Jenny Xie on cultural workers

“I’d like to take part in more conversations about the material conditions that enable artists and writers to produce, and the kinds of policy interventions needed to ensure that artists can financially sustain themselves. Quite often the conversations around art assume cultural production, such as poem making, isn’t labor, but primarily a passion and a privilege—one that we’re lucky to give our lives over to. Perhaps there’s a tendency to avoid linking art with work because there’s a fear this will come across as ungrateful and entitled. Having these conversations are vital, though, because we need to understand the vivid reality of being a writer and an artist—cultural workers—under capitalism, where very little to no value is assigned to creative work that regularly gets lauded as ‘necessary.’

Poetry and other art forms benefit from being insulated from market pressures, but that doesn’t mean pursuing creative work should mean financial insecurity. It’s appalling how many writers in this country live in states of precarity, without access to healthcare and savings, and how many genuinely struggle to sustain their creative work in a life full of material demands. In the community of writers I’m part of, people—and I include many arts administrators, publishers, editors, and event organizers in this— support one another regularly by giving over time and committing to countless labors of love. There’s something deeply moving about these relations, for sure, but it shouldn’t be solely up to artists to look after one another. Artists, like anyone, require some level of material security to support the conditions of their work, and not everyone whom we should, and need, to hear from has the privilege of inner spaciousness to think, imagine, and create. What kind of minds and voices are we deprived of because creative work is valued in one narrow sense but not in others?”

— Jenny Xie (via)