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.