Are you a cultural entrepreneur, an artist, or both?

paintpeelingabstract“Too often creative people do not recognize that by allowing themselves to be exploited they are contributing to the exploitation of their fellow artists and writers, as well as aspiring artists and writers, and by allowing exploitation of themselves, they are inadvertently helping to shape an economy of exploitation on a societal scale.” – Kate Oakley, PhD.

I heard this the other day at a talk at SFU given by Kate Oakley, a professor from Leeds, who participated in SFU’s Dream Colloquiam on Entrepreneurship.  

When she made the above statement, I thought it was so true for so many, except for, perhaps, the most accomplished.

And then I wondered. Does Douglas Coupland ever feel exploited, monetarily that is? I know you’re probably thinking, of course not, he’s wildly successful. But, I really wonder if people ever nickel and dime him asking if he could just give them the art for less? If the exhibit could be paid for at that price but could they have it for a few extra months?

Are the people at the very top of the creative pool whose work is coveted commercially, the only ones who should expect to be paid adequately while the majority should expect to scramble for whatever meagre dollars they can be paid even if others are making money because of their content?  Think about whether that’s true for any other industry.

Did you know that the so called Creative Class is more male, white, and more middle class than in any other industry and it’s getting worse according to Oakley. This is certainly true for newspapers (which may explain their continuing demise).

What are the differences between artists and entrepreneurs?  Oakley said one difference is in how they approach work. Artists typically do not like to do the same thing twice. Entrepreneurs won’t walk away from something if it’s commercially successful even if they have to make a million widgets.

Why is it that it’s okay for some to make a decent living from your contribution to their newspaper, their magazine, their art gallery, their publishing company and yet so many writers and artists are mere weeks away from introducing Friskies Cat Food into their daily diet?

Those magazines, newspapers, art galleries depend on creative content to make the decent living they have become accustomed to, and yet, somehow, historically, they refuse to adequately pay for it from the people who make it possible.

Our society loves creative work in general it would seem. It enriches our lives. Do we want to pay for it? Yet we pay millions for hockey.

Creativity for creativity sake. Take the commercial out of it. Is that the answer? Is the answer to change expectations. Is the answer to refuse to be exploited, refuse to participate in being paid less than?

  • When I learn that a community newspaper in the Yukon owned by Black Press is essentially paying only slightly better than the starting wage for reporters 20 years ago, it makes me shake my head.
  • When I learn that a magazine in Victoria is paying less now for  freelance than just a few years ago when the rates were already crappy, it makes me angry.
  • When I learn that a national real estate magazine is paying $30 cents a word which would be $300 for 1,000 words, I have a problem with that.  Shouldn’t I?
  • I want to know whether AdBusters is actually paying writers when they put out a call for submissions to one of their themed issues or does AdBusters need to be busted for their hypocrisy in how they might be treating some of the people who provide their content.

It makes me think about Mona Fertig’s project on Unheralded Artist of BC. (Video)

Were the Beatles both cultural entrepreneurs and artists? What about Mick Jagger?

How have you reconciled your desire to participate in creative work and your need to to be able to support yourself and balance the two?

A few links about Creative Entrepreneurship, which, I know is different from art, or is it?