Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Different Currency

San Angelo (For Renate) Charcoal on painted masonite, 16x30” 2011.

I find that almost everyone wants art for their home but for all that, most people seem reluctant to spend real money on it. I’ve been searching a long time for ways to change their minds about that but words and ridiculously low prices don’t seem to do the trick as well as I would like.

I don’t think it’s about the art: it’s about the money. What would happen if we take cash out of the equation? In a healthy community, we should be able to reward and support one another without passing greenbacks back and forth.

I’ve always been a big fan of the barter economy and it presents opportunities that are easily overlooked. In this case, my friends Renate and Bill wanted art for their new home, but construction costs did not exactly leave them flush with cash.

I practically live on bread and almond butter and Renate is the best baker I know, so it seemed like an opportunity. I have tons of art and it does no good in my studio and Renate bakes every few weeks: it’s no problem for her to add an extra load for me. I get a loaf every few weeks.

How do we calculate value of bread versus art?

Let us assume that we’re all equal and our time is worth equally much. Then it’s simple. I just kept track of my hours—in this case it was about thirty. Renate will consider the added time that I’m costing her make me appropriately many loaves. As for expenses, she uses fancy ingredients, so the expenses match up pretty well and actually are likely to be a little higher on her end, so she won’t need to spend 30 hours kneading and mixing.

So I’m eating better than I would and the new piece will look great in their house. The thing that pleases me most is the gifts that we are each giving each other. I think about Renate at the breakfast table and my drawing will hang next to hers.

This is an exchange we can both celebrate.

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