Survey Prize Winner

The Young People Making a Living in the Creative Industries project is happy to announce the winner of our iPad prize for completion of our online survey.  We numbered all respondents who indicated they would like to be entered into the draw, and chose a number through a random number generator.

The lucky winner is Emmanuel Laflamme! Emmanuel is a Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist who started his artistic practice five years ago.

Emmanuel’s creative drive was motivated by a dream to create his own cartoon series, but when he realized how difficult it could be to create, sell, and produce and original concept, he turned to painting and drawing (“because that’s what I could afford,” he says).

After getting the push he needed, he started exhibiting his work, and has since moved to sculpture, prints, mural, installations and performance.  He says his main thing is “reappropriation,” combining references from art history with popular culture to create humour-driven compositions. Check out his work here.

Emmanuel has also worked as a designer in TV cartoon animation for the last ten years. Currently, he designs characters and backgrounds for Au pays des Têtes à Claques, which airs on TéléToon and YouTube. The series is now being adapted for the Anglophone market under the name Knuckle Heads, and airs on Adult Swim and YouTube.

Congratulations, Emmanuel!

Stay tuned for some early results from the data analysis of the online survey!

Confronting cultural appropriation: "We are to be celebrated"

Photo by Olivia Chandler @livchandler

Photo by Olivia Chandler @livchandler

The Ryerson Aboriginal Education Council and Ryerson School of Fashion assembled a lively crew of speakers for a panel on cultural appropriation in fashion and design last Wednesday evening.

Hayden King, director for the Ryerson Centre for Indigenous Governance, moderated the candid discussion between panellists Adam Jones Garnet, a Cree/Metis writer and filmmaker; Sage Paul, an artist and designer from the Caribou clan; Wanda Nanibush, an Anishnaabe curator, image and word warrior; and artist Kent Monkman.

The conversation flowed from jabs at Justin Trudeau’s headdress and critiques of the recently announced federal budget to suggestions about how to respond to claims that cultural appropriation is “flattering” – with a brief interlude by Nanibush about women who pee standing up – but cycled repeatedly back to the economics of cultural appropriation.

“Things are being taken for profit,” Garnet commented, referring to Urban Outfitters’ history of lifting work from indigenous creators, “The people that design came from are living in poverty.”

Nanibush agreed, adding that, “Indigenous designers should benefit from their own work.”

These statements may seem self-evident, but clearly the anti-appropriation message is still not getting through to some industry professionals. International fashion house Dsquared2 was heavily criticised by the panellists for their 2015-16 “Dsquaw” line-up, inspired by what the brand referred to as, “Canadian Indian tribes.”

Monkman spoke about the emotional labour involved with constantly being required to educate non-indigenous people about the violence inherent in appropriation. “We have to create the art and also bridge the gap of understanding,” he said, “I’m getting tired of educating people. It’s wearing me down.”

Despite this weariness, Monkman and the other panellists were engaging and articulate while voicing their frustrations with the fashion industry to a mostly non-indigenous crowd of students, staff, and community members.

Billed as an attempt to “unsettle the settler,” a term coined by reconciliation scholar Paulette Regan, members of the audience were hungry to learn how they could participate in de-colonising their design work while building partnerships with indigenous artists.

One question from the audience was asked by a Ryerson professor looking for guidance about how to respond to the students who come to him asking how they can use fashion as a tool for social change. Nanibush responded to this by explaining, “If the project is going to further entrench colonialism, then they should let it go. But if it destabilizes comfort, then they’re onto something really hot.”

Another suggestion from the speakers was to collaborate with indigenous artists, but Monkman noted that that, too, comes with ethical responsibilities for the non-indigenous party: “Collaboration is great, but it has to be reciprocal. Benefits have to be returned to the source.”

Garnet pushed the spirit of reciprocity in collaboration a little further, and requested that non-indigenous people learn to “step aside and allow indigenous leadership to happen.”

Nanibush echoed this, arguing that the colonial mentality of taking what is trendy or cool from indigenous culture but ignoring the intergenerational trauma and continuing effects of racism and colonialism needs to disappear. “People should come out and support our fights and share privilege – open doors and let indigenous people lead,” she said.

And the final lesson from the night? Buy your moccasins from Northern indigenous grandmas – they’ll last longer, look better, and your money will be going to the people who deserve it.  

