Rights, Demands, and Radical Reimaginings: Art and Labor in the US

, Arts Writer and Playwright

Who this class is for:

This class is for anyone interested in understanding how artists have organized in the past and present to get paid for their work, or to work in ways that resist traditional US labor frameworks. You'll be given strategies and tools to help you reimagine the relationship between art and labor.

In this class we will look at:

  • historic and contemporary examples of artists organizing to get paid, access services (health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc), and/or gain control over how their work is displayed/presented

  • various types of artistic labor, some that traditionally garner payment, others that don’t

  • the drive to professionalize the arts

  • alternative organizing/working models

Class project:

All participants will be encouraged throughout to think about and imagine their own artists’ bill of rights, list of demands, or radical re-imaginings of the way that they engage in artistic labor.

Class description:

In the past century, artists working across disciplines have undertaken a variety of efforts to not only get paid a decent wage for their creative work, but also to gain access to services and protections that workers in other sectors have long enjoyed. Some of those artistic unions, guilds, associations, and collectives still exist or have echoes now, while many are struggling or long gone. Today, many artists are wondering what approaches they can take to resolve the long-standing difficulty of accessing capital through art-making.

Over 5 weeks, we will take a critical look at the connections between the arts and labor in the US. We'll examine and discuss some historic and contemporary efforts across artistic disciplines to organize around and/or revolutionize arts and labor. We'll also look at bigger questions about what it means to classify a variety of artistic activities as labor, as well as radical viewpoints that either reject art as a form of labor or view the arts as a space to test out labor practices that could impact all of society.

A Note About the Fee:

If you would like to take the class but the fee represents the primary reason why you cannot join, please contact me and we can discuss a sliding scale. I am also open to barter arrangements.

* The image at the top is from the spring 2013 strike by members of the San Francisco Orchestra (Photo: Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Satrical poster sketch by Ad Reinhardt for 1961 Art Strike. (Source: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

A photo of a 1968 actors strike in New York City. (Photo: NYPL Digital Gallery)

Schedule
  • Week 1: Guilds/Academies/Unions/Free agents

    Hyperallergic Offices

    181 N 11th St. #302
    Brooklyn, NY

    A look at specific examples and trends in the US over the past 150+ years involving artists joining together to gain access to capital and/or services.
    Aug
    27
    Tue, August 27th, 2013

    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

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  • Week 2: Recent Organizing Efforts Among Artists in the US

    Hyperallergic Offices

    181 N 11th St.
    Brooklyn, NY

    We'll look at specific recent examples, outside of traditional labor unions, of artists in the US working together to demand wages and/or services from government, arts organizations, and/or one another. Possible guest lecturer.
    Sep
    3
    Tue, September 3rd, 2013

    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

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  • Week 3: Types of Artistic Labor

    Hyperallergic Offices

    181 North 11th St.
    Brooklyn, NY

    Typically some kinds of artistic labor have the potential to garner payment and others do not. What are the differences? How does receiving payment for some kinds of labor at different points in the process have the potential to influence the final product? Does that matter?
    Sep
    10
    Tue, September 10th, 2013

    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

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  • Week 4: Professionalizing the Arts

    Hyperallergic Offices

    181 North 11th St.
    Brooklyn, NY

    Can and should an avant garde artist expect to be paid a middle class wage by the dominant culture? How has the rise of professional development programs in place of grants for art-making, along with the massive increase in MFA programs, altered artists' ideas and expectations of what a "career" in the arts should look like?
    Sep
    17
    Tue, September 17th, 2013

    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

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  • Week 5: Labor Alternatives

    Hyperallergic Offices

    181 North 11th St.
    Brooklyn, NY

    In the final week we'll look at examples of individuals and groups that have rejected or attempted to build alternative models of making artistic work that stand, in part or fully, outside traditional labor frameworks.
    Sep
    24
    Tue, September 24th, 2013

    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

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Alexis Clements

Arts Writer and Playwright

An arts journalist and playwright, Alexis has been writing about issues connected to role of the arts in US society for a number of years now. She is currently writing a nonfiction book about the way that the arts are valued in the US. She is a regular contributor, focused on the arts and performance, to Hyperallergic. Her articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in publications such as Bitch Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, The L MagazineNatureAesthetica, and Travel New England. In addition, she has been an invited speaker on the arts at Harvard University, the Flux Factory (New York City), and the Playwrights Forum (Washington, DC), among other places. Read her full bio here: http://www.alexisclements.com/biography/

 Rather than leading the class as an "expert" lecturing to a group of students, Alexis' teaching style focuses primarily on facilitating a disucssion among the participants, drawing on the breadth of expertise and personal experience in the room. There will be time during each class where readings are referenced/summarizes and specific points are laid out, but a facilitated discussion of the subject matter is the primary goal each class covers.

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    181 N 11th St. #302

    Brooklyn, NY

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