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What if Artists Could Ditch Their Day Job?

· day jobs,Maslow's Hierarchy,basic income,artist struggles,creativity

I'm starting today's blog from a substack post Rhett Miller (frontman for the Old 97's) wrote:

 

 

“Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.” - Marie Curie, scientist, Nobel laureate (1867-1934)

 

 

An enterprise so captivating that it becomes impossible for me to devote my care to my own material profit? Hello?!? My 20’s were spent in abject squalor, a movable feast of famine and drunkenness. Ever in motion, walking leases and outrunning utility bills, I never stopped to think about the future — I barely spared a thought for the present. But the future showed up all right, asking after the careful planning with which it expected to be met.

 

 

Um, yeah, about that…

 

 

"We're in a capitalistic society where you still have to pay your rent even if you're an artist.”

-Mark Mothersbaugh, musician, DEVO (1950-)

 

 

Our late-stage capitalism dictates a certain ruthlessness when it comes to artists and dreamers. We are expected to “figure it out” or get a real job. The thing is...

 

 

...art is a real job.

 

 

THE EARTH WITHOUT ART IS JUST EH. [I totally just made that up, it wasn’t on a bumper sticker I saw.] And I don’t want to live on a planet named EH.

 

 

The Irish government has decided to do something to help its artists out and I’m here to tell you that this is a terrific idea.

 

 

Ian Fay had toiled for years to make it as a comic book artist and illustrator, and last fall, he was ready to call it a day.

 

 

Fay, 32, who lives in Kilkenny in southern Ireland and specializes in drawing muscly superheroes, was only earning enough money to pay his bills, he recalled recently. He couldn’t afford vacations. He was considering boxing up his art supplies and getting a job in a grocery store.

 

 

Then, in September, a lifeline appeared in his email inbox. A message from Ireland’s government said that Fay had been selected for a program guaranteeing 2,000 artists a basic income. For three years, participants — including musicians, novelists and circus performers — would be paid 16,900 euros a year, about $18,200, no strings attached.

 

 

Fay stared at the email in disbelief. The payments — in weekly installments of €325 — would cover his rent, and lower his anxiety about making ends meet, he said. For the first time in years, he added, he would have “time to practice and develop my craft.”

 

 

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the success I’ve had, or bitter for the success I haven’t, but I’m talking about the creative class as a whole, losing all revenue streams thanks to the economic dams built by YouTube, Spotify et al. We do not necessarily deserve wealth, though we wouldn’t turn it down I’d imagine. The pursuit of wealth is not why we do what we do. But if we can’t make a living wage, none of us will be able to do what the culture needs us to do, which is to amplify the beating heart at the center of our collective humanity.

 

 

I don’t see Ireland’s program being copied by the US government, but I can dream. I am, after all, a dreamer. And humanity needs dreamers.

yrs,

Rhett

Rhett quoted some of the NYT article above, and here's some more of it:

 

 

Catherine Martin, Ireland’s culture minister — a trained singer and former street busker — said in a telephone interview that the idea for the policy emerged three years ago during the coronavirus pandemic. With Ireland’s music venues, theaters and museums shuttered, Martin commissioned a task force to explore how the government could help cultural workers survive. Its main recommendation was a basic income trial.

 

“Worrying about putting bread on the table really impacts artists’ creative juices,” Martin said. “This is about giving them space to work,” she added.

 

Applications opened last April for people working in the visual arts, theater, literature, music, dance, opera, movies, circuses and architecture. (Some craft workers complained at the time that they had been excluded.) The applicants had to submit two pieces of evidence to show they were genuine cultural workers, such as membership in a professional body, proof of income from art sales or newspaper reviews. Martin said the government didn’t consider the quality of the applicants’ work.

 

More than 9,000 people applied, with 8,200 deemed eligible. From that pool, 2,000 were randomly selected to receive payments and 1,000 for the control group.

