When you fundraise, you’re asking for money from outside sources to realize your creative vision. As an artist, you’ll have to figure out how much it matters to you who those sources are. Who will you seek funding from and who isn’t a good fit? If the philanthropic arm of a corporation whose work you disagree with would be willing to fund your work, would you apply for a grant from them or accept money if it was offered? Would you take money from a company that you think harms your community? You don’t want to take money from somewhere that makes you so uncomfortable that you wouldn’t even want to use it, but also, you need money in order to make your work. There isn’t an easy answer, and there’s no such thing as purely ethical money under capitalism.
The COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the structure of the arts world in an incredibly painful way. People have lost their livelihoods. Institutions (especially the smaller, independent ones) face uncertain futures, and nobody knows what the future holds. Fractured Atlas recognizes the magnitude of loss, grief, and uncertainty that artists and the arts sector as a whole is feeling right now. We also recognize that there is an opportunity for us to build new, more equitable structures.
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On March 12, in the early phases of national lockdowns in the United States, a Google Doc with resources for freelance artists started making the rounds. It had links to information and resources for freelancers who were getting their jobs cancelled because of COVID-19, including emergency funding. Like other Google Docs that serve an immediate need at the right time, it exploded. The document crashed and its creators quickly shifted the Google Doc to a website. Since then, its creators have become a temporary collective, the Freelance Artist Resource Producing Collective.
During a crisis, the impulse is to help. But it’s hard to know where to start. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be pulled in a number of different directions. Should you donate to the staff funds for the coffee shops, bars, bookstores, movie theaters, and nightclubs that you would ordinarily be visiting? Should you donate to the big national fundraisers or to small, local, specific ones? Should you focus on food security or making sure that essential workers have enough PPE to keep themselves safe? How many voicemails should you leave for your political representatives?
We’re all anxiously awaiting the time when we can “go back to normal” after social isolation, quarantine, and all of the other measures we’re taking to protect ourselves and our community from COVID-19. We want to go over to our friends’ apartments, go to coffee shops, bookstores, and bars. We want to have picnics and go out dancing. We want to hug each other. But we also have an opportunity to think about the ways in which we don’t want to go back to normal. For so many of us, normal is food and housing insecurity, living paycheck to paycheck, inadequate healthcare, work environments that don’t accommodate accessibility needs, toxic bosses, and more. We don’t want to go back to normal. We want better. As writer Aja Barber puts it, “what world do you want to return to?”
There’s not much to smile about these days. As I’m writing this, the United States just surpassed China as the nation with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, and it’s all but certain that by the time we “flatten the curve” we’ll see more loss of life than any other country as well. While the news is dotted every so often with a heartwarming story or ridiculous video of how we’re all coping with our new normal, it’s hard to feel that any good can come of this particular moment. I think there’s an opportunity for the arts community to address a massive issue that it can’t quite figure out how to talk about: poverty.
So your job has just gone virtual. Now what? Once your company or organization has figured out how to get everyone a computer, which video conferencing and chat tools to use, and how to store files on a shared cloud-based drive, there’s still a huge amount of adjustment that needs to take place. Even though you’re still working on a computer, things probably feel totally different. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things. You might feel uninspired, isolated, or like you can’t concentrate. Even under the best circumstances, this is totally normal for workers who have transitioned from office life to virtual working.
Work. Shouldn’t. Suck. promotes people-centric organizational design for thriving workplaces. And these days, workplaces are increasingly going fully virtual, often in the span of days or weeks. How do we make sure that the transition sucks as little as possible?