Secretary of Culture; and ways to weave the work of local artists into our daily lives.
It was thrilling to hear the range of perspectives and ideas that emerged. I am ready to stand behind all of them and more! In fact, we’re now planning to sponsor required art classes for all Modernist employees, to help connect making with working.
Then, we had the fun of seeing our guests making plans at the end of the evening to continue hatching their ideas. I can't wait to see how these concepts move into the physical world.
There was so much substance in this vibrant conversation that it’s difficult to do it justice in a single essay. Please consider answering the above questions for yourself. Then, hold your own Money Stories conversation in your community, so we can all work towards a collective future that sustains the arts and artists.
I can't wait to hear what you discover.