Telling Diverse Stories on the Web

by Miranda Campbell

    

Photos by JoH (www.photobyjoh.com

In high school, Mathew Murray was an avid fan of teen dramas like The O.C. and One Tree Hill.  Watching TV with his Black and Muslim friends, Murray reflected on the whiteness of these shows, and asked who was being left out of the conversation about what it means to be a teen. As the creator of the show Teenagers, Murray is now asking “what’s going on being the scenes” in TV content creation, and seeks to tell the stories of “complex females, people of colour, and people’s whose sexualities don’t fit” into dominant representations.

This anecdote and a wealth of others emerged during a recent panel co-presented by the Independent Webseries Creators of Canada (IWCC) and the Bell Diverse Screenwriters Program that was organized and moderated by Emilia Zboralska, one of the Board of Directors ofthe IWCC. With the rise of discussions like #OscarsSoWhite, the lack of diversity in TV and film is now being widely acknowledged, but what to be done about it remains unclear.  The IWCC panel investigated barriers to entry into content creation in film and TV, and asked whether or not the gatekeeperless environment of the Web can foster a more equitable route into content creation.

In her PhD research, Zboralska is studying this question by analyzing the experiences of Web content creators, some of whom were featured on the IWCC panel.  Analyzing the data on labour in the screen industry, Zboralska has found a dramatic underrepresentation of women and minorities working in the field.  But her analysis of recipients of Independent Production Fund grants for web series has found that much of these dynamics are being reproduced with this funding.

Nonetheless, the panelists at the IWCC event advocated a “just do it” approach of pushing to create and tell diverse stories despite challenges and opposition.

When JP Laroque pitched his show Gay Nerds to networks, responses varied from “can gays be nerds?” to “all the gay stories have already been told.” For Samantha Wan, the frustration with being cast in limited and stereotypical Asian roles like mail-order bride and geisha led her to want to create her own work.  Assembling a diverse crew that included people of colour as writers and showrunners for her show Sudden Master proved to be a challenge when shopping the show to networks – broadcasters’ responses pointed to the “lack of experience” of these folks.  

For Bobby Del Rio, creator of IRL, these kinds of responses point to systemic barriers to entry in film and TV, where contacts, experience, and wealth create an uneven playing field. Del Rio argues that creating more diversity in film and TV starts with the overt desire to do so, pointing to the shared manifesto for his series that outlines central tenets for the show, like “creating a world you want to see.”   

Creating web series can be a way to connect immediately and more directly with audiences, and the panelists shared their experiences finding audiences who are hungry to see themselves reflected in the media.  Murphy suggested that it’s important to see all kinds of people in “normal situations.”  But creating a series directly for the Web also means encountering a world that can be toxic and hostile. Murphy noted that online comments about the female characters on Teenagers can be “slut shaming” and “pretty ugly.”

In her research on web content creators, Zboralska has noted the predominance of self-funding to create these shows, with shoestring budgets that can start with no money at all.  After getting the show created, a further challenge is to monetize the content that is released directly to the Web for free. Creators might hope for their shows to be picked up by networks, but create their content with no guarantees.

There are no easy answers for these questions, but the IWCC panel provide an important forum for some of these issues to be raised. Judging by the full audience at the event, these issues on are the minds of many.  The panelists ended their talk by listing sources of funding—sharing knowledge and resources and creating opportunities to do so might be one place to start.

Photos by JoH (www.photobyjoh.com

 

#FreeKesha, Protect Young Women

Seeking safety in the creative industries

by Anna Frey

Kesha and Lady Gaga - thewrap.com

Kesha and Lady Gaga - thewrap.com

Sexual harassment works – as does bullying more generally – by increasing the costs of fighting against something, making it easier to accept something than to struggle against something, even if that acceptance is itself how you end up being diminished; how you end up taking up less and less space.
— Sara Ahmed, "Sexual Harassment"

Since 2014 Kesha Rose Sebert has been fighting a legal battle to void the contract that requires her to produce music directly and solely with the man who raped and abused her, Dr. Luke. That battle is ongoing, but Kesha, as well as all of her supporters and, frankly, every other young woman in the creative industries, heard devastating news February 19 when the judge on the case denied an injunction that would have allowed Kesha to immediately sever ties with the abusive producer.

The comments made by the judge were deeply disappointing and dismissive of the ways many young women experience the creative industries: as dangerous and isolating.

Overwhelmingly, locally and internationally, women at the top of their creative games are being shoved out of the positions they’ve fought so hard for.

When Ayo Leilani of Witch Prophet said, “I can’t be a human,” about the pressures and expectations she faces as a woman of colour in the music industry she started a discussion at the Music Gallery earlier this month about the toll constantly performing unpaid emotional labour can take on one’s mental health.

