Open Letter to University Settlement and All Other Artist DISservice Organizations
I seem to be a bit confused.
See, I can’t understand how you build an artist residency where the artist receives a nominal fee (read: less than $1000) and is expected to create a production, market that production, AND engage your local community around the production THEN you only offer the artist 20% of their performance profits. Yes. 20%. Not 30 or 40 or even dare I say 50, but 20% of the income from that performance goes to the artist. AND if the artist dares to offer the tickets at a lower price to honor and support the communities they are tied to (i.e. other artists, communities of color, low income folk, etc) then you’re still tracking (and keeping) that income as though every ticket was sold at full price. This just seems like bad math.
So if this artist has worked their ass off to fill YOUR performance space and ends up with, say, nearly $2500 in ticket sales. That means the artist receives less than $500 along with their nominal fee. So what exactly is the service you’re providing?
If it’s space – call it a space grant.
If it’s tech staff – call it a subsidized performance.
But PLEASE don’t call it a RESIDENCY if you invited the artist into your house but told them they had to bring their own food, pots, pans, sleeping bag, pillow, and towel.
You choose to capitalize off the artists. That’s not diversifying revenue. It’s biting off the hands that feed you.
What amazes me most is that ya think ya done good. You BELIEVE you’re serving and valuing artists. But you’re not offering them free child care in your early childhood development program. You’re not offering financial management support or consultation. You’re not introducing their work to a new audience of your constituents. You’re not really marketing their production. Matter of fact, you’re not even spelling the name of their work correctly on the few postcards you create. You’ve barely tapped into the resources that are at your disposal.
And don’t give me the speech about all your funding woes. It’s year end appeal season. I KNOW all nonprofit organizations, especially the arts nonprofits, are in need. BUT you choose to capitalize off the artists. That’s not diversifying revenue. It’s more like biting off the hands that feed you.
So many so-called service organizations are giving crumbs while using the work of artists to pay their bills (and bonuses).
Frankly, you’ve set up a sharecropping system where the artist does all this work for pennies but has to recognize your “contribution” to their career forever. So many artists produce their own shows because so many so-called service organizations are using them for profit. So many so-called service organizations are giving artists crumbs while using the work of these artists to pay their bills (and their bonuses). This ain’t even non-profit industrial complex, it’s just bad math and bullshit (oh wait, that is a part of the complex).
So I’m calling you out University Settlement. You are not the only ones, but today you win the DISservice award. Either start offering REAL SUPPORT to artists or give them ALL the hard earned money they worked to bring into your space.
Because I’m sick of watching my dear friends give you their bodies AND their profits.