Everyone I know seems to be scrimping a bit financially right now. This is probably redundant; something that goes without saying... and it's probably also a fairly obvious assertion that among those affected are "artists," a group who are often labelled and stereotyped as "starving" to begin with.
These artists, however, seem to me to be in a better place to use the economic hard-times as a growth-period: Rather than dollars-signs, the commerce of our trade and the coin-scale of our success is composed of ideas and creativity. These things are not intrinsically tied to economic fortunes. In fact, I think there are gains to be made by being forced to limit our resources, to need to separate our intellectual capital from our fiscal.
This is a great time to change our cultural thought-processes, to finally make the moves away from consumerism that we've been toying with the hypotheticals of for so long. This economic downturn could function as a golden-period of innovation in arts and ideas, particularly if we strive to view our limited expendable incomes not as a factor that constrains our creative outputs, but instead as a factor that provides much-needed opportunities to reassess the way that we think about and engage in creative tasks.
This is a good time to really enact the old credo that's deep in and important to most of our artistic subconsciouses by now; that we learn the rules so that we know how to best break them. This is an ideal time to utilize all the rules that we've learned in order to break those same rules more thoroughly, and in more creative ways, than ever before.
Think: Do I need this tool? How can I do this differently? What less-orthodox medium can I use to make my point more poignantly? What means can I use to get my message out that could attract more attention than the tried-and-true by way of their unusual and un-tested methods?
In the past, the "starving artist" mantra/ cliche usually involved scrimping on food to buy art-supplies. What I'm saying is rather, for the overall benefit of your artwork, and the potential to say something truly progressive and innovative with it, try not to buy conventional art-supplies. Figure out alternatives.
Is it for any reason, besides past rules that you learned as a foundation for your skill set that, if you're a painter, for instance, you need to purchase canvasses to paint on? What else could be used to fulfill the same purpose, but more creatively, and perhaps to the better demonstration of the concept of the piece (not to mention more economically)? I promise, there are plenty of things, and I definitely feel that more artists being coerced to think this way will produce far more interesting art.
As another example, it would greatly benefit most musical acts to re concentrate their attention on creating more genuinely interesting sounds by stopping dishing out unrealistic sums of money to record in pro- or semi-pro studios to make "radio-ready" demos when they're still quite a few rungs on the industry ladder down from radio-play. Adhering to current "professional quality standards" does not always equate to a more listenable (or even more marketable) product. More creative-sounding recordings and noise-making that not only cost less money, but come about because they cost less money??? How can you go wrong? How are we ever going to hear anything new or original again when even the lowest-caliber local bands in any given city pay to record in the same sort of studios which are stocked with same sort of gear as everything on the radio? Conventional machines (which cost money) make conventional sounds (which sound like money, rather than ideas or creativity).
Utilize this tight time-period. Make it your opportunity. Change the way that we think. This is a great opportunity to remove dollar-signs from the creative-exchange, to make the idea-market decidedly and intentionally our own.