We can point also to writer Scaachi Koul’s recent departure from Twitter after being hounded by leagues of white men throwing racist and sexist abuse at her. She’s still present on other platforms, but the range of her voice was abruptly and unfairly snipped.

Members of the Ottawa collective Babely Shades experienced a similar level of online vitriol last spring after pushing for more diversity in the city's music scene. They received death and rape threats after calling out the hurtful nature of a touring band's racist name.

I have deep concerns for the generation of young artists coming up behind us whose role models are being assaulted, threatened and silenced. This points to a wider trend of under-representing the accomplishments of women in the creative industries, illustrated this year by an all-male Juno nominations slate.

Where they can find hope, though, are in the brilliant gestures of solidarity that are happening between women who have often faced similar challenges.

Taylor Swift’s quiet quarter-million donation to Kesha was a reminder to some of us of nineteen-year-old Taylor’s relationship with a then-31 year old John Mayer in 2009 – no official accusations or trial happened there, of course, but Taylor’s 2010 song “Dear John” became an anthem of survival for millions of young women.

Another example of women empathizing with and amplifying each other’s voices is the fast and fierce friendship between baseball journalist Stacey May Fowles and Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere before and during Lucy’s participation in Jian Ghomeshi’s assault trial this winter. Stacey May’s heart-wrenching love letter to Lucy was a very public moment of tenderness during a trying time.

Without these public relationships of support between women my world would be a lot smaller and darker. Still, the questions always are (for me, anyway): how can we build a culture that supports and protects young women more diligently? Who are we missing out on, where are their voices, and what do they need in order to feel safe?

For Kesha, at least, the answer is obvious: to be free from a mandated relationship with the man who abused her and to be welcomed back into her creative community with open, supportive arms.

Challenging musical tropes: "Go forth fearlessly"

THE NEW BLACK: Challenging Musical Tropes Panel Discussion at the Music Gallery

by Anna Frey

Guests seated in the pews of St. George the Martyr church at the Music Gallery last Saturday night were gifted with an education in Toronto hip-hop history and granted insight to the struggles black women artists face gaining and sustaining success in the creative industries in the contemporary moment.

Moderator Alanna Stuart (Bonjay, CBC) joined Ayo Leilani (Witch Prophet, co-founder of 88 Days of Fortune), Val-Inc, Amanda Parris (CBC) and Garvia Bailey (JazzFM) for a lively and compassionate panel discussion.

“We were starting the panel back there,” Stuart joked as the five women took the stage already smiling and chatting with each other.

The central topic shifted almost immediately from “the new black” to the meaning of being “more black.”

“Being more black is being proud, being more visible,” Leilani offered, “being unapologetic.” She cited Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction and Norvis Junior as artists whose politics have set the stage for people like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar today.

Responding to Stuart’s question, “Are you ‘more black?’” Val-Inc explained, “It’s a different context, coming from Haïti,” where the cultural connection to Africa is felt more strongly.

Returning to ideas of pride and visibility, Leilani critiqued the lack of support for Frank Ocean since his coming out as bisexual. “I challenge stereotypes,” she offered, “because I’m a queer woman of colour in the hip hop scene.”

The tone of solidarity was maintained throughout the evening. Stuart got laughs from Bailey and Parris after asking if the broadcasters ever felt “boxed in,” and quickly changed her question to “how have you felt boxed in?”

“Now is a good time, because people are realising,” Bailey said, “but I struggled.” Comparing the CBC to a giant, slow-moving iceberg, she said her strategy for surviving and making change within the institution was to approach her work there like she was, “in it, but not of it.”

Parris, newer to the job, validated the battles Bailey had to win to attain the position and visibility in the media industry that she now has. “Thank you for paving the way for me,” she said.

After translating Stuart’s description of her from “experienced” to “oldest person on the panel,” Bailey took the lead on recognizing the Toronto hip-hop trailblazers that helped shape her ideas of how black music and musicians could be: Dream Warriors, Michie Mee, Women Ah Run Tings. Their innovation was out of pure necessity said Bailey, out of feeling like, “I may never be on this stage again.”

Parris quickly picked up on this, arguing for the development of systems and spaces to document and archive the work of black artists. “We’re so bad at remembering our history,” she said, pointing towards young artists today who feel like they’ve got to re-invent the wheel, not knowing of the work that was done before them.

That the panellists were personally familiar with the toll this type of labour can take was evident. “Taking a moment for self-health is really important,” Leilani urged. She referenced her relationship with 88 Days of Fortune and how she sometimes felt pushed into a maternal role in her creative community, a position that strips her of her right to be human and angry. “I’m invisible while this thing is visible,” she said.

