June 14, 2012 • Podcasts
Art, Community, Labour and Money
Continued from page 3
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked in my life “Do you actually support yourself as an artist? What’s your other job?” I’m a professional artist. I’ve been developing and working at an arts practice since I made a decision many years ago in my early 20s that this is the work that I want to do. This is what I’m doing. This is what I’m cultivating. There are many other working artists that aren’t really recognized as workers. Even in our arts communities, and our arts silos folks can be really quick to say. ‘Well the money doesn’t matter.’ But all of us, we should all have access to better pay for our work. To be remunerated and recognized for our work. Have access to health care, have access to housing. Artists shouldn’t be exempt from that. And community artists; there are some nuances that are specific to the work that we wanted to make room for.
SF: You just brought up that question that artists get asked. Is this your real job or is this your hobby? How do you do it? In a very real way how does an artist survive?
AC: I’ll answer that from a personal place instead of being general and vague. For myself I would say there’s been a slow cultivation over time. For a whole bunch of years there was my arts practice that earned a little bit of money and that little bit of money increased a little every year. Then I had a job or a number of contracts, jobs in arts and also in other fields.
I think for me one of the most significant things was learning how to produce a grant application. The granting system is not incredibly accessible. Grants officers do work really hard to build relationships and try to make clear what this stuff is, but it’s a difficult system to enter and figure out. For me I would say that was really, really important. Like maybe 10 years ago now there was one significant individual grant that came through that was a $15,000 writing grant and I said, “Ok, I’m going to take this leap. I’m going to leave this contract position that I’m in and I’m going to try to keep pursuing this.” It absolutely is challenging.
I think I have come to, after many years of working as an artist, establish what is normal for me. What’s normal for me is that this idea of security is not a real thing. I kind of work with a production schedule where we’re working on development and fundraising of a project two, three years in advance. And that’s as close to security as I come. It’s not an incredibly secure place in reality, but I think because I’ve been developing an arts practice over a fairly long period of time at this point…
The last time I was in a full time job I was 22 years old and I’m 42 now. I didn’t have this experience of being in a job with all these benefits and all of this stuff. I’ve kinda been in this self-employed track for a long time and really for the last 10 or 12 years fully employed as an artist. And when I say that the reality is I work more than full time hours and my income doesn’t reflect that. I know that my income doesn’t reflect the value of my work. That is just the truth and is the truth for, I would say, the majority of artists.