Those who contribute vital resources must be sufficiently compensated before the fruits of their labor are redirected to other causes.

The NAVEL programming space in Downtown Los Angeles.

025 — The process addiction known as grantwriting. Singing with synthesizers. Whats Airtable got to do with distributive equity?

DISPASSION is a newsletter about art, digital media, and emotional detachment produced by ‌NOR RESEARCH STUDIO.



We’re picking up the pace with our programming at NAVEL. In addition to our grant and art business workshops, our friends at FAMILY AFFAIRS STUDIO and musician CAT MAHATTA are each offering some unique programming through our WORKING GROUP Z INITIATIVE over the next month.


Designed for artists seeking to diversify their income streams and lead an independent studio practice, RAINMAKER is a series of workshops that provide structure and guidance for artists who desire to work through and analyze their financial trauma and money wounds. 


THE FIRST $5,000

Tuesday, February 6 | Online
10am PT

This 90-minute overview session asks artists to compare the grant funding offered through nonprofit organizations with the entrepreneurial activity they can conduct by selling their work as either a product or service. ​Artists interested in reducing their dependency on institutional funding are encouraged to attend.

Using $5,000 to model the budgeting and application process typical of most entry-level grants, the overview session will present models for making the same amount of money over the same period of time. Crucial to this exercise is a deep examination of the lack of financial transparency in the field of arts education.

Tickets, alternative times, and more RAINMAKER programming


Thursday, February 8 | Online
2:00pm PT

​In this 90-minute workshop, participants will write and edit grant proposals using Creative Capital’s application. Artists who are curious about improving their application materials are encouraged to enroll.

After reviewing and analyzing a handful of funded projects, participants will prepare their own log lines, short (250 words) and long summaries (500 words), and personal statements. ​The session will end with some strategies for transforming individual grant applications into reusable materials.

Tickets, alternative times, and more RAINMAKER programming


NEW SOUNDS is a workshop series that examines music study as a liberating somatic practice. Beginning with introductory vocal music and synthesizer courses, the series culminates in audio production, songwriting, recording, and live performance workshops. Participants will draw inspiration from and integrate visual art into their broader interdisciplinary multimedia practice. 

Singer-songwriter Cat Mahatta


Tuesday, February 13 | IRL

In BREATH AND BODY USE FOR SUSTAINABLE SINGING, participants will learn to experience their body as an integrated instrument and how to care for and maximize the potential of their voice as an extension of their identity. During the two-hour session, we will cover breathing technique, vocal anatomy, posture, active relaxation, and other Alexander Technique strategies of body use. We will learn the functions of warmups as we build our own and apply them to songs selected by the participants.

Tickets, alternative times, and More NEW SOUNDS programming


Thursday, February 15 | IRL
6:30pm PT

​In WHAT ARE ALL THESE KNOBS?, participants will explore the various features of their synthesizers and begin to dial in a sonic palette for their composition. We will cover the fundamentals of synthesis - waveforms, frequencies, resonance, modulation, filters, patches and more. We will try out different sounds and improvise by ear in group polyphony exercises, responding to prompts and visual art for inspiration.

Tickets, alternative times, and More NEW SOUNDS programming


AUTOMATED is a workshop series aimed at demystifying common workflow automation and collaboration tools like Airtable, Zapier, Slack, and Typeform, and building capacity for systems design thinking and digital infrastructure. Artists with research-based practices, cultural organizers, nonprofit admins, operations managers, producers, and anyone trying to expand their skill set are encouraged to attend.

Michael Holt of Family Affairs Studio


Thursday, February 22 | Online

WTF IS AN AIRTABLE? is a beginner’s crash course that walks participants through the workflow automation tool and collaboration tool Airtable. ​Over the course of an hour, the workshop will unpack what on earth workflow automation is and why it can be helpful for groups of collaborators small and large.

​The session will close with some illuminating use cases of Airtable and some directions for making your first Airtable base. Artists with research-based practices, cultural organizers, nonprofit admins, and anyone trying to expand their skill set is encouraged to attend.

Tickets, alternative times, and more AUTOMATED programming


Tuesday, February 27 | Online
10:00am PT

AIRTABLE FOR CULTURAL PROJECTS is a hands-on workshop for team leaders and organizers who want to build a database using Airtable. During two 90-minute sessions, participants will bring a proposal that addresses a problem their Airtable will address and leave with a rough build upon completion of the workshop.

Tickets, alternative times, and more AUTOMATED programming


An exciting part of our partnership with NAVEL is our ability to accept tax-deductible donations in support of our WORKING GROUP Z INITIATIVE, a multi-year campaign that hopes to revive and improve NAVEL’s arts-focused programming with an added profit-sharing model that allows presenting artists and cultural workers to retain most of the funds they produce through ticketed event sales. 

Right now, we’re trying to raise about $5,000 in earmarked funds for the initiative before February 15 and then another $100,000 over the course of 2024, with some funds coming from earned revenue and others coming from donations and institutional awards. If you’re able to make a donation, please visit this link. Likewise, please share this note with your network. Your contribution not only supports our work at NAVEL but allows us to distribute the resources, knowledge, and tools we develop through our platform. 

As part of the initiative, NOR will also be helping write grants and implement infrastructural changes at NAVEL that are meant to yield the organization around $1,000,000 in operating funds by 2025 and expand its Keyholder Program, which opens NAVEL’s more than 3,000-square-f00t programming space to a team of local artists, creative businesses, organizers, and partner nonprofit organizations to experiment with collaborative labor and compensation models.

Shoot us an email (studio@nor.la) if you want more information or you’re interested in pitching us paid programming ideas.


