Category: Advocacy

Artists join to #ActivateATL

C4 Atlanta is excited to announce musical acts and speakers for its #ActivateATL concert on August 5, 2017 at the Masquerade. Musical guests include co-headliners Chantae Cann and Little Tybee. Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project and Rep. David Dreyer will be featured speakers for the evening. This event is free, all ages and open to the public.

Nse Ufot, Executive Director of the New Georgia Project, is one of two featured speakers for #ActivateATL.
Nse Ufot, Executive Director of the New Georgia Project, is one of two featured speakers for #ActivateATL.

#ActivateATL is a concert celebration of the power to change communities through voting in the upcoming November Atlanta Mayoral and City Council Elections. In particular, this free, non-partisan concert hopes to uplift the voices of voters and showcase the unique contributions of arts workers in their communities. Information about voting in upcoming elections and job duties for open seats will be distributed to attendees. A pledge to vote or support their current community is all that is needed for entry. The event is sponsored by the Masquerade, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, The Iron Yard, ArtsATL, Binders Art Supplies and Frames, and visual artist Stephanie Lloyd. Community Partners include Signs of Solidarity, Center for Civic Innovation, Georgia Artists for Progress and the United Arts Front.

Featured Speaker David Dreyer is the State Representative for District 59.

Through this concert, C4 Atlanta hopes to encourage voters to exercise their power to influence the future of the city in whatever way aligns with their personal values. In particular, C4 also wishes to recognize the efforts of the creative class to effect change in community through their voting power, organizing and artistic work.

Nse Ufot is Executive Director of the New Georgia Project and a passionate advocate for voter rights. A naturalized citizen originally born in Nigeria, Ms. Ufot grew up in Southwest Atlanta. She has witnessed the changes and fluctuations of the city and it population since her childhood. A lifelong advocate of civil, human and workers’ rights, she leads the New Georgia Project in its mission to engage and register Georgia’s eligible but unregistered African American, Latinx, and Asian American populations.

David Dreyer was elected State Representative for House District 59 in 2016. A graduate of Georgia State and Emory Universities, David is a long-time Atlanta resident. As a policymaker, David has been a vocal supporter of voter rights and voter protections.

Psychadelic folk favorites Little Tybee will join us for #ActivateATL after their recent U.S. tour.

Local favorites Little Tybee join #ActivateATL after their recent, successful U.S. tour. Known for their melodious, genre bending sounds, their music reflects the stellar musicianship of this eclectic six-piece ensemble.  Their fourth, self-titled album was released in 2016 and they have shared stages around the world with artists such as Macy Gray, Of Montreal, Kurt Vile, Reptar, Sondre Lerche, Man Man, Kishi Bashi, and others.

Musical guest singer-songwriter Chantae Cann is known for blending the exploratory sounds of Jazz with the feel good vibes of Soul.
Musical guest singer-songwriter Chantae Cann is known for blending the exploratory sounds of Jazz with the feel good vibes of Soul.

Joining Little Tybee as co-headliner is singer-songwriter Chantae Cann. Blending the musical boundaries between jazz and soul, Cann released her solo debut album “Journey to Golden” in March 2016 after a 10+ year career as a backing vocalist and collaborator for artists such as India.Arie, Snarky Puppy, P.J. Morgan, Gramps Morton, and many others. Her highly anticipated sophomore album is due out in Fall of 2017. Both acts have a history of past support of social causes.

Doors open at 7pm on August 5, 2017, and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are free, with an online pledge to vote or support your community. For more concert information and tickets, visit: c4atlanta.org/activate-atl

#ActivateATL
August 5, 2017
Doors at 7:00pm; Show Starts at 8:00pm
Masquerade (Hell), 50 Lower Alabama St. SE, Atlanta, GA 30308
Featuring Little Tybee and Chantae Cann.
Tickets: c4atlanta.org/activate-atl/tickets
All Ages
Free

About C4 Atlanta:

C4 Atlanta Inc. is a non-profit arts service organization whose mission is to connect arts entrepreneurs to the people, skills and tools they need to build a successful artistic career in metro Atlanta. The organization was founded in July 2010 in response to a growing need for business services for Atlanta’s arts community. C4 Atlanta fulfills this mission by offering professional practice classes for artists, fiscal sponsorship, co-working space, and more. C4 Atlanta’s program offerings are geared toward creating a new foundation of sustainability for arts and culture in the Atlanta region. For more information, visit c4atlanta.org.

About Nse Ufot:

Nse Ufot has dedicated her life and career working on various civil, human, and workers’ rights issues. As the Executive Director of the New Georgia Project, she is proud to lead the organization to its goal of strengthening the state’s democracy by registering and engaging Georgia’s eligible, but unregistered African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.

Prior to joining the New Georgia Project, Ms. Ufot worked as the Assistant Executive Director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canada’s largest faculty union. She also served as the Senior Lobbyist and Government Relations Officer for the American Association of University Professors. In this role, she coordinated initiatives for mobilizing members around legislation and regulations that impacted higher education and labor law.

