Friday, October 3, 2008

Arts Survey: Stories from Struggling Artists

Here are some of the more compelling stories from the people who have filled out the survey on the arts. Let us know what you think by commenting below. I have redacted any data that could be used to identify the writer so as to protect anonymity. No Spell checking has been done.

Can you comment on a period in your artistic career when your financial security was jeopardised or share a general comment on what it is like to be a working artist financially? (If you do not want this answer shown publicly - please say so in the body of the comment)

"When my daughter turned 16, she said to me, "No offense, but I don't want to work in theatre. It sucks to be this poor." I have worked 60-80 hours per week for 6 years running, and we literally live hand to mouth."

"Working as an artist there is no job security. My design contracts are all only 3 to 4 weeks long so I have two jobs, one as an artist and another as a job hunter. As most artists are self-employed there is no EI, workers comp, health insurance or rrsp program. It is a very stressful environment in which to create because you are always worried about money and your future."

"in order to push my career in a vital direction, I lived on a grant of $4200 dollars over 3 1/2 months, and lived in a different city. This meant keeping my Toronto apartment (which I share) and paying for another in said city, as well as other unrecoupable expenses like gas and food. my car needed serious fixing in order to do the grant, as did my computer, as I am dependent on a functioning computer. I ate into my meagre RRSP savings and am still trying to make up lost time. The up side is, that those 3 months provided some of the best training and networking in the country, and I wouldn't trade that for anything!"

"Until I decided to put my art aside and keep my family afloat by teaching, we never had savings. We couldn't buy a house until we were in our fifties and our second hand cars were driven into the ground until they died. We have had to turn to our parents a number of times for assistance - and to the Actors Fund - because when our child was very small, I became quite ill and couldn't work. There was no support system for us! However, we have had a wonderful life doing wonderful work with amazing people but it has been very hard at times. I have only been to two galas in my life and neither cost more than $50 entry. Rich? Hardly."

"What is frustrating at the moment is that I am making less money now than I was 5 years ago. And the money that I make now takes more work to get. "

"I spent the last year working as a freelancer as full time minimum wage work left little time for anything else and was still not enough to make ends meet. While the first month or so went well, work quickly dried up and I found myself scrambling for 6 months, unsure at times how I would pay my rent. My field within the arts requires that others hire me to work for them. The "if your art is good, people will buy it" simply does not hold up if there is no one left to hire me."
"... No where else do people work as hard for such little payoff, money, or glamour...we all invest so much of ourselves and get shit upon the whole time by lack of support...."

"In the last twenty years of working as a professional actor I have always had to work anywhere from one to three additional jobs to make ends meet. For many years I consistently earned well below the national poverty level. To work in the Canadian Arts is to do so knowing that work will always be hard to come by and that the absolute best you can reasonably hope for is a chance to practice your craft at a wage that will allow you to survive without having to hold down a full time job outside your chosen career. I have never wanted anything more out of life than the chance to do what I do best and practice my art with the reasonble expectation of making a decent living wage. Without the support of our government even that meager hope is gone."

"Some days I have to rely on the scraps left over from fancy galas for my lunch."

These are the first of many stories that I will share on this blog. I will send these comments to the national party leaders to give a voice to those who are sacrificing to work in the arts.

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