It is frightening how the coronavirus has upended us in so many ways we never imagined. Art and education have both been greatly impacted. The damage that is being done to artists and to the organizations and institutions they depend upon for their living is devastating. The pandemic demonstrates the tenuousness of the income of artist educators in what has too long been a very fragile support system minus health insurance or a 401 (k). The financial harm to artist educators and the ability to earn a living overwhelms.
Some questions: What is necessary to build a professional career as an artist educator? What hiring challenges do independent contractors face? What protections and supports need to be in place to aid in immediate recovery and to ensure that there will be work in the future? What will attract young artists in the future? What needs to be put into place by funders, organizations, institutions, and school districts to redirect their thinking to address the career of an artist educator as a visible, respected, contributing part of the labor force? Can well defined supports be brought into a unified vision of what is needed?
How are the present supports organized and are they working? If we begin to think of a new model for artist educators will we be stuck with a lesser version of a model that does not work well now? Before the pandemic was there a growing economic inequality for those working in the arts? How can the relationship between artists, funders, organizations, institutions, and school districts be reinvigorated to stimulate and create conditions for relationships to grow, flourish, and become sustainable?
Emergency grants do not address the present fragile support system. This is now an opportunity for all of us to think about artist educators as a labor force that can strengthen communities, organizations, schools, and institutions and create resources necessary for their professional growth and career development.