A CRITIQUE OF THE LOS ANGELES VISUAL ARTS COALITION

An expanded critique of the Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition, which is a neither a coalition nor a functional organization.

A CRITIQUE OF THE LOS ANGELES VISUAL ARTS COALITION
Artist Andrea Sisson and NOR RESEARCH STUDIO Director Wyatt Coday at the Fulcrum Arts Annual Benefit honoring William Basinski and LIGO at Caltech's Carnegie Observatories in November 2018.

026 — It’s okay to call out assholes. It turns out people may not understand health insurance. Why arts admins may not be the best group to make decisions for their artist peers.

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


GRIEVANCE

DO NETWORKED NONPROFIT ADMINISTRATORS DESERVE ECONOMIC STIMULUS MORE THAN THEIR ARTIST CONSTITUENCY?

Last week I posted a letter on Instagram that briefly recounted my experience participating in a Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition Zoom meeting. As I wrote in my letter, that experience was less than positive and I took the opportunity to vocalize my concerns using some choice language mid-meeting. Below is a longer explanation of what I saw and why it concerns me. Broadly, I attempt to show how a nebulous arts nonprofit project with unrealistic goals received a considerable amount of funding using the right connections and sparkly political connotations. In my view, that’s a damaging precedent to set — one that I’m happy to deconstruct and denounce. 

The Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition (LAVA) comprises 33 member groups, all Los Angeles arts nonprofits except for two fiscally sponsored projects. Representatives from these orgs meet on a monthly basis — supposedly to discuss the ins and outs of running a nonprofit and provide a support network to their colleagues. The project arose in 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic, when nonprofit organizations of all stripes faced dire and unprecedented circumstances. Namely, without foot traffic, the ability to host in-person programming, their usual fundraising cycle, and dwindling resources to support staff, how would their doors stay open?

Though LAVA’s website does not disclose this fact, its founding members include Robert Crouch, executive director of Fulcrum Arts; Anne Ellegood, executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA);  Megan Steinman, who was the founding director of The Underground Museum from 2015 until 2020 and is no longer directly involved with LAVA (and is thus excluded from my critique at times); and Sarah Russin, executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) — all highly visible members of the Los Angeles scene for at least a decade apiece, and with overlapping résumés. There may be others, but it’s difficult to tell because only a few, like Steinman, publicly acknowledge their role in LAVA’s beginnings.

LAVA’s pan-organizational structure puts them in a unique position among Los Angeles arts institutions. Clearly, its founders have access to the inner ears of funding bodies and can also position themselves as a citywide resource for visual artists and cultural workers. In other words, they represent a bottleneck in the funding path — one that should concern Los Angeles artists, curators, and the majority of art and cultural workers in the city who are already wage, hourly, or freelance laborers. LAVA’s own member orgs already experienced this bottlenecking in 2023 when grants they individually applied to were largely given to LAVA, leading to a scenario where, after some bureaucratic uproar, one funder doubled their contributions so that the money could be distributed to the smaller orgs through LAVA. For an organization that claims to be taking a horizontal approach, the outcome of their efforts seems to have reproduced an even narrower trickle-down funding schema.

If you’re a self-employed art worker like me, you have likely worked with an organization one of these founding members runs, an organization they have partnered with, or are close to someone who has. Because most of my clients are art workers as opposed to art institutions — and that’s a choice — I hear, see, and have grievances about the status quo they actively help enforce. 

These collective woes typically revolve around issues like inadequate compensation, lack of financial transparency, and denigrative working conditions. An example that clocks all three of these tendencies involves a colleague who was instructed to write a grant for a show he organized as an independent contractor with the goal of paying his artist peers. Upon receiving the grant, he was told by his nonprofit partner that the funds would be used to cover other costs unrelated to his project. As he said to me, he would have never written the grant if he knew the funds would never reach the artists.

But what disturbs me most about this story is that while the colleague in question could represent at least five or six different art workers I know, the nonprofit at its center is the same and their individual experiences stretch from the past few years all the way back to the early 2010s. The executive director who has run that nonprofit in each of these cases is also an authoritative voice within LAVA. 

STRATEGIC AND STRUCTURAL CONCERNS

But let’s return to the present. After an initial organizing period that largely occurred over Zoom, LAVA announced last year that it had raised $2,660,000 in a “scalable, sustainable model” through which it would “collectively fundraise, share, and amplify financial resources and infrastructure.” However, it would be more accurate to say that LAVA had been gifted $300,000 by the Teiger Foundation in 2022 and later received a larger gift of $700,000 last year. The Mellon Foundation provided another $1,000,000 gift, including funds earmarked for “development staffing,” which yielded a job call for a “Fundraising Consultant” tasked with raising at least $3,000,000 per year over the course of two years. The consultant gig would pay upwards of $100,000 per year. (Other funders included the Jerry and Terri Kohl Family Foundation, Krupp Family Foundation, Ruth Foundation for the Arts, Metabolic Studios, and Betsy Greenberg.)

