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The Cash Flow Show is back at Mad Hat

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Nearly 50 hungry artists are packing into the Mad Hat Tea Company in hopes of making a little cash. It’s called the Cash Flow Show, and everything is on sale for $25 or less.

Like everyone else involved in the business of selling stuff, these folks are hoping to capitalize on the holiday buying frenzy. I don’t know if you’ve been near the mall lately, but I’d rather go to Mad Hat, even if there’s nothing there I really end up wanting to buy.

I’m not usually interested in art produced solely for sale. I still approach art as if it were meant for something. That is, for something other than making money — changing the world, for example, or healing the recipient or audience, or shocking an unsuspecting viewer into believing in marvels again — if even for just a moment.

But this Cash Flow Show is, at the very least, honest about its intentions. People selling are hungry. People buying need gifts. And an inexpensive, hand-made something or other carries more meaning than a cheap, plastic-encased shaving set from Target.

We would hope, anyway.

This gift-giving season is going to be a tough one. Lack of cash flow puts us all in a bind. For retailers, including the creative variety, the holiday season represents a chance to capitalize on what is traditionally the biggest buying season of the year. 

But what if no one is buying? Looking at projected holiday sales for this season, some people will be buying. But they won’t be spending much. So what motivates these people — several dozen of them — to spend all this time and energy creating art for a show overshadowed by one of the worst buying seasons in recent memory?

In some cases, it’s just abject hope against hope that someone will be buying. In other cases, previously unsold and wayward creations will be dragged out of boxes in hopes that a few of them will be magically transmuted into cash. In other cases, artists involved have spent time throwing together a slate of craft-fair fodder, tagged for quick sale. Some have items they’ve been making and selling (or not selling) all year. For them, this is just another venue. Granted, Mad Hat seems to hold the artists it hosts to a high standard. But that about sums up the arts/craft-fair usual suspects, no?

But beyond the usual suspects, I hope to encounter one more class of artist somewhere in the mix. The kind that has taken this opportunity to shine within the limits imposed by lack of sales potential, lack of time, lack of money for materials. The kind of artist that doesn’t care that they may only make $10 on each sale. The kind of artist that summons and delivers the same passion they would for a piece that would net $10,000. The kind of artist that doesn’t buckle when faced with limitations, and chooses to make something glorious with whatever they can scrape together. If we’re to be broke, let’s use our creativity — all that we can muster — to be gloriously broke. To create gifts as if they still had the potential to harbor magic.

[Mad Hat Tea Co., Thursday, Dec. 10, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 1130 Commerce St., Tacoma, 253.441.211]

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