We know art school grads are trained to have expensive taste, so why ask them to compromise when everyone else has to? Check out the nouveau hedonism for today’s poor epicure, from Salon’s Hipsters on Food Stamps,
In the John Waters-esque sector of northwest Baltimore — equal parts kitschy, sketchy, artsy and weird — Gerry Mak and Sarah Magida sauntered through a small ethnic market stocked with Japanese eggplant, mint chutney and fresh turmeric. After gathering ingredients for that evening’s dinner, they walked to the cash register and awaited their moments of truth…
Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.
“I’m eating better than I ever have before,” she told me. “Even with food stamps, it’s not like I’m living large, but it helps.”
Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else. About half of his friends in Baltimore have been getting food stamps since the economy toppled, so he decided to give it a try; to his delight, he qualified for $200 a month.
“I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing,” he said, fondly remembering a recent meal he’d prepared of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes. “I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it’s great that you can get anything.”
What are these so-called artists learning in art school? How not to make an honest living and how to mooch off others? Apparently, I should not be so judgmental, and assume these highly-educated artists are entitled to this support because of their creative output.
“At first, I thought, ‘Why should I be on food stamps?’” said Magida, digging into her dinner. “Here I am, this educated person who went to art school, and there are a lot of people who need them more. But then I realized, I need them, too.”
I’m really quite appalled at her rationale. Even from a graduate just out of school, I might understand, since this is the worst economy in decades. But these people are just a few years older than I am, plenty of time post-graduation to realize they might need to diversify their potential streams of income. I’m also an educated person who went to music school. Once I realized that I, too, was unwilling to eat ramen to make ends meet, I did not seek ways for others to subsidize my chosen career path. I found additional work and education that allowed me to support myself and my family while maintaining a level of artistic output I am happy with.
Am I totally alone in thinking other (admittedly) able-bodied, educated artists should find honest work, even if not in their chosen field – and save the food stamps for those who really can’t afford to live?