That said, aspects of LAVA’s strategy make sense to me. Consolidating common and basic needs creates solidarity and a collectively held goal. Dedicating funds to a team whose sole job is to raise money means more money to spend elsewhere. I’m also not against compensating a consultant at this rate. In fact, large portions of this strategy accord with what I call “consolidated mutual aid” — what’s absent is the mutual, reciprocal part. 

My views also tend to accord with how Teiger handles the compensation subject. The funder makes it clear in their grant guidelines that proposals should refer to W.A.G.E. standards when developing project budgets, specifically stating that it encourages “robust compensation” for artists but also “outside consultants, partners, and advisors, as well as writers, designers, photographers, web developers, etc.” So the question is in a relatively shapeless organization like LAVA, who or what is considered inside versus outside?

What I find concerning and strictly unsustainable about LAVA’s current structure is how unevenly power and compensation are distributed through and among the LAVA orgs — especially because, per the chaotic conversation I witnessed before speaking up, there has been no transparent dialogue about this massive imbalance. Not only is there a sizable gap between what individual staffers receive as compensation in these organizations and between what individual directors receive across the organizations, there is also an implicit demand that large bodies of work must be done on a volunteer capacity. (This was a point of disagreement I had with Ellegood, who defended LAVA’s dependency on volunteer labor when I said that working for free has no space in a business — art or non-art, nonprofit or otherwise.) Meanwhile, as directors helming nonprofits their salaries are publicly visible in government-mandated 990 reports, so it’s unclear why a conversation about money within an organization whose stated priority is providing its members health insurance seems so hair-raising.

To date, LAVA has a broader capacity to pay external contractors large sums than adequately compensate the individuals who stand in for its member orgs precisely because it has no infrastructure to pay these workers, who it default considers volunteers. In other words, its operations depend on indentured labor, which it largely accomplishes by conflating the individuals who comprise its various committees with the organizations they represent. (This is why the LAVA website shows member organizations, not LAVA committee members.) Moreover, LAVA’s compensation model as it is currently being enacted also violates the Equity Before Distribution Principle by consolidating resources in high concentration and distributing them to a third-party prior to compensating those who have done the labor to make that distribution possible. 

Likewise, the fiscal sponsorship strategy that is holding LAVA and its funding model in place means that while the budding project claims it has no officers, Fulcrum Arts controls these funds. In fact, federal law dictates that Fulcrum technically has discretion about how the funds it holds for LAVA will be used. (This is the skeleton key behind the earlier bait-and-switch grant example.) Per the contract between Fulcrum and LAVA, Fulcrum receives 1 percent of the networked organizations’ incoming funds. (The fact that Crouch controls these funds via Fulcrum also makes his statement that he has no power during our dispute even more laughable.)

LAVA’s is also an exception to Fulcrum’s usual contract, which siphons 7 percent of incoming funds. It’s noteworthy that Fulcrum fiscally sponsors more than 80 projects, meaning that they accrue significant funds simply by hosting other unincorporated sponsees. This was a point of much consternation when I served as a grant consultant to the Los Angeles Artist Census (LAAC), a Fulcrum-sponsored project. When I suggested that LAAC turn to Fulcrum and Crouch for guidance on topics related to structuring and operating a nonprofit, I was frequently told that Fulcrum did not provide much support and generally told sponsees to figure things out on their own. From the outside, it seemed like Fulcrum collected its percentage and didn’t do much in return.

Regardless, receiving $26,000 to hold money in an account is a good deal for an appointed conservator, and that amount is sure to expand once LAVA has even more robust fundraising infrastructure in place. But if those funds accrue without compensating the people who have put the most time, energy, and resources into the network, then none of this is equitable. It’s also a shitty, unsustainable, and extractive business model that has been at the center of many collapsing nonprofit businesses.

Meanwhile, LAVA holds its inside-baseball fundraising efforts as a “first financial success” and “proof of concept” that it will produce its “first dedicated hire.” Armed with $2,660,000 and they’ve yet to make a single hire or consistently and equitably pay member-workers? 

Sounds fishy to me.

THE FALSE PREMISE OF NON-HIERARCHICAL HIERARCHIES

Clout of the degree awarded to LAVA requires significant organizational responsibility. But how can anyone who falls under the broad umbrella of organizations that LAVA allegedly aims to host and support, let alone the constituents they serve, evaluate the organization’s actions and motivations if there is no clear idea what the hell it is or offers? Also, shouldn’t the people who develop that criteria be compensated? 

The LAVA website features no mission statement. Instead it presents an FAQs page spotted with ludicrous claims about its existence such as: “The LAVA Coalition was founded organically without a pre-existing governance or administrative structure. It operates on a non-hierarchical model without officers or formal positions in which decisions are made through open discussion and collectively.” The claim about being organically formed is subjective fluff, but my experience affirms the lack of a working governance or administrative structure. As for the statements about lacking officers or formal positions, that’s inaccurate for several reasons. Most obviously because there are formalized roles within LAVA ranging from Crouch’s legally required role as overseer of the fiscal sponsorship to the various committees who conduct break-out sessions to address topics like governance and fundraising. 

