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.