By Erin Cullerton

At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night, most people are getting ready for a night on the town. Qorey Golob, on the other hand, is standing in the bathroom of E & O Trading Company, one of downtown San Francisco's chic eateries, pulling her waist length hair into a soft bun and trying to get dried, red paint out from underneath her fingernails. A painter and sculptor, who moonlights as a waitress to pay the bills, Saturday night is one of Qorey's best nights to make money. The only problem is, she's already "worked" all day.

At 34, Qorey's work has appeared in the Oakland Museum of California; she's shown in a dozen small galleries; and she's co-owner of her own business, Q & A Multimedia, with partner, photographer, Alon Picker. But like many artists, Qorey's still waiting tables. Even though she's reached a certain level of success, making art hasn't really started to pay the bills.

This is a reality most artists face on the long, winding road to "making" it. As money in the arts dries up and day-to-day life in cities like San Francisco and New York becomes more expensive, waiting tables is not just an alternative--it's a necessity. And as luck and persistence are all most artists can count on, reassurance lies in the fact that many a well-established artist was once in their shoes.

In fact, Qorey sees herself as part of a continuum of artists who have long compromised security for art. One of her favorite authors, Dorothy Allison, waited tables up until the publication of her acclaimed novel Bastard Out of Carolina--she was almost 40 years old! "It's a centuries old problem," Qorey says. "Now that the Renaissance is over, we all have to find day jobs!"

But why do so many artists willingly subject themselves to this type of work? Work that is menial, at best--work that puts them at the very bottom of the social totem pole.

It's simple: waiting tables is quick and easy money. And you'll find a handful of artists at almost every restaurant, because it's part time hours for full time pay. And the best part, of course, is that, at the end of the night, with cash in hand, they leave the work behind them.

Flexibility is what keeps Qorey, who is steadily making a name for her self, at this job. "Waiting tables allows me to be in my own world a lot!" Qorey says, leaning against a paint-splattered wall in her overstuffed live/work studio that she's lived in for the past ten years.

Then getting serious for a moment, she adds, "Waitressing doesn't involve my soul. If I did anything else, my soul, my mind would be used up." This is especially important to Qorey since she grew up with parents who were both art educators and she saw, firsthand, how their careers affected their own art. It drained them and left them with very little time to create. Qorey didn't want to find herself in the same situation. Waiting tables allows her to be a working artist.

But there are downsides to waiting tables, too. Health insurance, sick leave and just basic respectability are hard to come by in this industry. And working with the public can be physically and emotionally taxing. "The work can really get to you," Qorey says, standing beside one of her brightly clad sculptors, reminiscent of Latin American surrealist work.

"Some days, I come home and I won't talk for two days. I learned a long time ago, I can only work three days a week without giving my soul away." At the end of the day, Qorey can deal with the work, because she knows what she can handle and because her priorities are always in the right place.

She treats waiting tables like performance art and it helps her get through her shifts. And when she gets home, she is vividly reminded of what her life is really all about--her art. Somehow, it makes serving coffee and tea along the way okay.

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