Ms. Ufot, a proud naturalized citizen, was born in Nigeria and raised in Southwest Atlanta. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Dayton School of Law. Ms. Ufot is fluent in both French and English. In her free time, she enjoys international travel, listening and playing music from the African Diaspora, and hosting house parties for close friends and family. For more information about Nse Ufot or New Georgia Project, please visit newgeorgiaproject.org.

About David Dreyer:

David was elected as State Representative for House District 59 in 2016. David was born in Ringgold, Georgia, but David’s family moved to Roswell where David started middle school. David graduated from Georgia State where he was involved in various student groups, including founding the Young Democrats and working with an environmental and homeless advocacy group. David received the student leadership award from his graduating class. After attending Georgia State, David graduated from Emory Law, where he remained committed to public service, serving as student body president and working on several campaigns. 

One focus of David’s studies was constitutional law and voter protection, areas that remain in the forefront of his career. David was admitted to the State Bar in 2004, and David is an attorney with Penn Law Group, representing individuals and companies in courts throughout Georgia. David married Melissa in 2006, and they have two boys, Henry and Leo. David and his family place a strong value on community service and enjoy volunteering and helping neighbors. 

David serves on the Higher Education, Science and Technology and Civil Judiciary Committees. for more information about David Dreyer, visit dreyerforgeorgia.com

About Little Tybee:

Little Tybee is a 6 piece band based in Atlanta, GA whose music has been described as genre bending and refreshing to both veteran and exploring ears. The core of each of their songs begins in the relentless and creative mind of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Brock Scott. The songs mature through the dedicated musicianship of 8-string guitarist Josh Martin, violinist Nirvana Kelly, bassist Ryan Donald, keyboardist Chris Case and percussionist Dallas Dawson. Little Tybee isn’t afraid to experiment freely, even dangerously at times, to follow a musical idea to its ultimate end. This mentality has led the group to explore music that transcends genre and packs a much bigger punch than their modest title implies. Over the past few years they have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Of Montreal, Kurt Vile, Here We Go Magic, Rising Appalachia, Macy Gray, Reptar, Sondre Lerche, Nicole Atkins, Man Man, Kishi Bashi, and a number of others. For more information about Little Tybee, visit littletybee.com

About Chantae Cann:

Chantae Cann is next premier vocalist on the rise with her debut album “Journey to Golden” that released March 2016 at #1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts and #7 on the Jazz Billboard Charts.

Her vocal delivery is soothing, sultry and more than just soulful, it’s soul fulfilling. Whether you find yourself listening to her live at a show or turning her up in your headphones, chances are you will have peace in your mind and a smile on your face. Chantae’s music blends the exploratory sounds of Jazz with the feel good vibes of Soul, which makes for a mixture that is quite delicious. It is her heart’s desire to simply inspire, uplift and encourage the lives of others through music.

Chantae is not a novice to the music world. She has been blessed to travel the world as a background vocalist (10+ years) with P.J. Morton, Gramps Morgan, and most notably India Arie. She’s had the tremendous honor of collaborating with artists/bands such as, Snarky Puppy, Jarrod Lawson, Jonathan McReynolds, Tony Momrelle, Jaspects, The Foreign Exchange, Zo!, Mike Hicks, Sho Baraka and Khari Cabral Simmons.

Chantae’s second album is set to release fall of 2017. For more information about Chantae Cann, visit: chantaecann.com

Sign The Letter to Mayor Reed

Sign this letter asking to Mayor Reed to adopt an equitable funding distribution model for his fractional tax for the arts!

On Monday, C4 Atlanta, along with several other Atlanta arts organizations and artists, sent a letter to Mayor Kasim Reed to ask him to support our model for distribution of funds under his proposed sales tax for the arts initiative. Other supporters of this initiative include: Flux Projects, Hammonds House Museum, glo, Living Walls, MODA, Poem 88, Art Papers, Dashboard US, Moving in the Spirit, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, Soul Food Cypher, and others.This initiative would provide a dedicated stream of funding for arts and culture organizations in the city through a .1% sales tax. The full version of our proposed funding distribution model is available in PDF format here:

PDF COPY OF FULL FUNDING DISTRIBUTION MODEL

Our Funding Distribution Model:

The model proposed by this group includes funding for individual artists and is meant to incentivize growth of small and mid-sized arts and cultural organizations, while also providing financial assistance to larger institutions, too. Funding for individual artists would also be available in this model, as well as for non-arts organizations who would like to create cross-sector arts collaborations that would benefit the community. By nature of their mission, smaller organizations are often those providing the largest share of resources to underserved communities and communities of color. We also understand and appreciate the place of large institutions in our arts ecosystem as well. It is important for a robust arts community to have thriving organizations at all levels in order to support the career growth of arts workers and to provide the greatest array of services to the most people, regardless of race, location, gender identity or socio-economic status. Because of this, we believe this model will continue to cultivate Atlanta’s rich cultural capital and promote even more diversity within our community.

What you can do:

From these links you can:

— View the Letter and Proposal
— Add your name to the letter here, and a notice will be sent to Mayor Reed
— And view the Article on ArtsATL that was published today
What else you can do:
— Share this with others!
— Help us spread through social media. See the C4 Atlanta Facebook Page for posts you can share.
— Reach out to non-arts community organizations to sign as well.  This model supports cross-sector collaborations.