We don’t believe the hype about the economy and recognize that independent workers are particularly affected by market contractions. To that end, we’re offering discounted working sessions. For now, we’ll be reserving a few hours every Thursday for our clinicals, which can be booked as individual sessions ($30 for 45 minutes of brainstorming, editorial, business management, and fundraising support) — or group sessions ($200 for 90 minutes of brainstorming, editorial, business management, and fundraising support split by 2 or more people).  

If you have questions, please send us an email at studio@nor.la



The essay below was originally published in NAVELs newsletter to introduce our WORKING GROUP Z programming initiative.


Working with individual artists on projects ranging from print publications and grants proposals to web portfolios and contracts for the last five years has been an instructive experience. Because I primarily earn my income through arts-based services, I have no choice but to be keenly aware of the dynamics that, say, influence an organization’s funding history or that contribute disinformation to ongoing conversations about pay equity and sustainability.

But recently my attention has turned to the quality of educational programming at both collegiate institutions and independent arts organizations. There have been whispers about graduate programs collapsing as their relevance and hefty price tags come into question. At the same time, organizations that once provided robust public programs have quietly shuttered, citing issues like financial insolvency, dependency on no longer available grant funds, and staff burnout. With the exception of artist-workers who held roles in these orgs, none of these issues touched on the needs of artists. Instead, they arose from institutional neglect and bad business practices. 

Having worked within and alongside these organizations, I can calmly and confidently say they rarely considered the sustainability or quality of their projects until times of crisis. It’s a cycle that you can easily see sketched out in the news if you’re looking closely. More importantly, before figuring out why these crises occurred and determining how they could be avoided in the future, the same business and organizational models that failed were redeployed in the splinter projects that resurrected these causes. 

It might be painful to hear, but the truth of my argument is latent in the extractive compensation models that have become the norm in art and cultural organizations. To put it bluntly, ventures that need to underpay their workers to keep their lights on don’t just model bad business, they make for shitty culture. 


NAVEL is no exception to this criticism. And though the organization once supported a broad range of inspiring public programs — like its ASSEMBLIES forums and live performances from artists including Jermaine Spivey and Spenser ThebergeHarmony HolidaySebastian Hernandez, and Jasmine Nyende — the drastic changes that took place within the creative economies in the wake of the pandemic complicated its ability to continue doing so. 

But this is where the story gets exciting. Anyone who has participated in public dialogues about artistic labor, specifically artistic modes of inquiry and their value, knows there is much creative potential lurking in Los Angeles as well as a strong sense that businesses as usual could be more just, equitable, and transformative. So, instead of reviving the same conditions that placed independent art organizations like NAVEL into endless crises, we’re spearheading an initiative meant to illuminate an alternative, more sustainable path that seeks to reconcile how art and culture workers organize their relationship to money and labor.

At heart, the WORKING GROUP Z initiative is a thesis about institutional infrastructure. That thesis is activated through an experimental labor initiative, dynamic profit-sharing model, and their complementary public programs — meaning its various components are offered as evidence to be thoroughly interrogated. 

At the same time, the initiative is a response to NAVEL’s request that NOR help redesign its earned income revenue models. That redesign involves commissioning a wide array of education programming meant to help artists explore unfamiliar disciplines, cultivate a skill share network, develop a self-sustaining professional practice, and articulate the value of their creative work. Instrumental to this programming model is that notion that artist-workers should retain a majority of the profits they produce through ticketed programming. As part of the profit share, NAVEL will house and help promote these select commissions, but the artists themselves will also have to actively participate in the administration, promotion, and circulation of their own work to ensure the success of their project. If that sounds unfair, consider how frequently artists perform these labors only to receive a slim margin or the profits.

The motto I’ve been repeating while explaining this new model is “EQUITY BEFORE DISTRIBUTION,” meaning that those who contribute vital resources must be sufficiently compensated before the fruits of their labor are redirected to other causes. This principle directly accords with the physical realities we experience every day. If you don’t have resources, then you have no resources to give away. If you do have resources, it is important to allocate them properly or else risk depleting them before they can be used. Investing in the people, tools, and systems that allow you to sustain yourself is no easy task. But the real difficulty arises when trying to determine what is equitable among a group of collaborators. Instead of avoiding this tension, we plan to make it our central praxis.

WORKING GROUP Z is an evolving cooperative project. We’re currently testing different profit splitting arrangements as well as technologies that allow funds to rapidly pass through NAVEL’s coffers, where they can appropriately be tracked as revenue, and then passed to contracting workers without the usual months of lag and invoice hounding. We are certain to uncover a number of obstacles along the way, but the most exciting part of our experiment — at least to me — is what we will be able to accomplish with relatively limited resources. As an artist whose work largely arrives in the form of arguments and propositions, I know that even the slightest success on our part could disprove a number of mythologies about creative labor which have caused long-term harm to creative communities.  

To close, I offer one last proposition: A future solely comprising ideas is a fantasy. If you’re conditioning artists to operate in a reality without stress, consequences, risk, or liability, you’re preparing them for a world that does not exist.



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— FIN —

WYATT CODAY is intersex and autistic. She lives between Los Angeles and Chicago, where she is a practicing financial dominatrix. She is the director of NOR RESEARCH STUDIO.

GRIEVANCE is a column that features short-first person essays about labor disputes and broader economic inequity in the arts.

WORKING GROUP Z is NOR RESEARCH STUDIO's programming initiative at NAVEL in Downtown Los Angeles. The initiative offers events ranging from artist-led workshops, talks, panels, intensives, and learning groups.

NOR RESEARCH STUDIO is a design research studio that develops didactic media, exhibitions, publications, and other forms of intellectual property for artists, nonprofits, and creative businesses.