Don’t worry, I’m a professional

“Wow, that show was amazing!”

“Thanks, that’s what we do. I’m glad you enjoyed it”

Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses at the Triple Rock

Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses at the Triple Rock

At issue has been whether Venus de Mars is a professional artist or a hobbyist. For anyone who was at our “Audit Hell” benefit show Saturday night at the Triple Rock Social Club there should be no doubt that we put on a professional show. For the Minnesota Department of Revenue the only issue is whether we make money. Well, we made enough money at the benefit show to continue the legal battle so I guess we’ll see whether the court can determine what it means to be a professional. Another memorable quote from the evening:

“Don’t fuck with an artist, they’ll just turn it into art.”

The irony is that this experience may turn out to be a tremendous career builder. It is certainly turning out to be a great community builder. The Triple Rock really went out of their way to make the benefit a huge success. At least 100 artists, writers and musicians have come together to do their part in support of this issue. The local press has also done it’s part in getting the word out. We had write-ups in MN Post, Vita.mn, Star Tribune, L’Etoile as well as a wonderful piece on Minnesota Public Radio. Musicians have also come together to produce at tribute album is support of the cause.

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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)

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!

El Dorado

After 11 hours cramped in a sedan I was feeling like the car should be called Apollo 13 and not  the T.A.R.D.I.S. although with any luck we will make it to our final destination. So far, so good. We pulled into our first stop in El Dorado, KS last night around 10:30 pm. Achy and soar I tumbled out of the capsule where I had been riding shot-gun.

My ass, having sustained injury a couple nights before, expressed great relief to be out of the car, not just from the pain from 11 hours of sitting on a bruised tailbone but also relief from the gas that had been building up inside my colon; held back to avoid poisoning my traveling companions. There is something about road trips, cramped up in a car, eating shitty gas station food that brews up the most toxic concoction. Through much of Iowa you can sneak one out here and there without anyone really noticing against the backdrop of pig farms but I must have been held back gallons because I have been farting all morning.

My legs felt like I had walked the 621 miles to reach our current destination; that kind of pain you feel the next day after a strenuous workout. Still, I was grateful to have arrived, grateful to be out of the car and eagerly awaiting the incredible hospitality always bestowed upon us at the horse ranch of Pete and Liz. Once inside and the car unloaded, Liz prepared the dining room table with soup, cheese, veggies, bread an a variety of beers to choose from. It would have been nice to have socialized more. It would been nice to have written down my thoughts before going to bed but my ability to form sentences had left me. I couldn’t manage to get words from brain to my mouth, let alone my fingers.

It had been a long day. Unable to get any packing done the day before, I arose yesterday at 5:30 am to prepare for the trip. This is usually the way it goes and after many tours over the years it almost seems like second nature.   The only difference this time was that we weren’t taking the van so I needed to be much more concerned to pack as lightly as possible. No matter what, I always feel like I must have forgotten something. So far I haven’t discovered anything nor can I imagine fitting one more thing in my bag. Having left the blustery cold of Minnesota and needing to shed layers of clothes I’m already feeling over-packed.

You would think that traveling across country with a rock band would be one non-stop party; sitting in the back of a tour bus, doing shots of tequila and lines of coke of the bellies of strippers. This has never been my experience. We spend most of our time discussing our failures and strategizing how to keep going in hopes of making it to the next level. This time we couldn’t even do that. This time the discussions took on an even more somber tone. This time there was no talk of the future. This time we were wondering whether the band will even be able to continue.

For the past several months, Venus has been embroiled in an audit from the IRS. This is not your typical audit where they go through all of your books with a fine tooth come looking for deductions that aren’t allowed and income that wasn’t reported. In this case, there would be nothing of that sort to be found.  Venus has been meticulous in running her business and has followed all the rules. In this case the IRS is trying to claim that it’s not a legitimate business because it is not profitable. But Venus’ business is her life, the life of an artist. In essence they are saying that the life of an artist is not legitimate. Unless, I guess, it is profitable but then my question is, if it is profitable, is it still art? I see art as a challenge to conventional wisdom and social expectation. Once art becomes accepted and mainstream it loses it’s ability to expand cultural horizons, it loses it’s ability to transform. The irony is that to be a successful artist is to see your art turned into a commodity.  It reminds me of this quote:

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

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