 

Lydia Mulvey, 47, a screenwriter, said that she quit her job in a telecommunications firm as soon as she heard she’d made it into the program. Now she spends her time writing pilot scripts for thrillers and sci-fi shows, rather than trying to squeeze that into evenings and weekends. “I knew it’d be transformative and give me my life back,” Mulvey said, although she added that, if she didn’t already own her own home, she’d struggle to live on such a low income, especially in Ireland’s squeezed property market.

 

Few recipients are taking the windfall for granted. Mulvey, the screenwriter, said she’d recently met television companies about developing shows, and was often working long into the night. “I keep reminding myself that three years is a really short time, and we’ve already had six months,” she said, adding that she wanted to make sure “I don’t have to go back to a day job when this stops.”

 

 

The amount of money isn't a lot (about 400 USD/week), but I think Ireland is on to something. Although Rhett said it can't happen in the U.S., It did happen after World War II.

 

 

The government employed artists to create art for public spaces and nonfederal municipal buildings, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

 

 

It was a New Deal Project, under FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), that helped unemployed people working with the skills and talents they possessed.

 

 

The Federal Art Project (FAP)'s goal was to provide art to the public (shocker that it's actually an important part of society and culture at that time) and to employ artists who were out of work. It paid artists $23.60 per week, or about $320/week today.

 

 

More than 5000 artists created around 108,000 paintings, 18,000 sculptures, 2500 public murals and 200,000 prints. it also provided art classes for children and developing artists at nearly 100 community art centers across the country!

 

 

It's a wonder that the period after World War Two was a prolific time that led to the economic boom of the 1950s!

 

 

Supporting artists IS good for our cultural AND financial fabric!

 

 

I also did some digging, and recently, especially right after the start of the pandemic, there have been states like California and New York who've tried similar programs to the one in Ireland.

 

 

One of the issues that have come up -- they couldn't tell if people were making the most of the money or just trying to get out of having a job.

 

 

However, there are people like the screenwriter, Lydia, who are taking full advantage of the time and little bit of money that covers her basic necessities.

 

 

Now, I know I've shared Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs before:

 

 

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We MUST cover our basic needs, then our psychological needs before we can fulfill our full potential, which includes creative activities.

 

 

So, how do we do this if there are no government programs, like the one in Ireland, giving us $400/week?

 

 

Well, first of all, $400/week is not a lot, as we all know.

 

 

So, let's start by looking at what is the baseline for what you need, and we're talking about the BASICS -- shelter (rent/mortgage), food (groceries), clean water, utilities (including Internet and phone), insurance (health, renters or homeowners, car), gas for the car, medicine/prescriptions, and basic household supplies like toilet paper. What does that all add up to?

 

 

For my household (2 adults with a mortgage on a house in Los Angeles, no children or pets), it adds up to $4400/month.

 

 

So, let's say I want to give myself a year to write a novel or something, then it's still important for me to find a source of income that brings in at least $4400 per month.

 

 

Let's say we both had jobs that just ended, and we're now both on CA unemployment, then that's $3600/month for both of us. Now, collectively we need an extra $800/month. That may mean either tightening up the expenses by $800 or to be more abundant or expansive, we find other ways to bring in $800.

 

 

Now, what if we didn't qualify for unemployment? Then, it's up to us to find another source of income, whether that's grants, a small business or personal loan or yes, an investment job. Now, remember the investment job needs to create the other layers of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs! You need to feel safe and secure. You need to feel like you belong and there are opportunities for friendships and relationships with others and give you a feeling of accomplishment.

 

 

Finally, this isn't on the Hierarchy of Needs, but of course, you need a job that gives you TIME. So, it can't be a job where you work 12 hours a day for 7 days a week because then that leaves you with no time to create. And that's the whole point of all of this! You are meant to share your gifts to the world, so give yourself the time, space and financial foundation to do so. You will thank yourself, and we will thank you when we get to experience your extraordinary art.

 

 

With Love & Gratitude,

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Please comment below any questions or thoughts! I would be happy to support you in this. I also have other ways to support you with your feelings of safety, security, belongingness, love, esteem, and worth. I have a Mindful Money Mastery Guide to help with your mental and emotional health this month. Get it below.

 

 

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