Monday, July 19, 2010

On the Farm

When people ask me, and they do, just how much I think a teaching artist should be getting paid, I usually answer "enough to live on."

It's really very simple when you think of it that way.

If a teaching artist is supposed to be a professional--by that I mean a reflective practicioner with an advanced degree, and the ability to accurately diagnose a problem, plan a course of action, and implement said plan--then I think our expertise has a street value of at least $75,000 per year.

So a good minimum figure is about $75/per workshop hour for a part-time TA. Those with more experience and more training should, of course, get paid more and there is no reason why a spectacularly talented veteran TA shouldn't  be worth six-figures.

A full-time, experienced teaching artist with  the requisite education, artistry, skills and training should be able to afford to pay off their student loans, buy a home and raise a family. It is expensive to be middle class in America in the 21st Century, and the organizations that hire us are going to have to start paying us more if they care about us as fellow human beings. The funders will understand our desire to be middle class. 

The reality is that TAs do much of the actual work, but the arts administrators reap the bulk of the reward--including more job security and health insurance. We are a line item, and when it comes time to cut the budget, we are often first in line. 

The cultural organizations and schools that hire the most TAs operate just like agents, curators and producers in the art world. They are the "middleman" and like artists everywhere, TAs are dependent and relatively powerless in this system. They cut the checks and set the agenda.  We need jobs, and it is not politic to complain too much, especially since there is usually someone standing right behind you, resume in hand.

Faced with a laughably low workshop fee, a TA can always say "no", but then of course she would starve to death.

Back to work.

Also: LaBelle - Are You Lonely?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've worked as a TA for several organizations and as an art administrator for a small handful. It's a touchy subject, but in each case I made more per hour as a TA than I do as an arts administrator. I made more as a full time nanny than both, incidentally. Insurance and health care aren't free for us either. We're not middlemen fleecing our staff. What would be the point? How would I make education better that way? And most of us are, after all, working for nonprofits, where any extra money goes to offering schools free or discounted programming- which we of course pay our TAs in full for. I know it's hard to cobble together a living as a TA. But rest assured, your boss often makes $8 an hour when factoring salary and the time put in. My job is to try and make teaching artistry as impactful and educationally relevant as possible. I'm not a booking agent. And I don't get paid enough either. We should think about elevating the whole feild and our worth, rather than fostering an internal resentment that is neither relevant nor fruitful.