Investing in Artists Who Invest in the Community
This morning I read a few tweets from @justiceaudre who is a Black freelance writer and social media manager who said:
This notion of consumption of an environment, sector and ecology is becoming much more apparent during these times and if we're not taking a very detailed look at who we invested in and which investments grew to benefit the sector and which ones did not, that's irresponsible leadership.
Hearing about people and artists taking their knowledge, experiences and resources that were invested into them and literally moving out of not just the sector but the country is peak white patriarchal imperialism.
It goes against all my values to extract and not give back. It’s just not how my Salish values work and to hear about people doing this is a very real awakening about how sectors need to radically assess who we are investing in.
Hiring teams of predominantly white, imperial-centric patriarchs is unacceptable - especially if they have no meaningful relationship to knowledge sharing and power dissemination in the community. In a time when resources are so finite, we need to be vetting our artists to ensure that the energy, time, finances and support being given to them are not doing to die with the departure of that individual.
This self serving knowledge and resource hoarding was already a privileged approach and in this climate is detrimentally impacting the entire sector.
Some Questions we need to be asking before we invest into artists and practitioners:
-are they folding BIPOC mentorship meaningfully into their work
-are leaders picking team members that monopolize opportunities and resources
-how do they communicate their legacy regarding investment back into the sectoral ecology
If artistic leaders are giving individuals opportunities and investing thousands and thousands of dollars into practitioners who are here to take, which they did and now left with little to no regard for the community - that’s mismanaged funds, a bad investment, and now lost opportunities that we will never get back.
In one of my leadership studies I heard a HR Director from Safeway chat about the necessity and vitality of onboarding someone into the role of a cashier - also shout out to grocery cashiers who've been holding it down on the front lines for all of the pandemic - damn, like deep thank you. The HR woman said to hire and train one person to become a proficient cashier it costs Safeway around $7-8k.
That's not nothing, especially when you're thinking about the size of that company. She said that's an important investment we need to be really conscious of because if that individual doesn't work out, leaves during or at the end of their training, that's a significant loss that we will never see a return on.
Now investment for me goes way beyond the fiscal, it's the time people gift them for knowledge sharing, it's the opportunities of being in a rehearsal hall and high level execution environments, it's the learning that happens in between projects that now only that person can get because of the opportunities and clout they were afforded. It's many things.
So when we add up the qualitative investments with the quantitative - the thousands and thousands and thousands that even a mid-career artist receives - having them just pack up and leave is a consequential loss for the sector.
Now everyone has every right to shift from a sector, but it's the leaders, BOD's, jury's and funding bodies that have an opportunity here to make standards and set precedents with their decisions around who and what type of practitioner will be granted these large and long term investments.
This model of taking, without an embedded long term and authentic knowledge sharing methodology is the neo-capital extraction based model that has landed us in this dire position. So BOD’s and org leaders if we aren’t drastically reevaluating our artistic investment decision making - we’re a part of the problem. It’s 2008 all over again where we didn’t make bold and transformative enough changes and believe we're going to get a different and somehow more secure result.
I'm interested in what excavating level restructuring innovations are occurring within organizations? And I'm not talking about just receiving a digital strategy season - that is insufficient - it's window dressing. It's a fair response to an emergency but don't misunderstand it for the structural reform required for long term sectoral health.
If you ain’t looking at those plans BOD’s, if you’re leaders aren’t communicating their radical organizational restructuring, give em notice because business as usual is the model that was never sustainable in the first place. It's white capitalistic violent decision making that is now now not only racist, it's setting up the sector for more failure.
I believe that if we are to get through this theatrical crisis, we need to be making vigorous and clear investments into artists and practitioners that have every intention of meaningfully re-investing those resources back into the community long before their departure. That's the relational reciprocity required for us to have a shot at creating a healthy and equitable artistic sector.
Deep love and with the hope that we have the courage to make the radical restructuring and fiscal redistribution decisions to build the anti-racist sector the next generation deserves,