The C4 team has been attending various panels, talks, sessions around town about planning, culture & development and more. Artists being out-priced in a particular neighborhood has been a hot topic. With “placemaking” initiatives popping up all over the U.S., this issue is not unique to Atlanta. The list below is not intended to be a magic solution. The fact is, gentrification, real estate, education, etc. can be complex issues.
1) Advocate for fair wage
Much of the discussions I have heard over the last week centered around the rising costs of real estate. A number of solutions have been researched and presented by people way smarter than I. However, as Ryan Gravel pointed out during the Future of Atlanta panel (audio available here) hosted by the Museum of Design Atlanta, there is another economic player in the room: wage. Affordable housing may be a relative term if you are living at only 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Arts workers: we have got to demand fair pay. Also, stop working for exposure.
I would challenge every working, semi-established artist in Atlanta to join the W.A.G.E. coalition. W.A.G.E. stands for: Working Artists and the Greater Economy.
Founded in 2008, Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) is a New York-based activist organization focused on regulating the payment of artist fees by nonprofit art institutions and establishing a sustainable labor relation between artists and the institutions that contract their labor.
Non-profit producing/presenting organizations: become W.A.G.E certified. We have to be part of the solution. It isn’t always easy, but paying artists a livable wage should be a priority. Arts administrators are often woefully underpaid AND over worked. Funders can help by lifting tight restrictions on project dollars in regards to indirect costs, or more funders can offer general operating support.
W.A.G.E. Certification is a program initiated and operated by Working Artists and the Greater Economy that publicly recognizes non-profit arts organizations demonstrating a history of, and commitment to, voluntarily paying artist fees that meet a minimum payment standard.
2) Fight for equity across the board
This is something I heard Chris Appleton from WonderRoot mention at the Culture Over Condos meeting hosted by the Center for Civic Innovation Atlanta and Creative Loafing. I also heard a community organizer from the Queens Museum stress this same point at a convening in New York City (same issues exist there too!). If we align ourselves with other cross-sector causes, then we have strength in numbers. Housing, insurance accessibility, transportation, etc. are not issues that solely belong to any one community. They affect us all–whether directly or indirectly.
3) Connect with organizations
C4 Education Manager, Audrey Gámez, wrote about this point in her last blog post about getting involved in community. I don’t want to harp on this too much…what the heck, I do want to harp on it! Community organizations and nonprofits provide a myriad of direct services, but they also act as a clearing house for relevant information to your trade or area of interest. WonderRoot, Alternate ROOTS, C4 Atlanta, and others are often your direct line to issues affecting the arts community. If you have a question about a particular issue, reach out to a local arts service organization. If we don’t know the answer, we will do our best to find out. At the very least, check out their social media presence. C4 shares blog posts, articles, videos and more that are relevant to our mission. Interact with us. We like it.
4) Familiarize yourself with policy
I know. Yawn, right. But sometimes it is necessary to lobby for top-down change. Grassroots efforts and community building can help influence positive change, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Think about funding for the arts or housing. It may take policy change to interrupt the status quo.
So this is an area I am still navigating. The best place to start is by doing some research. What are the issues that are important to you? I have been working in nonprofit arts for over ten years, and I learn something new every week. I have learned to enlist the help of mentors and advisers. These are informal relationships with people whom I can call when I have a question about existing or proposed policy changes.
In San Francisco, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) is a public/private supported fund to help arts organizations remain stable (not be out-priced) in a volatile real estate market. When you know about other efforts in other cities, you can pull research, best practices, or even a model to help bring to elected officials or decision makers in your community. I learned about CAST by through an RSS feed aggregate about arts and culture. This is part of my daily research. I spend about an hour every day researching trends that affect arts and culture and, more specifically, arts workers. Always having an ear to the ground helps stay abreast of all the issues and changes that happen constantly and to be aware of any relevant case studies that may provide insight.
I guess I don’t have the best advice when it comes to navigating the murky waters of public policy other than it takes time. Democracy is work. The day you are born, you have entered into a social contract with other human beings.