Below is a copy of our letter to Mayor Reed introducing our proposed model and the reasons for asking him to adopt it in the pending legislation to introduce this tax initiative. Names of supporters are added automatically as they sign. If you would like to sign on to this letter encouraging the Mayor to adopt our funding model click here:

SIGN THE LETTER

Democracy Requires Effort

Several years ago, I attended a Fulton County Budget hearing. There is nothing remarkable about that statement. My staff, board members, colleagues and I have attended dozens. We attend to show support for the funding of Contracts for Art Services. But at one particular meeting, I believe a major cut was on the table so many from the arts community were in attendance, a board member and artist named LaMar Barber took a photo of me speaking to the county commissioners. He posted it on Facebook. I commented on the photo, “Democracy!” LaMar replied, “…requires effort!”

At the Fulton County Budget Hearings in 2013.
At the Fulton County Budget Hearings in 2013.

Democracy requires effort.

That phrase rings in my brain a lot these days. You may be thinking it is because of the recent election. Maybe. It really has more to do with the fact that C4 is making a more concerted effort to be involved “at the local.” Let me preface the rest of this post with this: I am not trying to be self-congratulatory. This work is hard, and there are people I know who are much better at doing it. By “type of work,” I mean, showing up. Being there for the committee meetings, the neighborhood meetings, the council or commissioner meetings. How do they have the energy? How do they have the resources?

In the arts, we often complain about not being invited to the table. I agree with that. However, I also know that you sometimes have to pull up a chair. But when is this work off mission? My answer is that I don’t think that when you work in the Independent Sector that it is ever off mission. Our work intersects often with civic issues. We do ensure that we are staying within the bounds of non-partisan participation, which is within our legal right. Having said that, advocacy, or even just civic engagement, may take focus away from programming. How do you balance that? (I am really asking here)

In some ways, it is part of the growing pains of an organization maturing. In the start-up phase, job duties are fuzzy and resources, including time, are pooled toward creating programs. That quickly moves to maintaining and evaluating programs (maybe even sun-setting programs). As Executive Director, I am working hard to place staff members into roles that best fit their strengths. Roles become more defined. All this to say, being an advocate for the arts is not glamorous. There are no Twitter wars or celebrity endorsements.

I sat through a three hour meeting at City Hall just so I could speak for a minute to voice my concern about the proposed “Arts & Entertainment District.” (Not against a district, just concerned about what constitutes “arts” and how money will be allocated). Many of the meeting points were completely unrelated to our work at C4. I was hungry. Famished. This isn’t heroic work. I was mostly thinking about what I needed to do when I got back to the office, and how I wished the meeting time would fly by faster. This morning I missed another city meeting because my van started acting weird. Instead of driving to the 8 am meeting, I drove to my local mechanic. I texted Audrey, Education Manager, and she went to the meeting in my stead. The meeting went on without me.

Democracy requires effort

It is also slow. When it comes to government, I often think of that aphorism, “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” The process is intentionally slow. Our founding fathers designed our government process with a plodding pace in mind to protect citizens from wide sweeping change that came too swiftly. Campaign promises are mostly rhetoric. You have to vet ideas to ensure the process is in the best interest of the people–and often, unfortunately, it is only in the best interest of part of the people. The people who have the time or capacity to show up.

It is not that I believe that all campaign promises are empty. It is just that the heroes I see are the people who show up when they can, they research the issues, they present facts, they appeal to people’s common sense and humanity, they sit through the long meetings, miss lunch, they juggle relationships and maybe children, and they do it over and over again. People like Kyle Kessler with the Center for Civic Innovation. Kyle has an amazing knack for this work. He about local politics, zoning issues, Atlanta history, meeting dates–someone needs to download Kyle’s brain. I am always in awe of how much he knows and how often he shows up.

image of greek senate
Old School Democracy

Leveraging Strengths

Over the last year, C4 has grown its advocacy committee so we can divide up meetings and tasks. Most of what we are doing is just listening. Listening and learning. There are a myriad of policies that affect the lives of artists and of arts organizations. Typically, advocacy efforts have been focused around funding. While important, there are a lot of missed opportunities when that is our only focus. There are several organizations that educate and advocate for the arts in metro Atlanta. There are also dozens of organizations that may make great cross-sector partners. Our advocacy platform is posted online. If you want to get involved, let us know.

Democracy, or even a republic, takes effort. It feels as though the nation is in turmoil some days. I am not going to suggest to anyone that national issues are not important–they certainly are important. This is a “yes, and…” moment. They are important but so are local policies, legislation, ordinances, etc. Let’s work together. Let our efforts be amplified through unity.

 

Advocating for Art(ists) at Little Five Arts Alive

C4 Atlanta’s Advocacy Committee has a goal: to connect individuals in the arts with resources to help reach their policy makers and to raise awareness for issues and policies that affect creative career sustainability. We see arts advocacy as central to our mission of helping to connect artists…. Without policies in place that create a friendly environment for arts workers, it is difficult for their careers to flourish. When other cities have a more favorable arts climate, artists begin to look outside Atlanta (and often, outside Georgia) to build thriving careers. You can read more about C4 Atlanta’s Advocacy Platform here: C4 Atlanta Advocacy Platform.

