Greg Mason Burns

Kindness Can Save the Arts

Essen Coal #1 is an abstract photo of the Welterbe Zollverein mine in Essen, Germany.

Essen Coal #1 – Photography on Archival Paper


Kindness Can Save the Arts

I do a fair amount of research on the art world in general, and occasionally I come across something that strikes me as appropriate and smart. As was such with this quote by Paul Warwick, co-producer of China Arts in the UK, that I found in this Guardian article about Why Radical Kindness is the Key to Artistic Development. Paul said: “…developing art and developing artists are not always the same thing. Giving loads of money to already successful artists or companies to make a show is not artist development, it’s a commission. Artist development is risky and it won’t all work.”


I can’t say enough how this has been largely forgotten in today’s art world, and in some respects this makes sense. Investors want to invest in something that will give a return. They want to give their money to someone who is established so that the money is well used and turns into something productive. We’re all wired that way to some extent, from how we buy groceries to save for retirement to work on projects at work. A return is always nice, and unfortunately it means that the return is often the end goal in of itself. We want that return so much that we take the safe route to get there. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, unless of course you want something different, something new.

Kindness can save the arts

Kindness can save the arts: Igreja do Bom Jesus dos Navegantes – Oil on Canvas Board – 2015

Risk is such an important part of development. In fact, without risk development doesn’t exist. If you want to move forward you need to actually do so, but that isn’t enough. Real development means taking steps into the unknown. Recreationally I’m also a climber, so I know this well. One never knows what the next hold will be like on a new climb. A climber never gets better without climbing new routes, either. The same old thing just leads to more of the same. It’s the same with arts. If you want to make a difference then support the arts in ways that allow the artist to step into the unknown. And it doesn’t need to be something completely new either. A new perspective on the same idea is just as valuable because we all need to learn from the past to move into the future.

Exposure Begets Inspiration

But even then, developing artists inspire other artists. Think about it as if it’s a team: one player sets up the other. Not all artists can be successful millionaires or hanging in the permanent collection of the Louvre. But none of those artists would be anywhere either without the army of unknown artists who paved the way. This is development. We all get better together, some at different speeds, but it’s all the same thing in the end.What are some of the developments I’ve made in my life? I used to work in healthcare finance at a children’s hospital in Boston. It was a great job and came with great benefits. I was off climbing every weekend all over the country as a result of it. But I while I was apparently living the life I also wasn’t happy. I needed a change, so I risked everything to pursue a long-held, and oft-criticized dream of becoming an artist. And I didn’t just quit my job, I moved to Chile without speaking a word of Spanish. A few months later I picked up and moved to Brazil without speaking a word of Portuguese. Today? I’ve exhibited in a few cafes and have had a couple of galleries show my work. I’ve even had a solo show at a small museum. My Portuguese is now ¬†pretty good and my Spanish is coming along thanks to a project I have to document Flamenco.

Change is Good

Would I recommend such a dramatic change to everyone? Yes, actually I would. I know this life wouldn’t fit everyone, and not everyone is going to have success, but I would recommend it to everyone. Our world needs this and it needs it for a couple of reasons: 1) we need to develop and taking risks always leads to development (whether that risk is what we expect or not is irrelevant) and; 2) the more people who do this more other people will support this. Again, it’s a team effort. The arts need people to step up and encourage development. That requires both people who take risks artistically, in life, and financially. So be kind, and you’ll see the benefits.

And If you’d like to support an artist, you can always go to my Patreon page and see how I develop new art. If you’re looking for a hint, the top image is what I developed in 2021.

Kindness can save the arts: City V – Love Towers – Oil on Canvas – 2014