The following poem first appeared in the Iowa Arts News magazine, volume 27, number 2, in 1994. It is, by far, the most published and requested poem I have written to date.
I originally wrote it in reaction to a telephone call I received asking me to donate my performing services to a luncheon celebrating local philanthropy. As an arts advocate I was happy to participate and to donate my services. But when I was at the luncheon, performing jazz on the piano while everyone ate the catered lunch, my mind wandered. I looked around the room and saw more than a billion dollars of personal wealth in that room, and much more in corporate wealth.
Suddenly I realized that everyone working in that room - from waiters, sound engineers, luncheon organizers, the hotel, the awards manufacturers, the florist, the decorators, the utilities, and the staff who ran the company bestowing the awards - had been or were going to be paid for their services. Even the piano tuner had been paid.
It struck me that I was the only professional in that room who had been asked to donate my services. I was the performing artist. At that time I wasn’t making much more money annually than the waitstaff, either.
No one would have dreamed to ask the caterer to donate the food or the hotel to donate their room. I found it a bit amusing and ironic that I was donating my services at a luncheon celebrating philanthropy. Needless to say, my own philanthropic contribution was not recognized or acknowledged.
A few months after that luncheon I was again called and asked to donate my professional services for another equally worthy cause. Ten minutes after I hung up the telephone, this poem was written.Thoughts and writings "artists don't need money"
￼ Linda Robbins Coleman