Call For Artists

Venus DeMars (performance artist, painter, founder of All The Pretty Horses) and hi/r wife Lynette Reini-Grandell (poet, professor, host of Write On Radio on KFAI) are being raked over the coals by the MN Dept of Revenue. Read the story by Jim Walsh on MinnPost: http://www.minnpost.com/minnpost-asks/2013/04/talking-taxman-about-poetry-and-deductions.
Despite living as professional artists for the past thirty years, Venus and Lynette are now being told that their life work is not work, it is a hobby.
This is not a new occurrence. Artists have drawn the ire of the tax man for years but it usually it ends in a settlement with little fanfare. This time they picked a fight with the wrong people; people with nothing to hide, people with nothing to lose, people with everything to lose, people with no choice but to fight.
But this is not their fight alone. This affects all independent and original artists. We are taking this to the streets and putting on a benefit concert to raise the $6,000 needed for Venus and Lynette’s legal representation, and develop an Independent Artist’s Legal Defence Fund to support other artists who find themselves defending their way of life in court. Our hope is that this will put an end to artist persecution, but if not, our hope is that this will be an annual event.
We are currently working with Sonja at First Avenue to secure a date. Current dates available include July 19th, 20th and 26th; August 9th and 10th.
Since this affects all of us we want to involve as many people as possible. We also want it to be a successful night for our beloved First Avenue. We want to put on a star-studded event with three or four short (20-30 minute) bands sets (using a back-line) interspersed with 1-3 song solo/duo acoustic or DJ sets, poets and spoken word performances. We will also have a silent auction and art show.
Please let me know if you or the people you represent want to be part of this important event. We need names. The level of interest will determine what kind of night we get at First Avenue. If you are interested and available we will find a way for you to be involved. This will be as big of an event as we as a community can pull off. If the TEA Party can attract national attention from their run-in with the IRS, we as independent artist should be able to draw statewide attention from this event.
Please contact me at: jevanmusic@gmail.com
~J Evan LeFreak (bass player for All The Pretty Horses)
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We are made of love

It’s been the better part of a week since I last posted so there is plenty that I could write about my life. Despite that, I want to write about something more important than me. I want to write about Cloud Cult.

Photo by Cody York

Photo by Cody York

I first saw Cloud Cult at their CD release show for Aurora Borealis at 7th Street Entry in 2004. I went because my wife’s cousin was friends with the drummer at the time, Dan Greenwood. The Entry only holds about 200 people but I don’t even think the show sold out. Still, it was a full on rock-n-roll show and I was blown away. I’ve been a fan ever since. In fact I think that they are one of the greatest bands ever in existence  I get a lot of grief for loving this band. They are too hippy-dippy for my more hardcore friends and too serious for my hippy friends but I don’t give a shit. In my book, this band rocks! They have meaning and purpose and to me, that is what life is about.

Sunday night I went to the second of their sold out shows at First Avenue‘s main room. It still kind of shocks me that this little band with the big show, that I have been going to see for nearly 10 years, is now selling out the number one live music venue in Minneapolis.  It shocks me to the point that I didn’t even bother to buy a ticket beforehand. Actually, my life is too chaotic right now to plan ahead for much. Luckily, First Avenue holds back a few tickets to sell at the door for sold out shows. This is mostly to prevent scalping but it’s also to be nice to people in the know like me. I was lucky enough to get one of those tickets.

So how does a band go from barely filling the tiny 7th Street Entry to packing the mainroom? A Cloud Cult fan at the show said, “They are so successful because they have stayed true to their values.” It’s true, Craig Menowa, founder/songwriter for Cloud Cult, has blazed this trail doing it his own way. He has been offered record contracts but has turned them down in favor of keeping creative control over his art. I respect that and I think that Cloud Cult is very successful. They are successful to me because they have had a tremendous impact in my life. Rarely have I been to a Cloud Cult show that hasn’t moved me to tears. It happened Sunday night. I’m an emotional guy and I cry pretty freely but not usually at a rock show. I find that impressive, but is that really success? Tears don’t pay the bills. I responded to this guy saying, “You realize they still have day jobs.” I don’t know if that is true of everyone in the band but I know that this band is not financially successful enough to support 8 people. Actually, there are more than 8 people involved in this operation. Besides the people on stage, there are probably some road crew or techs. I met the sound guy who works for the band. I also met the merch person who told me that he refuses to take any money for his work. I respect that too. Art is about more than money.