Stuart spoke to the privilege of living and working in a major urban environment and asked what could be done to support young artists growing up in places with fewer resources.

Saying that she’d recently seen some videos coming out of the Jane and Finch rap scene, Leilani praised the time, talent and energy that young people were putting into their art. “These kids are doing it themselves,” she said, spurring a “preach!” from a member of the crowd.

The audience clearly felt a hunger too. Much of the Q&A period centered on grants – who allocates them, how to get an edge over other applications, and, most poignantly, how to get past the shame of asking other people for money.

Crediting Kanye West for helping her develop a “hip-hop mentality of entitlement,” Parris emphasized the importance of confidence. “Those people are not giving you charity,” she said, “they are making an investment. You have to walk in knowing you are a gift to them.”

“Make Your Own Movement and Keep Going”

Lida Pimienta’s “Get Your Coin Gurl” workshop at XSpace Cultural Centre

by Miranda Campbell

“If you don’t care about Rihanna, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose, you might as well leave.”

So began Lido Pimienta, Toronto-based artist, musician, crafter, and mother at her “Get Your Coin Gurl” workshop, held at Xpace Cultural Centre on February 20.

Directed at a female-identified audience, the workshop focused on the topics of “when to say yes, how to say no, and how to get paid” as an artist. Pimienta’s workshop addressed how patriarchal systems both lead to pay inequity for women, particularly in creative work, as well as internalized inferiority with regards to advocating for fair compensation and even one’s own self-worth. 

Pimienta acknowledged that Keeping up with the Kardashians might be seen as frivolous, but if the conversation was going to focus on making money, the audience should take a serious look at how the family built an empire out of nothing. Straightforward and funny throughout, Pimienta advocated for self-confidence and being true to oneself without resorting to the “basic bitchery” of begrudging others, and particularly other women, their success.

But before Pimienta encouraged the audience to “Be Kim,” she opened her workshop by acknowledging the First Nations people on whose land the workshop was taking place, reminding attendees of “the importance of saying something when taking up space” and of being mindful of one’s own privilege even when tackling economic inequities experienced by women.

Teaching what she has learnt by doing through her more-than-a-decade of experience in art and music, Pimienta shared her personal struggles with not getting paid fairly, with abuse, with racism and sexism, and with the difficulty of talking openly about economic matters.  Acknowledging that making a living as an artist is “not easy,” she shared her “several side hustles” of piecing together a living from craft fairs, curation, and grants, while suggesting the importance of treating art like any other job or business.

If art is a business like any other, how to get paid? Pimienta advocated for making clear contracts for all business transactions and not relying on verbal or email agreements, showing the audience the CARFAC website with the minimum acceptable fees for jobs in different creative industries.   Other tips included banning cutesy writing styles in business communication, with a zero tolerance policy for smiley faces, serial exclamation marks or the classic “xoxo.” She preached confidence in one’s work and not being afraid of definitely pricing it (“that’s $200,” not, “umm, well, I think maybe $200?”).

When to say no? Being asked to work for free or a being offered a substandard rate should merit a respectful but firm “thanks but no thanks” without fear of missing out on opportunities. Pimienta contrasted being asked to work for next-to-no-money by an established organization with uncompensated small-scale work that someone might do to support their community or develop their personal practice.

Key to making one’s own living is also being surrounded by a supportive network and supporting others.  “Don’t be Britney” (circa 2007), said Pimienta, reminding the audience of when Britney went off the rails and seemed to have no one around her advocating for her wellbeing. The workshop concluded with Pimienta leading the audience in a song about supporting other women (“Girl / When you see another girl / Walking down the street / When your eyes meet, SMILE AT HER / She is not your enemy / She is your sister”).

These kinds of frank discussions about the dollars and cents of earning a living as an artist are important—as Pimienta said, we still romanticize the lifestyle of the starving artist and often assume that making art is all fun and games.

When we don’t acknowledge the business and struggle of making a living as an artist, it’s difficult to advocate for change so that creative work can be more sustainable and more equitably spread. My Young People Making a Living in the Creative Industries project is setting out to document income and experiences in entry-level work in order to identify areas of challenge.  Please take the survey here if you are 18-35 and do creative work.

Creative Youth Workspaces

Here we gather images sent to us by creative youth, of the spaces in which they produce their work. From visual artists, to performers, to book-binders, we hope to exhibit the diversity of spaces in creative fields, that are used by young people as sites of inspiration, chaos, creation, and focus. If you’re a creative young person, we would love to feature your workspace. E-mail us an image of your space at youthcreativework@gmail.com, and feel free to include a little background on your creative practice.