BU Arts: Pay Performers at upcoming Women and Masks Conference
BU Arts: Pay Performers at upcoming Women and Masks Conference
Hi Friend: Thank you for stopping by! My name is Pampi.
Since September 2, a day after Labor Day, I have been calling attention to something seemingly insignificant but a phenomenon that is happening for far too many decades: working artists invited by large institutions not being compensated in favor of exposure. This specific case involves performers invited to perform at BU Arts' Women and Mask Conference (scheduled for September 24) not being offered compensation. Here is my OPEN LETTER to BU Arts Women and Masks Conference planning committee (and indeed arts institutions and organizations and their administration and staff, public and private, around the world) >> https://bit.ly/38MeZaF
I risk de-platforming, continued economic affliction, and continued loss of social capital for simply bringing up right to fair compensation. I have already been displaced by these practices that impoverish working artists and multiply as a queer disabled performer of color. I refuse to only ask for compensation for myself. I have asked they compensate all participants and interns not being compensated or fairly compensated in helping to bring this Conference about. Currently chances for any compensation nil given the exchange thus far (outlined in the letter) and non-response from BU Arts.
This petition is to help BU Arts understand this practice of not offering performers compensation is not only wage theft (whether performers perform or not), this is actively erasing performers who cannot perform because they negotiate identities connected with economic dispossession ultimately rooted in white supremacy and its history and present in colonizing practices of land grabbing and genocide of these same communities. This unsurprisingly reifies cultural forms to High Art in hands of mostly white-led conference and also relegates the same form to low art or craft which remains in active, collective cultural practice in communities most marginalized by colonization, redlining or gentrification, that unsurprisingly remain amongst the most brutally affected by the pandemic economically and in sickness and number of deaths. This event is yet another example of how - despite being in pandemic - private entities actually strengthened practices that allow them to profit off accepted practices that already marginalize groups economically to become even more marginalized.
This petition is a first and familiar strategy to put pressure on BU Arts to offer fair compensation to performers they have invited. BU has an endowment of over three billion that is reported. The purpose of an endowment (itself born off genocidal land, life, and continued labor theft) is to allow a University to “survive” during crises. If they can afford to invite, they should be able to account for compensation to all invited.
Working artists were amongst those hardest hit economically. Artists proved themselves during pandemic to be essential workers, as the greater public relied and continue to rely on artists to know how to embrace, mourn, enjoy, reflect on, and be entertained during this pandemic. How many shows have we watched, how many books or insightful articles have we read, how many ceremonies have we attended?
From ARTSBOSTON 2019 REPORT - Key Report Findings: With a direct infusion of $1.3 billion into the local economy, arts, culture, and creativity are economic engines for Boston, with arts audiences spending an adjacent additional $675 million locally at restaurants, parking facilities, and other local businesses—creating a $2 billion in total economic impact, a 40% increase since 2014. Yet the funding allocation for arts by state>> Massachusetts $2.63 per person per year. California $15.59. This continues to deepen the false binary cleaving artists institutionally groomed versus those who often cannot rely on grants for much or any support though they beneficially impact the economy and significantly anyways and forces artists in general to interface with private institutions, which remain notoriously difficult to engage in accountability.
This is an opportunity for Boston's working artists and their supporters (the greater public) to continue organizing for economic and labor rights. Artists remain incredibly vulnerable to economic dispossession for they are isolated and trapped in silos by craft and access to capital - as the original gig economy, it is prohibitively difficult to get together to even name our dispossession.
If we win, we have a chance at getting performers paid and add to existing artist organizing efforts other performers can lean on to demand compensation at not just BU but at other institutions that press exposure in favor of compensation. If we win, we help stem the racialization of art through exclusion, leaving access to economic social and cultural capital exclusively to white or resource-rich artists. We can show each other as artists that we can and must exercise collective power in ways the larger labor movement comprised of other kinds of workers who are unionized teach us. We get closer to being more organized for the long-term. We realize we don't have to be isolated. We realize we can and must be in solidarity for and with each other and can simultaneously shape ours and other movements with our skills. We let those doing culture work to help their communities survive who cannot identify as artists have a chance at compensation. We fight for the creative spirit in all people that has the power not just to entertain us but also transforms brutal systems.
If we lose, we remain isolated. We lose our livelihoods altogether. We lose our identities. We continue being dispossessed and displaced. We don't just lose: the world at large gets more and more culturally impoverished and forget what it like to take risks for our community welfare and manifest beauty in all its multiplicity.
We must fight what we know to be unfair locally with entities known to have international acclaim. If we cannot support each other in our own backyards, how are we ever going to overturn the madness of structural violence responsible for the destruction of our communities... and roads?
Help BU do the right thing. Please sign and share this petition. Additionally, if you're active on social media, please repost and share your thoughts on any graphic tagged with #maskOffPayPerformers and #whatsArtEquity by @thirdeyefell.