Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Les Mis-érables

Ooooh, wasn't that a clever postmodern pun!

So, apparently the average artist in Canada is "almost poor." (Anyone else wondering how much it cost our esteemed institutions to come to this earth-shattering discovery?) That is, if you only consider the income they make from their artsy work and ignore the money they make from their fartsy work.

But "In 2005, 42 per cent of artists said they took part-time jobs, compared with 22 per cent for the overall labour force." Newsflash: the other 22% didn't "take" a part-time job; many of them probably had no choice and had to "take" several such jobs to pay for rent, food, transportation and such. These are the people we might know as actually poor. I hear their hearts are bleeding for the almost-poor artists.

Another thing: how many artists at or below the poverty line (set for a single person in a city of 500,000+) are actually single people in cities of 500,000? What kind of dough do their spouses make? (Full disclosure: my mother is a full-time artisan whose net income is well below the single-person-in-a-city line. She lives in the country in a province with fewer than 200,000 people. My father is a retired deputy minister. My mother used to be federal civil servant. She much prefers being a poor artisan.) Is a tenured professor who teaches a subject related to his or her artistic professor an artist or an academic? It would seem the latter, since the "aristocracy" is identified as being comprised of "producers/directors/choreographers." This skews the numbers something fierce, considering the number of writers who work for university English and/or CW departments.

Interesting to note that 42% of artists are self-employed. At least we know who's exploiting those poor fuckers.

My favourite part:

What makes the situation even more distressing is that artist earnings have been decreasing since 1990 – a decline likely to intensify over the next two years. While average earnings for the overall labour force rose by almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2005, artists experienced a slide of 11 per cent – to $22,731 from $25,433 – at the same time as the cultural-sector work force tripled in size. Actors experienced the sharpest decline in average earnings among artists, dropping 34 per cent to about $18,000 in 2005.

It takes a really piss-poor grasp of maths--something for which artists are notorious--not to get this. I think it's safe to assume that the non-cultural workforce did not triple in the 15 years between 1990 and 2005. If it did, boy would the average wage take a hit! That the cultural workforce did triple, and that--recall--42 per cent of that workforce is self-employed, and that the wages dropped--all this might just signify, oh, I don't know .... that there are too many artists for the amount of money available!!! Y'know what, I bet it's those foreign artists, you know the ones, the "exiles" from Bosnia and Iran, coming here and taking our arts dollars. Those bastards.

Finally, what the survey doesn't even pretend to address, because it's not quantifiable: shitty artists don't deserve to earn a living by their art. Many do anyway, but that's another story.

(from CanCult)

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