Thursday, February 02, 2017

Council dates for artists and arts advocates in the District

DC Arts & Artist Advocates!

Save the dates for the following hearings at The Council of the District of Columbia. And please share.

*To testify contact: Sarina Loy, or 202-724-8058

DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Performance Oversight: Thurs, Feb 16, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Wed, Apr 26, at 10 am in Room 500

And with development of the Cultural Plan that is being led by the DC Office of Planning:

*To testify: email or call 202-724-8196

DC Office of Planning
Performance Oversight: Mon, Mar 6, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Mon, Apr 10, at 10 am in Room 412


*To testify contact: Demetris Cheatham at or 202-297-0152.

DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment
Performance Oversight: Wed, Feb 22, at 10 am in Room 500
Budget Hearing: Wed, May 3, at 10 am in Room 120

For the rest of the performance oversight and budget schedule.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Word Matter - The difference between arts advocacy and advocacy for artists

So here's a post I shared on Facebook:

This is the full text:
Why words matter as it relates to arts advocacy and advocacy for "artists". 
I realize I might be overanalyzing it, but if you look at other organizing efforts, the Women's March, the Immigrants' March, the Scientists' March, even that word choice puts the individuals first, rather than institutions. And it puts the latter in service of the former, not the other way around. 
A March for Arts is an inherently different thing than an Artists' March, because the former and "arts advocacy" in general, is primarily focused on systems and supports for the institution of art, rather than the needs of individual artists.
I suppose all this is to say that, although I am terribly worried about the threat to the NEA, nothing's really changed when it comes to the plight of individual artists. Many are still worried about affordable housing, healthcare, simply earning a living wage for our art and not subsidizing our primary creative job(s) with non-arts related endeavors. And those concerns are nothing new. 
Don't get me wrong, I think artists more than ever should be involved in "Arts Advocacy", especially with the threat to the NEA. And I recommend all hands need to be on deck for Arts Advocacy Day coming up, March 20 to 21. But I think we're long overdue for a more intersectional platform of advocacy that puts artists first. And it's one that will need to be led by artists and supported by organizations.
What do you think?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

A [Completely New] Way of Life: Urban Sprawl

From TreeHugger quoting Shawn Lawrence Otto's Fool Me Twice, in a post from December 28, 2016:
In 1945, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began advocating for "dispersal," or "defense through decentralization" as the only realistic defense against nuclear weapons, and the federal government realized this was an important strategic move. Most city planners agreed, and America adopted a completely new way of life, one that was different from anything that had come before, by directing all new construction "away from congested central areas to their outer fringes and suburbs in low-density continuous development," and "the prevention of the metropolitan core's further spread by directing new construction into small, widely spaced satellite towns."
 Read the rest.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Not in the arts to make money? You might be privileged.

This morning's musings? Wondering about money and the arts, along with inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA). More specifically wondering if the conotation of a mindset, "I'm not in the arts to make money" is a privileged one, and how that will keep us from moving the bar forward when it comes to representation in the arts, from audience to artists.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that few of us pursue this life because we "wannna be a billionaire (so frickin' bad)". But there's also the dichotomy that while artists aren't generally expected or supposed to make a living, arts administrators are. And often times, at least in the DC area, you have a majority of artists who are able to devote their time and energy to the arts because of another, often-times non arts related job, OR arts related but administratively, subsidizing their creative pursuits. But what about all those creatives that need the 2nd job to also make enough money on top of the first one, simply to surive. Because, personally I believe that if you're getting less than minimum wage for the number of hours you put in a project/production, we should start shifting the paradigm of one where artists are actually giving back all the dollar/hours that they're not getting compensated for. Mind you, I'm specifically thinking of performing arts at this point, and I apologize to my visual arts friends who's process doesn't track as well to artists rehearsal and performance schedules.

I should pause. I'm NOT saying that this is good or bad. This is simply the state of the arts right now. I guess my time at DCAYA has informed a lot of this, in terms of looking at what system level change looks like. And it starts with having the conversation. And while it can be very difficult to have objective, quantifiable conversations about the arts, I guess I'm just trying to figure out where it can start (or continue, for others that have already started it). Because if we shift how we can talk about money in the arts, then we can talk not just about how it is supported, but how the arts should be supported. It becomes easier to have the value conversation, and I believe this is going to be a conversation that will be increasingly important to have over the next four years. And this conversation will only move forward, or happen period, if artists shed their general fear of talking about money.

