Valuing Labor in the Arts



Shannon Jackson, Director of the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley

When is it okay to work for free? Is it acceptable as long as you’re working with—or for—another artist? What is an artistic service? These are just a few of the hundreds of questions circulating for artists working in the 21st-century economy, a scene in which the very old question of art’s financial contingency arguably has a different kind of urgency and opacity. With “Valuing Labor in the Arts,” the Arts Research Center (ARC) gathers artists, curators, organizers, and researchers to work together on such questions.

One key value for ARC is to make sure that artists from various disciplines contribute to the conversations we stage. For this assemblage, we have invited a range of artists to create small, artist-led workshops devised to spur dialogue, action, and art making around questions of art, labor, and economics.

This special issue of Art Practical, curated by the Arts Research Center, serves as a primer for the April 19, 2014 gathering (register here) and will include more responses and meditative essays from writers working in economics, sociology, art history, performance studies, dance, film studies, and literature. These future texts, along with work produced in situ, will help us both document our processes and reflect further on the issues explored.

Most of our workshops will be limited to small groups to allow for meaningful creation within the parameters of the workshop. While we are acutely aware that this depth of interaction will necessarily limit those who have access to it, the hope is that the ideas raised in these articles can be widely shared and will provide fodder for more.