Barter in the Mountains.

When people visit New York City, they often hit a point of exhaustion in about three days and wonder “how the hell can people live here full time?” It’s a good question. Some people thrive on it, but city living in general (and especially in Metropolis here) seems awfully out-of-synch with the way people are supposed to live. How do we do it? We grow numb. We get used to it. I know this: many of us take breaks from the city and get out of town when we can. That sure helps.

But when money’s tight (or even, say, nonexistent), a vacation, even a mini-one, can be tough to finance. Money’s just a medium of exchange, though,  and really, almost anything of value can be or has been a medium of exchange. Salt, seashells, barley, or art.

Last weekend I traded the painting below for transportation to and from western Pennsylvania, including three nights at a cabin in the Laurel Highlands.

"Grandaddy's Caddy"

“Grandaddy’s Caddy”

While there, I met another artist, Pittsburgh’s Ron Donoughe, a plein air painter who finds inspiration in the woods of the region. My hosts (the cabin owners), had read about his local forays to paint winter scenes and invited him out for a visit. On some days, he’d only be able to paint for 15 minutes at a time before cold would force him into his truck to run the heater and warm up his hands and paints.

"January Morning" by Ron Donoughe

"January Morning" by Ron Donoughe

The Cabin Owners, cool people with artistic sensibilities and huge hearts, offered Ron the use of their place during his winter painting trips to the area. Though they expected nothing in return, Ron was so grateful that he offered to give them an original painting. They politely waved it off (their intention was merely to support an artist whose work they admire) and maybe they’ll accept it, maybe they won’t, but it got me thinking about the range of goods and services that could be bartered* for with art.

In past years, I’ve gotten credit at restaurants and bars with my artwork. At music stores, too, and more movie and concert tickets than I can count. Considering today’s tight money supply, maybe barter will become more common again. I’d be okay with that. It seems to be catching on on craigslist.

What would you trade for artwork?

*Barter is defined as “trading by exchange of commodities rather than by the use of money.” For some reason, people often use the word to imply “bargaining” or “haggling,” as in “No, yeah, I bartered him down from $2500 to $2000.” I don’t know why, but this is a very common misuse of the word.

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