Finally for creatives, we seem to not use our creativity to put the time and energy to imagine and build new systems that would enable earning a living wage in the arts like we could, myself included. Because although not the same, race and class in this city are definitely and generally intertwined. And if we're not talking about class when we have these conversations about represntation, then we will always fall short of addressing the systemic roadblocks to inclusion, diversity, equity, & accesibility. At least I don't believe we will. And so if you ever say to someone, that you're not in the arts to make money, but you consider yourself a professional artist, I would say it might be an opportunity to possibly check your privilege.

With Burning Man's 2016 theme, they had a series of blogs which addressed this and started the conversation, and I'll wrap-up this post with this quote from one of the blogs:
Art and money have never been separable, but somehow the idea of talking about them together has become a great taboo. We admire “starving artists” in a way that we would never endorse for “starving teachers” or “starving firemen.” We have a notion deeply embedded in our culture that anybody who talks about doing art for the money must not be a “real” artist.
Read the rest of the blog. And let me know your thoughts in a comment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Headlines in the Arts: On Fair Wages and Culture Wars

So I thought I'd share some recent articles I've posted on other platforms. Don't know if this will begin happening regularly, but for now, I hope you find the following articles compelling.

Hashtag Fair Wage in the Offices Near the Stage, HowlRound, 12/16/16
Recently, one of the largest non-profit theatre companies in New York City (and in North America) put up a job posting for an Assistant to the Director of Development with a listed salary of $30,000-$35,000. There were no additional benefits specified. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, nor does this posting mean that someone will be getting $30,000 per year. It would be reasonable to assume that they are just posting the $30k scenario so that when they make an offer that’s slightly higher, the young, hungry development officer will be more likely to take the job.
Read on

‘Alt-Right’ Trolls Are Targeting DC’s DIY Music Houses, Washingtonian, 12/19/19
The Washington area has a long and mostly proud tradition of houses that lend themselves as venues for up-and-coming bands. But in the last few days, some residents of those houses have become guarded after discovering their homes’ names and addresses targeted in online message boards populated by members of the white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right.”
Read on

Trouble ahead for New York’s museums, Apollo Magazine, 12/19/19
There are few fans of Donald Trump among the management and boards of New York’s cultural institutions. Personal distaste aside, they are the beneficiaries of the trends that President-elect Trump has railed against: globalisation, and the unequal distribution of wealth that it has pulled in its train. They have been served well by the policies pursued from Bill Clinton’s presidency onward, of the liberalisation of trade and financial deregulation – policies that Donald Trump identified so forcefully during the election as responsible for the assault on middle America that he (ostensibly) and his voters (genuinely) wish to reverse.
Read on

Curious to hear what you think. Please leave a comment!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fellow Artists: We are Worth It

From Facebook:

Here's the rest of the post, if you aren't on Facebook:
Actually found the timing of reading wonderful, as I had recently played around with some numbers I think are more common than not, for non-equity actor compensation, and flipping the switch from thinking about how much I was receiving to how much I was giving. 
For example, say two weeks of rehearsal, with rehearsing for 30 hours each week, paid $120. Not only did I calculate that the effective hourly rate was $2, using minimum wage, I went from thinking I would be making $120 to realize that I was actually GIVING $315, because that amount of time at minimum wage is worth at least $435. 
The irony is that often times the actors who are able to afford that kind of pay cut work another job that subsidize the creative one, which is a form of privilege, in a weird way. And, I guess this may be another way of saying that minimum wage in the arts is a crucial part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation as anything else. 
But this is what happens when we as a society (and I put this on arts administrators) focus more on and put more value in the arts than in artists. Could you imagine an arts advocacy organization in DC that committed to affordable housing and minimum wage issues? But that would be more artist advocacy than arts advocacy. 
I think it's time to flip the script.

