How much will you pay me for my work?
This was the question I asked every single person that saw my performance art experience, Buy My Soul And Call It Art. I asked it well over 400 times. And I received lots of answers from $0 to Who are you? to $100 to How much do you need? to Is this money going to you or is there like some white man back there? And I told myself that no matter what number they said that I know I am valuable. That there is no dollar amount that can sum up my worth.
And then I got a job.
Because capitalism. Because art. Because community. Because “social capital”. Because it was the right ask from the right org at the right time. And I became the Director of Programs at VAE Raleigh.
According to LinkedIn, the average Program Director in this country makes $62,941. In North Carolina, the average is $47,691.
I am making $20,254 after taxes with no benefits.
I am writing this because it is time for me to be honest. For me to release the shame I have around my financial reality; one that sits in stark opposition with my title, my skillset and my inherent value. I have felt like a failure and a liar because I have a fancy arts job with a fancy arts title and yet I have been consistently late on my car note. But the truth is I deserve more. I deserve to do good work and afford health insurance at the same time. I deserve to be able to afford rest. We all do.
I am not writing this to embarrass or or call out VAE. This is not unheard of in the arts. The arts and culture industry is filled to the brim with talented, brilliant people that create value but don’t create wealth. I know because I work with 5 of them at VAE. This is a systemic issue. And that’s before we factor place, race and gender into it.
But that does not mean that I have to exist in these conditions. So I am leaving VAE at the end of April. I believe in my ability to manifest $20,254 a year and then some through my art. I believe that by releasing this shame and jumping headfirst into my dreams I will thrive. And maybe stick it to capitalism in the process. I believe that not only is a new world possible, it is already here.
There are so many ways you can support this work!
I launched a Patreon! Become a monthly donor. It would mean so much and there are some sweet rewards.
Book me to speak! I would love to speak to groups large and small about arts & culture, racial equity, creation as civic connection, being a queer Black woman.
Hire me to facilitate! I love a good workshop. Let’s build it together and let’s make it artful!
Grants! Grants! Grants! Is there an arts & culture grant that I should know about and apply for? Let me know!
I am scared yall! But I am going to do this anyway. Thanks for being on this journey with me. And if nothing else, remember, Shame is a chain. Let it go.