But wouldn’t one think that a successful band would be financially successful as well? Very few local independent artists are as successful as Cloud Cult. I am racking my brain to figure out how many local bands that haven’t been signed to a major label have sold out the First Avenue mainroom. Trampled By Turtles has done it. Policia did it last Wednesday. I’m pretty sure that Mark Mallman has done it a few times. Maybe Har Mar Superstar. Obviously Atmosphere, P.O.S and Doomtree have done it. The short lived supergroup Gayngs has done it. The band I play for, All The Pretty Horses, has never done it. Before I was in the band, we opened for Peaches at First Avenue. I would like to think that show sold out but I’m not even sure. We are playing the David Bowie tribute Rebel Rebel – Rock for Pussy, a fundraiser for Feline Rescue on May 17th. It would be awesome if that sold out! Still, I won’t get a cent out of that show. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most amazing things that I do every year. There are things more important than money. I think cats are awesome!

But let’s do some math. First Avenue holds 1,500 people. At $20 a head that is 30 grand. That is some pretty sizable change. Especially if you do that two nights in a row. But the club gets a cut of that. Also, it needs to be spread out over the dozen or so people that put on the show. There was an opening act as well. There are promotion expenses, travel expenses, equipment expenses, lighting and recording expenses. These shows are not cheap to put on. Do I even need to mention that it took almost 20 years of really hard work for Cloud Cult to get to this point? I probably do. I told a guy at the show that I had every Cloud Cult album and he responded saying, “Yeah, I have both of them too.” They actually have 11 albums and I don’t really have all of them because I don’t own the first album, The Shade Project from 1994 or the re-release of Lost Songs from the Lost Years from 2009. Still, I have given this band hundreds of dollars over the years in album sales and concert tickets. So have thousands of other people but does that add up to financial security? Not really. Is a person who has been making music for twenty years without really making any money a success or just stupid?

I am convinced that the only way to get rich off of art is to create something that someone else can get even richer off of. But then your art is not art, it’s a commodity, it is a product. There is no way in this world to be a financially successful artist. We all need money to survive but can we admit that it is not about money, it is about survival. Define success anyway you want but to me, Cloud Cult is a successful band for one reason and one reason only. They are successful because 20 years later they are still doing what they do. They are surviving. And they have love. Perhaps love is the definition of success. Love is the title of their latest album and while I hope it makes a lot of money, love is more important than money.

This is big

This is a big deal and I need your help. The art world is under attack. Creative people are under attack. This is nothing new, I’m aware. Society is always scared of new and original ideas. That may not be a bad thing. Some new ideas suck bat turds.

But this is America. We have the First Amendment which protects our right to speak out, to be original and to dissent. The First Amendment supports art. I don’t mind if the American people don’t like my art but the Government is trying to destroy artists. I have a problem with that.

THIS IS BIG! and we can’t let it happen.

We’ve all heard of the starving artist. The fact is that it is very difficult to make a living creating art. Most of us have to finance our own art. Some go in debt, some work odd jobs, but for all of us, being an artist is our main occupation. We write off our expenses of being an artist just like any business would. We all hope that we will make a living off of our art even if the reality is that we never will. We are not doing it as a hobby, we are doing it for the betterment of humankind. Of course we think that has value. It’s not our fault the current economic model doesn’t have a place for us. We still matter.

But we are in a time of recession. The country is hurting financially.  We can’t tax the rich because they have too much power. So who are we going to throw under the bus? I’m here to tell you that it is the artists.

This is a really bad idea. You want to talk about who the job creators are? They are the creative people. They are the risk takers. They are the originals. They are the artists. If we want jobs we need to stick by them. We can’t lay down and let the bus run over them. We need to get on that bus and sit right up front.

We have our ROSA PARKS!

Hi/r name is Venus DeMars!

S/he is one of the most brilliant artists of our time. I’m not just saying that because I play in hi/r band; I play in hi/r band because s/he is one of the most brilliant artists of our time.

Hi/r wife, Lynette Reini-Grandell is a brilliant poet and writer and educator. The two of them are being told by the Minnesota Department of Revenue that their life paths are invalid.

Pretty much every dollar they make they spend making the world a better place but because they don’t make a profit the government wants to shut down their artistic careers and prevent them from doing all the good they do. Making art is expensive. Building a career is expensive. Both of these artists work very hard and both generate significant income from their art, just not quite as much as they spend to produce and promote it. That is not uncommon in the art world. It’s also not illegal for a business to lose money.

Maybe you don’t care about them. Maybe you have no fucking idea who they are, but if you care about me, if you care about any other artist anywhere please read their story and share it with your friends. This could happen to any one of us. It does.

What is happening can not go on in silence. I still believe in the First Amendment. I still believe in the power of the people. I still believe that our voices need to be heard. It’s time to rise up and let the government know that we NEED ART!

Please read and follow Venus’ blog

Please read and share Jim Walsh’s article on MinnPost.

Please read and please repost. If there is more you can do, please do that. This is going to take a movement. We can’t lose the arts!

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