"The biggest favor we do for people is to release them. Society, culture, puts them in jail—and we let them out. The rule-makers, whoever they are, decided a box you're going to live in. We need to be reminded that you can step out of the box—and you can go right back in again if you want, too."
— Billy Connolly ("Satiristas: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians" by Paul Provenza)
The average American—and as much as the Trumpians want the world to believe that those who live in the heartland are the average, given simple numbers, the average is an urban dweller—spends an awful lot of time in a contraption created by a consumerist, capitalist, Puritanical and very narrow set of mores.
We wake up, drink our coffee, shower and head to work, which, for most people, includes eight hours of mind-numbing number crunching and dealing with the constant sense that no matter how hard we work, there is no end to it. We suck up to people we wouldn't voluntarily have a meal with, we buy shit we don't need, we sit for hours of our days in cars and the traffic that accompanies it and we are barraged by a non-stop noise of repetitive information about how dangerous it is to travel along a different path.
For the average American, the creation and performance of art is something Someone Else Does and yet another thing to be consumed rather than experienced. This is why it is so easy to buy into the premise that, in order to justify the existence of the artist in society, it is necessary to either demonstrate that the art entertains the largest number of people or provides some quantifiable service to those in need. Artists either have to pander to the greatest number in the middle or show how they serve their community through some sort of social service.
Artists refuse to stay in the box. Artists do not work within the system. Artists seek stories that show the triumph or failure of the individual versus the conformity of the System. Artists do not sacrifice the integrity of their work in order to market it better or develop their audience. While everyone can create art, not everyone is an artist. An artist is not defined by his or her income. Artists do not solve problems, they reveal them and provide insight. Artists can make you laugh, cry and question your own place in the world. Artists do not accept the Standard Party Line.
And it is not necessary for the artist to justify his or her existence to the world. It is not necessary to justify the undeniable good that art is and does.
How does the artist serve the community? He exists. She creates. He displays and performs. That's it. The rest is up to the community to figure out.