In support of this goal, C4 Atlanta recently participated in Little Five Arts Alive‘s Arts Activism Weekend. Little Five Arts Alive is a project of Horizon Theatre and the Little 5 Points Community Improvement District, funded by a grant from ArtPlace America. This weekend featured artists both artists and arts organizations engaging in activism and advocacy activities.

With the help of several amazing volunteers, C4 Atlanta offered several activities to the patrons, passersby, residents and business owners of Little Five Points. Our wonderful (and talented!) volunteer and member, Latanya Hardaway, painted faces in Findley Plaza while parents and those waiting in line learned more about local/state/national policies that affect the arts and artists. Two signs stood on easels, asking those in the plaza both “What do you like about the arts in Georgia?” and “What would you like to see for the arts in Georgia?” All were invited to write or draw their visions for the future. Other volunteers helped to educate and advocate for the arts by engaging in conversations to sign a petition for increased funding at the State level. And staff members Jessyca Holland and Audrey Gámez, Fulton County’s newest Deputy Registrars for Voter Registration, helped those eligible to register to vote.

Here are some photos of all of the fun we had sharing our love and vision for the arts with the folks in Little Five Points:

Artist Latanya Hardaway paints the faces of a few young arts enthusiasts.
Artist Latanya Hardaway paints the faces of a few young arts enthusiasts.

 

Actor Nick Suwalski educates passersby on the need for increased state funding for the arts.
Actor Nick Suwalski educates passersby on the need for increased state funding for the arts.

 

A community member adds his thoughts about the arts ecology of Georgia.
A community member adds his thoughts about the arts ecology of Georgia.
Our Arts Advocacy Table was full of information about policies and legislation that affect the arts and artists.
Our Arts Advocacy Table was full of information about policies and legislation that affect the arts and artists.
Artist Volunteer Chi Ife Okwumabua greets those registering to vote with a friendly face.
Artist Volunteer Chi Ife Okwumabua is ready to help register new voters in Findley Plaza.

 

Our volunteers did an awesome job of engaging those passing through Findley Plaza and getting them to sign the petition to increase state arts funding in Georgia.
Our volunteers did an awesome job of engaging those passing through Findley Plaza and getting them to sign the petition to increase state arts funding in Georgia.

Art as an Ally for Social Justice

Photo by Fibonacci Blue of Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Fibonacci Blue of Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The events of the past week are weighing heavy on my heart, as I’m sure they are for many of us. Personally, I was very struck by both the shootings that have occurred across the country and the resulting protests. I spent nearly a decade of my life living in Baton Rouge and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – nearly 3 years in Baton Rouge and 7 years in DFW. My uncle was also the Captain of Homicide for the Houston Police Department for many years, and it was not unusual to see his face on the local news as a child whenever a notable shooting or murder had occurred, sometimes as the investigating detective. For me, the face of law enforcement is very much tied to the face of a family member whom I love very much.

I have also had several friends share their terrifying experiences with law enforcement, and have had a few hostile experiences of my own with officers that have shaped my own point of view as an adult. Perhaps the most influential event I’ve experienced through art in the last year was a video shown by Katina Parker of a short documentary film she shot of children who had participated with their parents in the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Each of the children was young, around 8 or younger. As they tearfully described being tear gassed and brutalized by law enforcement and struggled with understanding the motivation behind their experiences, I couldn’t help being moved to cry myself. And yet I am more than painfully aware that (despite my Latino roots), the way I look pretty much assures that it is likely I never have to experience what these innocent children have already had to endure in their young lives. The fact that young black children have experiences so much more hate than an adult because of how they look is truly disgusting to me.

In light of the tragedies in our world, and the frustrating, confounding and often upsetting times we have lived through recently, there is one thing that gives me some solace and piece of mind: art has the power to transform hearts and communities and overcome the oppressive dominance of white culture. As artists, we possess the power to say without speaking, to feel without touching, to create light and song where there is none. I see art as a power of hope in educating our communities about what we see happening in the world and to combat the injustices that persist in our communities.

Katina Parker presenting to the Hatch, artist cohort
Katina Parker presenting during the Hatch program pilot to artists and C4 Atlanta staff.

Through our Hatch pilot program, I was privileged to work with so many wonderful individuals, both artist-students and facilitators, toiling tirelessly to create change and address social ills in the world in a meaningful way. Their work and compassion for their communities is an inspiration to me as both an administrator and artist that our contributions are meaningful in some way in spite of injustice and inequality in the world. We must continue to work to create the reality we’d like to live in where everyone, regardless of background, race, origin, disability, sexuality, gender or any other identity expression can feel safe and pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” without fear.

