Working in the Arts: It’s an everyday crisis, baby!

“The heartbreaking terror” that has resurfaced for artists whose income depends primarily on their concerts or part-time work may resemble this Felix Giles painting of houses on fire, says Vanessa Mei Crofskey.  (Image courtesy of Felix Giles)


“The heartbreaking terror” that has resurfaced for artists whose income depends primarily on their concerts or part-time work may resemble this Felix Giles painting of houses on fire, Vanessa Mei Crofskey explains. (Image courtesy of Felix Giles)

As a freelance writer working in the arts, locking in the last year has been tough. I lost about $ 6,000 worth of projects, but the effect was more than financial. I eventually recovered my lost income through the wage subsidy program, but I never really recovered the lost opportunities to show my work to the public.

I mourned the amount of work I had done that was nothing: months of emails, dreams and plans stalled, the mental strain of endless rescheduled deadlines. I felt the absurdity of trying to wrap up, of trying to keep everything afloat. I pushed myself to depleted productivity levels and embarked on many new projects to try and rebuild the outline of the year that had turned to ashes.

Not knowing what tomorrow would bring me was making me anxious and I was starting to tire myself out. I started looking for a full time job as a ticket to stability.

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Last February, I had to call the dental clinic to cancel the appointment I had hedonistically made because I couldn’t afford it. I am now the director of a leading arts organization and have overdrafted to pay for a haircut. It’s painful to admit. It makes me ashamed that I can’t afford things yet.

I feel like I’ve been sold a lie: that the ‘development’ stage of your artistic career actually leads anywhere, except for more jobs that don’t pay you. silver. I think about the choice to start a family, a choice everyone should have, and the fact that that choice doesn’t seem financially viable. I should probably quit the arts or move abroad, away from the people I love and who love me.

Supposedly, there is strong support for the arts. According to the latest study commissioned by Creative New Zealand, 75 percent of those surveyed have engaged in the arts in the past 12 months, and 60 percent agreed that the arts are worthy of state funding.

Some people don’t see the point – see Newstalk ZB’s terrible open letter written by Jason Walls – but others, like Chlöe Swarbrick, are strong advocates. Obviously, the majority understand that the arts help us cope and bring value, meaning, entertainment and joy to our lives. But it’s harder to translate that goodwill into tangible support and caring for the lives of the people who make art a reality.

While there has been news of some very welcome relief packages to support the arts and culture sector in times of crisis, having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff will not prevent people from falling off the cliff. . Most of the artists I know pay for their practice out of pocket, living in conditions that would classify them as “in poverty”.

Their practice survives thanks to modest artist fees and additional amortization of funding requests; that is, if they have enough free time after completing their work in side jobs, to write applications explaining why they deserve to be paid. It’s all based on getting the job first, receiving your letters of support, writing a massive proposal, and then coming back six weeks later on the competitiveness of the results.

I think of that latest Delta lockdown, that incredibly anxious time when so much is unknown. The heartbreaking terror that has resurfaced for artists whose income depends primarily on their concerts, hospitality and retail activities. It feels like this Felix Giles painting of burning houses.

An arts organization can handle the financial blows that independent artists cannot, and as such, it is our responsibility to provide additional resources to those whose creative endeavors we learn, benefit from, and champion.

As someone who works in an arts organization that relies on funding from Creative New Zealand, a handful of one-time donors, as well as bits of boards, trusts and foundations, I personally think our ability to respond is lacking. not sufficient. We actively abandon artists and arts workers, now and in everyday life.

  • Vanessa Mei Crofskey is Director of Enjoy Gallery and Artist, Writer and Producer.


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