June 14, 2012 • Podcasts
Art, Community, Labour and Money
Continued from page 2
And then there’s all the artistic stuff in order for the studio to be really accessible we need to think carefully about the materials that are in the studio. Being able to accommodate any amount of activity in the studio. Whether there are 5 people and it’s a really chill kind of group or if there are 25 people. So do we have areas for folks to work on? Are there areas for people to come in – who have no prior experience – to actually work directly with someone and start immediately? Are there areas that you can move onto and build skill if that’s what you want to do? There’s a lot of planning that goes into thinking about the production of a project and how to keep it moving smoothly and for it to be a really comfortable, safe, inclusive environment.
SF: Why do you do community arts?
AC: I’ve thought a lot about that question, actually. I am the only artist in my family. Working class background. That actually does inform me a lot in my artistic practice and how I approach what I do.
Less than 5% of the population goes to galleries or museums. I’m not saying that because I’m down on galleries and museums, but they are a kind of rarified space where a lot of people don’t feel welcomed or included. So community engaged practice, particularly community-engaged work that has a public art component, really invites people to be a part of a community narrative, to contribute to it, to be reflected in a neighbourhood.
I really do think that art and artists are really important contributors to civic engagements, and how we live in our cities and what our cities and what our neighbourhoods can be. I think we should all have access to being creative.
SF: Why have you chosen to organize Work in Progress in collaboration with the Mayworks Festival?
AC: Mayworks Festival is a festival that’s focused in labour and arts. Mayworks Festival recognizes artists as workers. So that’s part of what’s here at the center of this discussion. Artists, all of us, we are workers. We are the largest unorganized – and I don’t mean disorganized – but I mean the majority of artists are not represented by unions or worker protections. If we look at the statistics of the average income for a dancer, for example, in Canada, it’s under $17,000 a year. With visual artists, there are a lot of chemical sensitivities, environmental stuff that’s developed in association with the practice and materials and the majority of artists don’t have any benefits or coverage. I might not think about myself as a particularly vulnerable person in the world but when I look at the reality, the working reality, of artists we fall into this really interesting place in our culture where on the one hand art is recognized as this rarified thing that crazy mystical, magical, addicted people do, or you’re a no talent person who has chosen not to do real work. There’s a lot of cultural baggage around art and what it is.
I guess that’s part of what we’re centering here. Artists are workers and the reality is that most artists in the country are working class workers, are low-income workers. They fall into this really interesting class of being not really recognized or legible in our class systems, which aren’t even really acknowledged in our culture to begin with. Class is barely on the table as a conversation. So partnering with Mayworks makes a lot of sense.