To do this work is more than placing a mural up in a neighborhood without regard for the deep wounds that need healing over beautification without connection to its audience. It is more than putting a paintbrush or a microphone in the hands of members of the community, although that’s sometimes a good start. To make clear, sustainable change in the world takes hard work and commitment to showing up. It takes an open heart and thick skin. And most of all, it takes extreme patience. While the immediacy of this situation (people dying in the streets) creates a sense of urgency to fix the problem as quickly as possible, the reality is that for any kind of lasting and meaningful progress to be made to change the status quo, it often takes YEARS of tedious, time consuming, relentless work with community members just to lay the groundwork to begin even the smallest of lasting changes.As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we are literally combatting systems of oppression and colonization that have existed almost as long as humans have lived in close proximity to one another.  That shouldn’t discourage us from doing the work, however. Small changes and even those that don’t last still help us to move the needle forward towards a world free of the oppressive dominance of White Culture.

Understanding the ways in which White Culture dominance affects our organizations, institutions and social systems is particularly important for non-POC (People of Color) allies trying to support and aid their POC friends in combating oppression, racism and xenophobia. In her essay “White Supremacy Culture“, Tema Okun details the characteristics of white culture found in organizations and why they are harmful to all, not just those of color:

…Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being proactively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. Because we all live in a white supremacy culture, these characteristics show up in the attitudes and behaviors of all of us – people of color and white people. Therefore, these attitudes and behaviors can show up in any group or organization, whether it is white-led or predominantly white or people of color-led or predominantly people of color.

It is important to understand that Okun is speaking about White Supremacy not as a movement where participants believe that white people are superior to all other groups. Instead, Ms. Okun is referring to White Culture Supremacy – the notion that our society is dominated by characteristics of (traditional, hetero-normative, Anglo-Saxon) White Culture  that put those of other cultures, backgrounds and identities at an inherent disadvantage because those characteristics are attributed as a societal norm. To make the distinction, Okun does not believe that all white people and their culture are bad or that all white people are made to believe that they are better than everyone else. In fact, she is not referring to white PEOPLE as a group at all. The point she is trying to make instead is that allowing our society to be ruled and governed by aspects of a culture that not all ascribe to is harmful because it inherently asserts bias and preference to those who are perceived to be of the White European cultural persuasion, regardless of whether they want it or not. Additionally, people and groups of color can unknowingly also participate in perpetuating White Culture Supremacy . All other norms are therefore perceived to be of lesser value or “incorrect”.

Project Row Houses, a community based art and social impact project in Houston, TX. Photo taken while on a recent visit.
Project Row Houses, a community based art and social impact project in Houston, TX by artist Rob Lowe. Photo taken while on a recent visit.

By understanding the characteristics of White Culture Supremacy and identifying them as cultural bias instead of societal norms, we can begin to identify ways to be more inclusive of other perspectives and other individuals. Inclusivity strengthens us all by providing more creativity, more resources, more allies, more points of healing, more knowledge, more love, more respect and more appreciation for everyone.  Greater sharing of power amongst us all does not damage or or hurt those to whom power has been ascribed. It does not mean that those who have inadvertently benefited from privilege are bad people or should feel guilt. But ensuring that true equity and inclusion happen means understanding the roots of oppression and inequality and making them visible and obsolete.

Which brings me back to my original assertion that art is perhaps humanity’s best tool to help understand each other, create a world with power shared more equitably amongst all and insure that all receive equal protection and safety under the law. Every culture has art. Every community has artists. Every human being has both aesthetic and biological needs, wants, and desires. It is what makes us human.

Where we tend to differ is in semantics. Something as simple as how we define what mediums or forms of expression we call art or creativity can be the first step to creating a more inclusive and understanding world. Emphasizing process and inclusivity of community over product and ego can help us to realize a greater communal artistic vision that we could achieve on our own. We can also chose to utilize our artistic voice to shed light on the characteristics of White Supremacy culture that harm us all.

So for those that, like myself, who struggle with how to be an effect ally to our friends, neighbors and loved ones, here are three ways that you can help to continue to move the needle forward:

  1. Understand the privilege you have and utilize it in ways that dismantle systems of inequality and inequity. Voting, protesting, speaking to elected officials, and listening to others all fall under this category.
  2. Work to identify and eradicate the ways that you personally perpetuate White Culture Supremacy.
  3. Utilize your artwork and artistic voice as an expression of core values of equity and equality. And support organizations, institutions and other artists who maintain this core value as well.

And hopefully, then, one day, no one will need to write this blog post because the cultural constructs that harm us all will be obsolete.

Application for the Hatch Training Intensive is now open for the Fall 2016 session. For applications and more information about this training program, please check out the Hatch Training Intensive page. Deadline for application is August 15, 2016.

When to Work for Free?

I am not going to give you the answer you may be seeking. That’s because this is a blog…and ultimately the right answer is deeply personal.

At best I hope to just talk (type, really) through a few points in this blog. The topic of working for “exposure” often rears its frustrated head during our Ignite class. Artists are tired of being asked to give away their work and/or creative energy for free. I get it.

So when do you give away your art?

It is up to you. Really. But I am going to go through a few ways of thinking about intentional giving.

Fundraisers

There is a lot of discussion in the Atlanta art community right now around art auctions/art fundraisers

Image by Chad Gierlich via flick
Image by Chad Gierlich via flick

and how they add or detract from the fair valuation of art. I am not adding to that conversation in this blog at this time. What I do want to examine is mission. If you believe in the mission of the organizer or nonprofit that is raising funds, then feel free to give. If you feel uneasy about the balance of power, then don’t give. Support the mission of organizations that speak to you and your core values. I am not putting the onus of creating value in the marketplace on the artist–what I am saying is this: be selective, be purposeful, be discriminate. Corporations do this ALL they time. They don’t give to everyone who asks.

