Letter: Artists need to be paid appropriately

I’ve lived in Jamaica Plain for 43 years (since moving here in 1973) and love the people, parks, and vibe of the place. We raised our two sons here and know the community well. I am writing about the Request for Proposals offered by the Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library to display three new works of art in the renovated Sedgwick Street branch library.

I’ve worked in a variety of professions for 45 years and left that world three years ago to become a sculptor. I relish the time I now have to make art and accept the many challenges that come with that pursuit. I have begun to develop a network of artist friends, as well as have actively participated in JP Open Studios.

I have to say that when I read through this Request for Proposals I was shocked by the paltry amount of $1,000 being offered to artists who receive one of the three commissions for the new space. Given the millions of dollars being spent on the new library building, I find it insulting that artists are being treated as an afterthought. Instead of a more significant sum of money that acknowledges the energy and effort that we, as artists, invest in our work, the Friends provided a very small remuneration that hardly covers the cost of materials, overhead, and taxes.

By my calculation, after deducting these expenses and considering the hours that would be required by me to develop a concept, obtain the materials and make a finished piece, not to mention the time to prepare and submit a proposal, have interviews and other meetings, my hourly compensation comes to almost $10.00/hour.

Now this issue isn’t entirely about the money, but it actually IS about the money. I’m sure many artists will submit proposals because it will be “good for their careers.”  From my perspective, each of us deserves fair compensation for our labor, and money is one way we value productive activity. Offering a more significant award (in the $3,000 to 5,000 range for each work) goes a long way in valuing the amazing work of artists and the contributions they make in creating a vibrant and energetic place to live. A $1,000 award doesn’t come close.

As much as I’d love to submit a proposal for my art for this wonderful new library building, I’ll pass. The time, attention, and effort I invest in making my sculpture is worth more to me than $10/hour. Here’s a suggestion:  Increase the compensation amount to a respectable level—$3,000 to $5,000. This will send a powerful message to us artists that you truly value, respect and appreciate what we do.

Allen Spivack

Jamaica Plain resident


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