Buy art. Especially local, non-commercial art.
I don’t mean, of course, that one should constantly be buying art and building up a hoarders-style collection of homemade arts and crafts in your home or on your property. What I mean is that occasionally, when money is available and an opportunity exists to become the owner of a piece of art produced within your community, and you find that piece to be enjoyable for any reason, then purchase it. Buy it for yourself, your family, as gifts for others, or for any other reason.
It doesn’t need to meet the standards of high art, or sophisticated composition, and it doesn’t need the imprimatur of regional or national fame. Whether the art in question be photography, painting, weaving, carpentry, live music, plays and performances, functional or non-functional doo-dads, every dollar you spend is going directly to a person you live near. You are subsidizing the area in which you live, your community will directly benefit. That’s a fairly inarguable plus.
One of the most tangible returns on purchases of local art is the introduction to some of the most interesting people in your community. People who read a lot, who are engaged politically, who appreciate food and drink and music and discussion. This is a generalization, not everyone who produces art for a living is a cosmopolitan socialite pursuing the lifestyle of a salon goer, but more often than not its the crafts-people, the musicians, the pottery workers and textile weavers, the painters and photographers and restaurantuers (food preparation can certainly be an art form) who are responsible for a majority of the best material and cultural recreation available from the neighborhood microcosm to the citywide macrocosm.
Most importantly, in my opinion at least, purchasing art at street level, from people or collectives free from the arbitration or mediation of national retailers, famous venues, or widely followed critics and commentators helps sustain a creative class existing well outside the spotlight, beyond the purview of mainstream artistic consumption. These are the people who have somehow managed to wring a living from the often inhospitable artistic world, people that invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into work that helps make the world a little nicer, a bit prettier, in a variety of different ways.
So, whenever you next attend a fall festival, or spring fling, or first friday, or other such gathering at which vendors from your street, neighborhood, or city are selling their wares, or if you stumble across paintings or photographs displayed in a restaurant or gallery, or if there’s a really good restaurant nearby – be a consumer, interact with and benefit from these artistic opportunities, its important.