Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Farm

Over at Community Arts Network, arts advocate and thinker Arlene Goldbard delivers a third installment in her nifty series on national service initiatives. The article, which was published in July, is lengthy, which means I won't be finished reading for about a week. I have skimmed it though, and I can tell you that Ms. Goldbard does a fine job reporting on some of the most worthy volunteer and artist corp initiatives percolating all around the country.

As she advocates, persuasively and relentlessly, for the return of the Works Progress Administration, Ms. Goldbard always reminds me of all the great artists that benefited from the program, like Dorothea and Zora. I am also reminded that low-paying survival jobs with no workplace protections and few guarantees are basically what we are talking about. Long after her time doing field recordings for the WPA, Zora Neal Hurston died in abject poverty and obscurity. She probably wasn't able to save any money while she was in her 30s because she didn't have a real job.

To her credit, Ms. Goldbard crisply points out that, for the most part, the efforts she profiles "fall short of sustainable fulltime salaries for artists working in public service," but, she says, they are "widely perceived as steps on the road toward that goal."

Anyway, if we're all going to volunteer for a living, then I think the administrators who run these worthy National Service Initiatives should also be unpaid volunteers. After they've paid their dues, they can join Mckinsey & Company and make all their lost earning potential back again, with interest.

The artists will have all that useful experience to put on their resumes.

Also: Animal Farm - George Orwell

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