Think about why you want to give and the impact of your gift. I know that I cannot personally give to every cause. Neither can you (unless you have a ton of money and in that case, let’s get lunch!). If you happen to receive accolades and exposure for your gift, great. I will never promise you that will happen if you give to C4. I will do my best to appreciate the heck out of you, but I would rather someone give because they believe in the work we are doing. There are some very worthy causes in our community. For thought: the average American household contributes more than $2,900 annually to charities.

Your Budget

If you want to give to a cause each year, put that in your budget. Make it its own expense line. When you have reached your giving cap, you can make the decision to dig deeper or you can say, “I am sorry, I have reached my budget for donations this year.” Again, corporations and wealthy people do this ALL the time. Track what you give. In an ideal world, I would love to be able to give away to charitable causes 10% of my income every year.

Tax Deductions

This is not tax advice. Just some stuff I know. Many of you know that if you are a visual artist, you cannot deduct the fair market value of your art donated to an auction, etc. There are legislators seeking to change this law. Realize that the change in law will not offer the fair market deductions for auctions, necessarily. Fundraising supports charitable work but itself is not a charitable activity. Furthermore, actors, dancers, singers, doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and the list goes on, do not receive a tax deduction for the time they give to a charitable cause. But they do it every year. In fact Georgia Lawyers for the Arts has a cadre of attorneys who provide in-kind service benefits in the millions. Millions. None of those attorneys are able to deduct their time spent.

A tax deduction would be a nice bonus to giving and C4 supports legislation to help artists received fair market value for art work that has a public benefit, but don’t let that be the reason or deterrent. Give because you believe in the cause.

Project Work

Fry from FuturamaArtists are often underpaid. Negotiate. Work for money, not exposure. Determine your fair value, and demand it. Your fellow artists will also be the better for it, because it will encourage the market to appreciate fair value for all arts workers. Make sure you learn about budgeting. Understand the difference between direct and indirect costs. Pay yourself–I mean really. This is key. When we asked funders what one of the biggest mistakes artists make when submitting a grant application they replied that artists often omit in their budgets a line item for their own artist’s fee. Add it as a line item in your project budget. You may have to invest up front as you begin your art career–this isn’t unusual in most businesses. Many businesses began with “debt equity.” The restaurant business, your local gym, the oil change-slash-car-wash-place, local nursery, and the list goes on. As a freelancer, do your best to move to a place where your total costs are covered in your project expense budgets.

Work toward not coming out of pocket for a project that someone else hired you to complete. You will resent the work.

There are projects that you will want to put your own money into. You may self-produce to: raise awareness for a cause, experiment with a new idea, work with a colleague you really respect, work on a piece of material (like a script) that has had your heart for awhile…or you just want to try something new. All valid reasons.

My only advice: find balance. I mean balance of power, balance of live/work, balance of paid/unpaid, and balance of love for the practice.

Internships/Apprenticeships 

I am personally hesitant to take on interns. This is because a true internship benefits the the intern more than the host company. In fact, interns are not supposed to help you expand your bottom line. I do not want free labor. I want our interns to get a) educational credit b) paid or c) a ton of experience that will help her/his career move forward. Volunteers and interns are not the same.

I think it is also worth mentioning that internships by their very nature, sometimes breed inequality. How? Think about it. You can’t support a family on an internship unless you have savings, a family member willing to cover your expenses while you intern, or the ability to pay back loans.

I am not against internships. I have had some wonderful internship opportunities.

When considering an internship, think about what you will receive from your training. How will you use it? Are you making connections? Do your career goals align with the internship opportunity? Are you learning marketable skills? Does the internship offer a stipend? Who benefits more, you or the company?

I am sure you have your own thoughts about the arts economy. Feel free to leave a comment. Remember, this is not an exhaustive research post. I am also not speaking for every staff member or board member…how could I? I am one person. I can say that as an organization, we want to see artists being paid fair wages. It’s the right thing to do. Period.

Here are a few resources for your consideration:

Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E)

Department of Labor & the Fair Labor Standards Act 

Image by Chad Gierlich via flick

 

Affordable Housing and the “Gig” Economy

There have been many conversations in Atlanta about affordable housing. Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens is seeking policy change to include more affordable housing units in the city. Our building neighbors at the Center for Civic Innovation hosted a well attended session just yesterday evening that focused on affordable housing as part of their Social Studies series. The name of the event was aptly named: “Who can afford to live in Atlanta?” And when we asked artists during a recent survey what concerns they have about Atlanta, affordable housing topped the list (under transportation and in line with [fair] wage).

