Q: Ok, so what are the questions emerging Teaching Artists should be asking?
A: Is there upward mobility? What is the pay rate? Where is the biggest and brightest place I can go with this type of work? And you’ll find, if you just ask those really basic simple questions…you’ll find that the path doesn’t really go very far. And I wish I had asked those questions when I was in art school. Just real basic questions. Where can we go with this? And most people will tell you, if they’re honest, "Not that far." I went to visual art school, and even people I knew who had shown in big museums and had toured internationally were still struggling on the dollar, and if I had asked them those real questions, I think they would’ve…well, there was no way they could have lied to me…to my face. And it would’ve maybe changed some of the way I looked at life.
A: What’s the reason people aren’t asking these questions? How did we get into a situation like this, where we are paying a hundred thousand dollars for school and then being offered jobs that pay $17 per hour for three hours a week?
Q: Well, number one, most educational institutions are run like businesses, so they’re not really interested in your success in the long term. They’re just not. They just want to recruit. You’ll notice that at a lot of schools….that there’s not a lot of support post graduation. But they’ll still have the audacity to send you letters...to ask alumni to donate money. Which is hilarious. (laughs)
Q: I’m notoriously pessimistic, and you’re notoriously optimistic. I mean, you speak a lot about “abundance”, which is one reason I like talking with you. So, I wonder…within this context…within this conversation we’re having…which has a lot of negatives…you’ve still got a smile on your face, and I’m wondering how does that concept of abundance figure into this situation you’ve just described?
A: I feel like there’s only scarcity if you think that all the options available to you are only the ones that have already been presented to you. So I feel like, if you were to practice the same kind of creativity that you practice in the classroom, or if you were to take the same creativity that you practice within your own art, and apply that creativity to new ways of thinking about your own professional development, business models...then you’ll see that you have way more options. And the idea of having more options is automatically very inspiring, and it leads to optimism, because you realize you have choices. Things only get really bleak when you think you only have the choices that have already been presented to you. You're already in a disempowered position if you’re only looking at the choices that someone has allowed you to have. So if someone says “Would you choose A, B or C?” And I decide to say “D, E and F”...(laughs) automatically I’m changing the game for myself. And that’s inspiring…scary, but inspiring. (laughs)
Next on ATA Blog: Anthem Salgado presents his theory of change and suggests one sure-fire way for Teaching Artists to make those hard career choices.
Also: J.L. - Watching the Wheels