An artist lives by selling their skills. Sometimes, it may fetch an enormously high dollar (you should hear what some commercial payouts can be), others survive by the occasional grant, some actually work their asses off constantly on stage, in clubs, or via exhibits. The latter, you may have a great year, but then you start all over again. And by a great year as an artist, often is is in the $10,000 or slightly higher range. It is not uncommon for artists to have to slug thru a year or two or three making barely enough to pay union dues, let alone rent, gas, medical insurance and the ilk.
Often, an artist has to go where there is work, leaving behind a low rent place to take a summer job acting in the hinterlands for a dinner theater, or going to the desert for a painting fellowship, or abroad for the filming of a movie project. The bills at home still remain, and hopefully enough is made elsewhere to comfortably survive on location, so to speak. Of course, if one is working, one is not spending...or so the saying goes...but amazing how much junk food, snacks, and such you purchase when on the go.
But back to the "community" aspect. This area is a wonderful haven for artists. You find all levels of people working and living and teaching and sharing their abilities and crafts. An artist is always expanding their knowledge, and what better place to do it than in a community surrounded by like-minded people.
We do have some "industry." The metro area has many fine museums and galleries. You can go across the state and find small galleries representing the lifeblood of their own communities. We have performance temples all over the Twin Cities, most housing some of the finest dance, classical music, children's show, dramatic endeavors that are often the envy of other parts of the country. Just in theater, we have thriving improv, dinner theater, comedy houses...plus struggling but exciting small groups pushing the envelope. We have community centers that promote the Arts with the use of their gallery spaces and stages. We have street festivals, art crawls, music in the parks...hell, even movies in the parks.
It may be tough to earn a consistent living in this town, but there is an industry. There are jobs. But often the paid gigs don't promote the art you feel, which is often what the whole creative process is about. You don't have to sell anything to be an artist. You just need to express yourself (albeit, not at the expense of others, the environment or the cultural good -- well, maybe you can push the envelope sometimes).
Art is Being! Art is Exloring! Art is Mond-Boggling! Art is AllA round Us! Just look around you and you can see all the beauty that has been created, all the energy going towards Life! Yes, Art is Beautiful! It is...Wonderful! And, it's Perfect!
Yes...it is truly Fun to be a Starving Artist!