What is affordable housing? Is it cheap rent? Is it a low mortgage? What if you just don’t make a lot of money? What is affordable then?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

Oh.

home in atlanta
Flickr: “Middle Class Home In Sweet Auburn” by joaquin uy

Want to have some more fun? Remember the question about wage? Here is a neat little Housing Wage Calculator for you to play with. As I played with the calculator, I discovered that the average rent within 10 miles of Atlanta is $1376/month (probably for a family?). If I am not spending more than 30% of my income on rent, I would need to earn $26.46/hour or $55,040/year. Now, my family pays about that for our mortgage. But my husband and I earn more than that combined, not just with my salary alone. Ahem. (I know what you are thinking, “but you run an nonprofit, you must be rolling in the dough!”). I don’t make enough alone to afford $1000/month.

The good news is that I get paid these days on salary. Many artists have a combination of jobs that either pay under the table, or the artists are 1099 contractors. This can affect what rental properties are available to them (not to mention money for the deposit and first month’s rent). Purchasing a property becomes even more of a challenge.

Underwriters invest in low risk. If you cannot demonstrate a consistent income, you are not low risk. You may earn more as a freelance artist than a person who works in retail; however, the person in retail is likely a W-2 employee. He/she has proof of regular income.

I know that policy change is sometimes linear. I also know that there are ways in which we as a community can help artists and freelancers find affordable housing. Even better, I know artists who own homes. But it is going to take more understanding on the part of elected officials, lenders, and policy makers to truly understand the connection between wage and housing. I will not get into fair valuation of artists in this blog. I am speaking more about institutions and gatekeepers. And this isn’t an issue that just artists face. In fact, Forbes reported in 2015:

Tucked away in the pages of a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office is a startling statistic: 40.4% of the U.S. workforce is now made up of contingent workers—that is, people who don’t have what we traditionally consider secure jobs.

This IS startling. As the Forbes article points out, contingent workers have less access to affordable healthcare, living wage, job stability and access to resources.

Atlanta: thank you for recognizing the need for affordable housing. It will ensure we compete nationally for workers.

So now what?

I have been grappling with this. Perhaps, there are resources we (C4 Atlanta) can help connect artist to that ameliorates the situation. Maybe that is helping artists become aware of the programs that are out there that can assist artists in the search for affordable housing or even home ownership. I think we also need to educate our friends in other sectors about what it really takes to make it in Atlanta as a freelance artist. I am trying. I have talked to anyone who will listen about these issues. I have talked to officials in DC and I have talked to officials locally. They are willing to help. But this isn’t going to be a quick fix.

We are living in the gig economy. It isn’t just artists. Atlanta: we want to live here. Help us do that. Or else…or else you will lose us.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Photo – Flickr: “Middle Class Home In Sweet Auburn” by joaquin uy

 

Arts Advocacy Survey – Preliminary Findings

City SkylineBack in December, C4 Atlanta launched an arts advocacy survey in order to inform our Advocacy Committee about the needs of individual arts workers in the metro Atlanta area. In September of 2015, our Board of Directors identified a need to advocate on behalf of individuals, as other groups existed already to advocate on behalf of organizations. However, arts professionals sometimes feel different pressures and are affected by different catalysts than larger organizations. Therefore, in the interest of transparency and due diligence, our committee wished to take action only after taking the temperature of the community at large.

Today, I am pleased to release to you a preliminary look at some of the data that we have uncovered during this process. The PDF available below is a summary of the raw data that has been presented to the committee. Each question posed to the survey respondents is listed at the top, with accompanying data visualizations and key points detailed below.  We are nowhere near finished crunching numbers, and some of the means we have used in this preliminary release of data were not so much used for accuracy as much as trying to identify key patterns quickly. Therefore, some of the short answer questions have been represented as Word Clouds in order to give a quick impression of reoccurring words and phrases. Please note that these visuals only account for the frequency of single words, not phrases or groups of words such as names.

Over the coming weeks, we will work harder to delve deeper into the numbers and answers in order to make more comprehensive correlations. Of particular interest to us is the data regarding wage vs. other expenses paid by artists for living and working. We intend to take a closer look at these numbers on and individual by individual basis. In order to better understand the implication of some of the data included regarding wage, we have included some government benchmarks for reference.

For those who took part in the survey, we thank you for your participation. Special shout outs go out our friends at Burnaway and Atlanta Contemporary for helping us to get the word out about this initiative! Thanks for helping us to reach deeper into the arts community.

For additional questions regarding our advocacy committee, survey data or our advocacy platform, please reach out to actionteam@c4atlanta.org.

Advocacy Survey Preliminary Data

 

4 Ways to Not Get Priced Out

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

Please Pay Here
Photo by stevendepolo

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                         

Apartments
Photo by La Citta Vita

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.

pol·i·cy

ˈpäləsē/

As applied to a law, ordinance, or Rule of Law, the general purpose or tendency considered as directed to the welfare or prosperity of the state or community.

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.

Photo by stevendepolo

Photo by La Citta Vita

 

5 Ways to Get Involved With Your Community

Where to start?

This month, with elections looming in the future and lots of important issues that affect individual artists in Atlanta, including a LOT of complicated issues with urban development, I’m fired up to give other artists the resources to get out and be of greater impact in your community.

