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Friday, June 7, 2019

What do young people want?


Art events are filled with older people. “How do we appeal to younger people?” I was recently asked.
Sam Horowitz demonstrating painting to his peers, many many moons ago.
In my experience, youth are very interested in making art until they finish school, whether that’s at 18 or 22. Then they become consumed with the business of building their lives: paying off their loans, pair-bonding, saving for their first cars and homes. It isn’t until they’re around 40 that the first of them lift their eyes from their task lists long enough to think about making art again.

I’ve taught some young people who’ve never lost the creative urge, but they’re the exception. Part of the difference was relationship. They not only studied with me, they came over to my studio on their free afternoons to work and they spent time in my home, with my family. Those years in high school seemed to cement artmaking into their lives. I suppose one might call that mentorship, although I never gave the process a second thought back then.

Matt Menzies in high school. He's since gone on to work on Broadway.
I’ve written exhaustively about art’s intellectual benefits and its economic importance. Despite its many conferred advantages, art has very low prestige. One way to combat that is by showing young people that it’s possible to make lives as artists, but this one-on-one teaching is a slow way to change the culture. Do you have any better ideas?

People over 60—as much as they love art—don’t generally need more stuff in their homes, as I wrote yesterday. People under 30, with few exceptions, don’t have the money for fine art… but they will, and soon.
Teressa Ramos continues to paint while in nursing school...
It’s easy to forget about Generation X, but their spending power surpasses that of Millennials and Baby Boomers. They came of age into economic turmoil, and they’re the first product of widespread divorce in America. They value security, authenticity and social consciousness. In decorating terms, that means they want soothing colors in practical materials. They’re willing to spend for beautiful living spaces. “The Gen X midlife crisis is defined more by worrying about a status kitchen than rushing out and buying a Ferrari,” wrote trend forecaster WGSN.

Millennials are the biggest age cohort in our history. This is the generation that will spend $4 on a coffee, but have no savings. Millennials value social responsibility and environmentalism, but the biggest factor in their purchasing decisions is price. They also value authenticity, local sourcing, ethical production, a fun shopping experience, and giving back to society. But they’re not spending their money on their homes; they’re spending it going out and having experiences.
...as does her younger sister Kamillah Ramos. Here she was in high school; she's now a graduated architect.
Even though 54% of millennials shop online, this generation is more likely to do the research and then head to a “real” store to make the actual purchase. That’s very good news for those of us who promote on Instagram but use bricks-and-mortar galleries to make our sales.

Most importantly, both Gen X and millennials respond to micro-influencers (that’s you and your friends) on social media. They will “share” your posts, if they’re thoughtful and funny.

An important note: I’m teaching on the windjammer American Eagle next week. One of the nicest things about the ocean is that there is no cell-phone signal and no internet. That means no blog from Monday to Thursday. I’ll see you again a week from today!

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