What do you think? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The visit to Fly Ranch aka Burning Man 2.0

Fly Ranch is the next step in the grand experiment that is Burning Man.
This is not a drill.

I'm not even sure quite where to begin, when it comes to Fly Ranch. And I definitely don't want to repeat information you could easily find/read elsewhere, either about the Fly Geyser on Wikipedia itself or about how Burning Man bought Fly Ranch at their blog.

So let me start with my own visit to Fly Ranch during this year's Burn.

It was only a 10-15 minute drive from Black Rock City, once we hit pavement again. This was the first time I'd been in a vehicle since arriving on Playa several days before. It was still sinking in that I had been invited to visit this blank slate for Burning Man. I snapped myself out of it, while getting to know a Burner from San Diego who was sitting next to me.

Before I know it, we've arrived and we're off the road again, passing through a gate and pulling up to a little dirt road cul-de-sac, barely large enough for the van we'd been riding in to turn around and leave on the dirt road we'd road in on. We get out and are immediately directed to Fly Geyser and the viewing platform.

The last time I'd seen something like this was years ago, on a family trip to Yellowstone. Except this wasn't a natural formation, as the geyser was a happy accident which came about from well drilling in the 60's. I won't waste any more time about that, as you can read more at Wikipedia.

And as we head to the viewing platform, to get a closer look at the geyser, we can see a dust storm passing over Black Rock City in the distance. This was Tuesday afternoon.

The stunning and immediate (and I suppose obvious) contrast to Black Rock Desert, is the simple presence of water. This provides a fundamentally different landscape and experience, which really sunk in (no pun intended), as we made our way to one of the few swimmable hot springs.

And yes...we swam.

Water...being submerged in a body of it...after four years attending Burning Man...was glorious.

And all this time, the only thing we had been asked to do at the time was to experience Fly Ranch. To feel it. To take it in. To simply be. The questions, the conversations would come shortly.

After spending some time in the pool in the photo above, I emerged and made my way to the other pool, the one which the geyser's water flowed to. And the whole time, it's slowly marinating what a different relationship to water one has here.

In Black Rock City, the only water there is that which is brought in. Gray Water Disposal is something that every camp and Burner should have a plan for. And whatever that plan or those resources are, they need only last one week (except for those who are there before and after the event.

So at the basis of ANYTHING that happens at Fly Ranch, the very first question that came to my mind is what is our relationship with water here and what does that look like fifty-two weeks a year? What does Leaving No Trace, one of the 10 Principles, look like year-round?

Not questions I have answers to. And I look forward to seeing what options and possibilities those who know more and have experience in such matters bring to the table over the upcoming years.

What did I bring to the table? Re-imaginging what an artist residency might look like here. Why re-imagine? Because another fundamental question that came up, to inform many other questions, was how activities/projects/etc. could be uniquely informed in a way where the work could ONLY happen at Fly Ranch. Otherwise, why have an artist residency or any retreat, gathering, meeting, event there rather than anywhere else.

Sorry...I'm still trying to process that myself, and a friend who was instrumental in coordinating the visits definitely said it better.

However, as it relates to an artist residency, the fundamental question is how does the land and the relationship to the land, not even as inspiration but merely existence, then inform the work done there. And for me that speaks to a residency that might be more a reflection and refinement of process rather than the creation and production of actual work.

There were other suggestions for activities and projects, ideas about modular infrastructure and truly sustainable resource utilization that I won't try to paraphrase as they belong to others.

But as our trip wrapped up, and we finished drying off to prepare to head back into the dust, it was reiterated that this was still the very beginning of the conversation. And everyone is invited. Literally.

If you haven't signed up to participate, on the Fly Ranch website, and you want to join the discussion, do it. Because even the founders have made it clear, whatever happens here has not been done before.

So don't think about a Burn when you think about Fly Ranch. Because there are certain elements of the Burn that only work because it happens in this confined period of time. But think about the Ten Principles, think about what makes Fly Ranch different from Black Rock Desert, and think about your own regional community, when thinking about what a year-round presence could/should/would be.

P.S. There were a couple of follow-up conversations during the Burn, at Red Lightning, one of which I attended. I will be writing about that shortly, as well, so stay tuned.