If I’m perfectly honest, I would be remiss to have you believing that I’ve been the most active and vocal participant in my community. Before working for C4 Atlanta, there were many issues that I cared about, but time and a lack of knowledge of resources hindered my ability to get myself involved with the things I cared about. It’s only been over the last two or so years that I’ve become a more active part of my community. That’s why I’m excited about today’s blog post. Anyone with limited time and resources who wants to be a part of what’s going on with advocacy for artists can do at least one of these things.

So if you’d like to be more active in finding out what’s going on and helping to inform the decisions made in our community, here’s some simple tips to get involved:

1. Go to things

C4 Founder and Executive Director at a Fulton County Budget Hearing
C4 Founder and Executive Director at a Fulton County Budget Hearing

Seriously, get off your butt and go to stuff. The best ways to find out what’s going on is to be present when it’s going on. Social Media is a great resource for finding out what is going on and where things are happening.  Go to your neighborhood association meetings, your NPU (neighborhood planning unit) meetings, Beltline planning meetings, county budget hearings, school board meetings, panels with city officials, and literally anything else that impacts your career and life as an artist in Atlanta that interests you. Angry about big box stores being built in your neighborhood or lack of affordable housing and studio spaces? Show up in the places where people decide these kinds of things. Your presence in the community is important, and elected and community officials take notice of who comes and who votes for them. Make it a point to go to things and be seen, and others will take notice of your efforts. Better yet, bring your artist friends, too. There is power in numbers. Not sure where to go or what to attend? Start with your local NPU or Neighborhood Association Meeting. A lot of local city planning and ordinances are discussed in these meetings, and it’s a great way to meet other folks who do important things within the community and find out about other goings on.

2. Speak Up

Recent Beltline Network Meeting featuring a panel that included artist Neil Carver
Recent Beltline Network Meeting featuring a panel that included artist Neil Carver

When you attend community functions and meetings, speak up. Say your name, where you live, and ask questions about things you want to know. Don’t feel intimidated to let your voice be heard and ask about things you don’t understand even if you know there are others in the room who may have a greater understanding of all the factors involved. Elected officials will also want to know whether or not you vote, so if you do, they are more likely to take greater notice of your participation. If you don’t voice your thoughts, no one else will. As both a member of an arts organization and an independent creative professional, I can tell you that organizations and artists have very different issues that they care about and very different power in the community. Advocating for the ARTS is not necessarily the same as advocating for ARTISTS and arts professionals. Issues like affordable housing, education and health care apply as much to individual artists as they do to everyone and can be even more important to the sustainability of our lifestyles and careers. The only way people will know what you care about is if you tell them.

3. Be A Joiner

12196176_10104028790109360_4387692053996315010_n
Too often we artists feel like the employees who put up this tip jar.

If you really want to be of greater impact in your community, consider joining your neighborhood association, school group, or a nonprofit who’s mission lights a fire in your heart (C4 ATLANTA!). Facebook and Google can help you find groups to connect with if you aren’t sure where the causes you care about are located in the community. Connecting with other people who are united together for a cause has impact, and will also connect you to other resources so that you can become more involved and in the know. Again, individual artists and arts workers have different issues of interest than organizations. Even if the entity join is not arts related, your presence as an creative professional within their mission has weight and validity.  You also don’t have to commit to being president of the committee in order to volunteer or join and organization. Every organization has different needs, and most have many different ways to get involved.

4. Read and Educate Yourself

My community. Mural by unknown artist.
My community. Mural by unknown artist.

A voice is only as powerful as the truth it speaks. Educate yourself on issues within your community, your industry, trends, economy, politics, etc. Know your worth as an artist in the community! Americans for the Arts has some great research regarding the economic impact of artists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides a wealth of wage data for every profession in the U.S. based on census data. If fair wage for artists is important to you, check out the organization W.A.G.E. which certifies producing/presenting arts organizations who pay artists a fair living wage for their work. They will soon have an individual certification available for artists who vow to only work for fair wage. With the plethora of presidential candidates in the mix at the moment, it can feel overwhelming to try educate your self on the platforms of different candidates. Arts Action Fund presents a snapshot of each current presidential candidate and their views on the arts. The information is easily digestible to anyone and provides key data about each candidate’s state artistic economy for comparison. The Arts Action Fund uses the #ArtVote2016 on social media to highlight key issues and questions during debates. They have also compiled reports regarding congressional voting records for arts related legislation and included a grading system for lawmakers. ArtsGeorgia is a local Georgia advocacy group that offers information and helps to promote issues related to arts and culture in the political sphere. There is a wealth of information related to the arts available on their website.

5. Vote!!!!

As much as you can talk and act and join and show up in your community, without actually voting for the people responsible for making larger decisions, you are heavily limiting the scope of your individual power to affect change. And if you don’t vote, elected officials are far less likely to take your presence seriously. Elected officials have to speak to you if you ask. It might not be timely, but they’ll do it. Because that’s their job. Having greater efficacy in your talk can depend on whether you are an active voter in their constituency. And if you don’t know who your elected officials are, especially those at the local level, go find out.

C4 Atlanta keeps our members and stakeholders abreast of interests and issues in arts advocacy and advocating for arts workers. If you’d like to learn more about these issues, join our monthly newsletter and indicate your interest in arts advocacy.


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