On April 19, 2014, the Arts Research Center hosted Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. This daylong event included a series of artist-led workshops that developed exercises, prompts, or actions that engage questions of art, labor, and economics. We have asked participants to send us their reflections on keywords, puzzles, or recurring themes that came up throughout the day. This post is by visual artist, and Valuing Labor in the Arts workshop leader, Caroline Woolard.
The work I'm doing now (by facilitating the start of associations http://bfamfaphd.com and http://nyctbd.com/resources) is focused on creating longterm community livelihoods where shared decision-making and shared profit are possible. Personally, I was able to focus on OurGoods.org and TradeSchool.coop and SolidarityNYC.org for the past five years because I graduated without debt from Cooper Union, because I refused to go into debt for graduate school, and because I created a job for myself by co-managing a studio space that I built out with friends to keep rent low. So, while we resist conditions of debt and underpayment (Non-Participation, WAGE, Strike Debt), raise consciousness about our shared realities (Present Group, Collective Actions, Yoga for Adjuncts), and suggest self-organized initiatives (Appropriate Technologies, NYCTBD, BFAMFAPhD), we must also join the long-term struggles of all working class people by educating ourselves about the existing work around us (Labor Archives). We must understand the endurance work and leadership training that is necessary to make change- it took Fourth Arts Block three decades of organizing to get 8 buildings from the city for $8, and decades after that to sustain and maintain it! As I leave from SFO now, I am excited about bringing the initiatives highlighted together in a framework that welcomes and trains many leaders. As I leave, I am more excited about the importance of community land trusts and worker cooperatives as living examples of resilient institutions that keep individuals in dialog over time and create jobs for exploited individuals, looking to Fourth Arts Block (http://catalystreview.net/2014/02/fourth-arts-block-leading-cultural-advancement-in-new-york-city/) and 3B (http://3bbrooklyn.com/) as examples of just, democratic, and sustainable examples of solidarity economies that will remain stable options for future generations because the land is held in trust.
I am very interested in continuing the conversation, and hope to work toward another gathering, on the East Coast. Also, I would love to return to the Bay Area in late June, or in the fall/winter, to complete the Exchange Archive, do an audio project about Community Economies and time-space geography mapping, and write about Real Estate (not just land) Art! I also see a lot of overlap in the tech sector with the "sharing economy" as aligned with worker cooperatives, if sharing means shared decision-making and shared profits. Inspired by the gathering, Caroline.