Art Update: Unemployment Is Kaput!

Yep. Federal Unemployment Benefits have ended, and it's impacting artists all across this country. Including me. So....shameless plug: Buy a t-shirt & support an artist.

Vlog: Federal Unemployment Benefits Are Kaput!

Note: I am writing this note as a public reminder to myself to start with a verbal description of myself and my surroundings if I’m gonna be making any video longer than 60 seconds. I want these videos to be as accessible as possible. I’m learning, and I know I’m gonna screw up. So if you’ve got feedback or suggestions on how to make them more accessible, please leave a comment.



Hi there family, comrades and neighbors. It's Jason Wyman, here, with another Art Update. It's happening. Yes, another week, another Art Update. I'm actually keeping my word.

This week I want to talk not necessarily about art or process, but I actually want to talk a little bit about federal unemployment. A lot of artists, myself included, we get paid by 1099. We're contract workers. The same way that Uber drivers are contract workers, or the same way that Doordash, your delivery driver, is a contract worker. There's a lot of different kinds of contract work out there. And artists often get paid by 1099.

Frequently, what that means is that when we don't have contracts, or when we don't have work, we don't have money. And we also do not qualify for benefits, like unemployment insurance, especially at the state level. Well, thanks to COVID, the federal government actually gave an extension of federal unemployment to 1099 workers. And I had the good fortune of benefiting from that when my contract ended at the end of 2020 and it was not renewed for 2021. So for the last nine months, eight, nine months, I have been receiving federal unemployment insurance, and it has been a lifesaver. It has allowed me an opportunity to talk to other artists to make work to look for work to look for work that I want to be doing, not just jumping back into being a barista.

And truth be told, it's been an amazing, creative, synergistic generative space. It's how I was able to get Art Camp off the ground. And it's how I was able to do my Queer and Trans Artist Salons. It gave me time to work with John to put together our shop Queerly Complex. That is literally what federal unemployment was able to do for me.

I want to bridge this a little bit and say that the federal unemployment, the guaranteed money that I was able to get every month, directly helped me to be able to cultivate stuff, not just for myself, but for my community and my communities of weird, odd and different queer, trans disabled, Black Indigenous folx all over this country, and really actually all over the world. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to do pretty massive things related to my own art career because I would have been hopping back behind the counter just to sling coffee.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with slinging coffee. In fact, I do love a good coffee. I love being a barista, actually. And also, I love being an artist. And rarely have I had time to actually dedicate to just simply making my art. I have always had to do some sort of hustle in order to make my work the way I want to make my work. I don't mind the hustle, but goddamnit the hustle is fucking exhausting. And for the last eight months, I've literally had space to breathe and to be imaginative. And I was able to imagine a new way of doing my work.

I'm not alone in this. I've heard this from so many other artists across this entire country, everywhere. That the pandemic for as shitty as it is, has also provided us a safety net, to actually be creative and to make change and work within our own communities, however, it is that we want to define them.

And that brings me to, we really need a continued unemployment insurance or we really need...another way to put this is: to just invest in people and trust that people when given financial resources will do what is needed for themselves and for their communities. I wholeheartedly believe that when given money, people will do, especially poor people, especially marginalized people, will do things with that money that may come greater impact in their communities than any wealthy person ever fucking could. I guarantee you that. Yeah, sometimes that money is going to be mismanaged. It's going to be spent on things that you know others are going to deem unacceptable or unworthy. And there's going to be a lot of judgments on poor people because there's always fucking judgments on poor people.

Still, poor people do more for their communities than rich people.

It's just true. When you don't have enough, you know that partly, to be able to survive, you have to spread the love. Like, that's literally how you survive is by spreading the love around and making a community. So I really want to push harder to really think differently about how we think about funding people, actually.

I've had a lot of work lately in writing specifically about arts finance training. And again, I've had an opportunity to talk to a lot of different artists underneath this moniker of arts, finance, training. And again, and again, and again, and again, and again., and yet again, what I hear is, "just give artists money,." Stop having all of the hoops that we have to jump through in order to prove our legitimacy, especially for artists that are creating on the margins.

I don't know that I have a policy solution to all of this. I think universal basic income is something that gets us close to that. I think unrestricted funding for artists, specifically, Indigenous, Black, trans, queer, immigrant, disabled, POC artists is crucial to making a world in which we can actually thrive.

That's really what I want to see. I want to see all of our communities thriving, living fully on a planet that is actually able to be inhabitable. to us. That's going to take radical change. And I know that that's scary. But over the last eight months, maybe it's the space that I've had. But my fear is gone. I want that world. And I want that world fucking now. I don't want to wait for it in some distant fucking future. I want to create it right here in this moment in this space and time because if we don't create it now, we won't have an habitable world for us. It's just that plain and simple.

Well, that's all I got. Thanks so much for tuning in. Ciao for now.

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