From there, in lieu of staff LAVA has member organizations, which contributes to the confusion about who holds decision-making power let alone what those member orgs are supposed to galvanize around because — precisely as it claims — it has no functional governance structure. A drifter like me was able to sit in on a meeting because there is no real means to discern who is or isn’t a member. Frankly until that moment, I don’t think anyone cared. 

While LAVA may present itself as a horizontal, consensus-driven entity, the reality is that its member orgs don’t have much of an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes either. The project that brought me into the meeting involved an Airtable build that would consolidate the sprawling organization’s various documentation piles, giving its siloed committees the ability to search through meeting notes, share feedback, and most importantly log who made what decisions and their reasons why. 

You would think that an organization with serious money at its disposal would at least have a functional Zoom account or pay its workers to set one up. Likewise, if an organization has that much cash at its disposal and recognizable internal communication issues, it would just pay one of its many trained experts to create infrastructure. But LAVA is a wittingly dysfunctional organization. In fact, some of its larger member organizations stand to benefit from the chaos. 

The behavior I saw during the February 7 General Coalition meeting gives some insight. 

Among several concerning behaviors from its key decision-makers, that met featured complaints about lacking a dedicated Zoom (the meeting cutout shortly thereafter), references to retreats upon retreats, widespread commiserating about burnout, and as far as I remember absolutely no dialogue about artists, art workers, or the state of labor conditions in arts. The valid complaints about a lack of LAVA Zoom account are comical because the organization has run on Zoom since its founding, but these complaints also seem to be a sore spot for Crouch who has been tasked with setting up the account — remember, he is the one in control of LAVA’s money. When asked about the Zoom account, Crouch got agitated, saying that he was “doing his best,” swatting down these entirely satisfiable requests as if they were an annoyance. That behavior is not an indication of stability or sustainability. 

Instead of these basic infrastructural needs being met — establishing a Zoom account takes less than five minutes and could have been completed during the meeting — there was some talk about using the earmarked Mellon funds to hire an administrator from another lackluster and over-resourced arts nonprofit, who in my professional opinion is past their prime, for the fundraising contract. During that discussion, part of the rationale for hiring this individual was that he had been trying to leave his role for some time — as if his work needs were evidence of his efficacy. Meanwhile, the other party under consideration was named but otherwise not discussed. It went unacknowledged that this first individual serves on the advisory committee of Fulcrum Arts and has been a long-time friend and collaborator to Crouch.

The next leg of the conversation, which contained a dispute about conflicts of interest, makes this last point strike a vital contrast within LAVA. Moving to the governance committee, on which my colleague at NAVEL, Michael Holt, sits and was presenting a proposal that, if accepted, would result in his creative studio, Family Affairs, building an Airtable database that could house documentation from across the more than 30 participating orgs. The conflict of interest question arose precisely because Michael asked to be paid at a discounted rate for this work while, too, being a member of a member org and the coordinator of the governance committee.

Meanwhile, there was generally confusion among members about where to find information, what committees various members served on, and whether or not it was a conflict of interest to pay an active member below market rate to build a database that renders LAVA’s non-hierarchical hierarchy legible. Apparently, it was assumed that such tasks, easily requiring months’ of work, would be completed on a volunteer basis? Or rather, that nonprofit professionals whose yearly salaries have historically lagged behind other industries are not able to recognize how much of their work they give away for free or drastically below what others with similar skills make? 

This is the same organization that received $700,000 from the Teiger Foundation in 2023? A foundation who, in their statement about their granting decision, acknowledged that many of the issues LAVA is trying to address were “exacerbated by but definitely [predated]” the pandemic? I agree with Teiger that there is a need for a new model, but I’m not sure an organization filled with rank-and-file nonprofit workers from organizations that were dysfunctional before COVID makes the most sense. 

Consider former LAVA member org The Project X Foundation for Art and Art Criticism known, colloquially known as X-TRA, which folded earlier this year after a decades-long battle to financially stabilize. It should surprise no one that the nonprofit and its magazine shuttered. Its business model made no sense: it published the same content to its print magazine and website, which gave readers no meaningful reason to purchase copies of the magazine except for the glossy design when they could easily read its contents online for free. This was an issue I brought up when I worked for the magazine as a contractor in 2019. I was forthrightly shushed. It seemed like the plan was to rely on large grantors like the Andy Warhol Foundation until the end of time. Then as now, sustainability was absolutely not a concern.

AN ASSHOLE IS AN ASSHOLE IS AN ASSHOLE

With all this information already swelling in my head, sitting in on the meeting was too much for me to stomach. So while I had only been asked to observe the meeting, I decided to experiment with a means of providing feedback that I know is considerably more effective and has documented uses

I called Robert Takahashi Crouch an asshole — specifically a racist asshole. Crouch had been defensive about getting the Zoom account, tried to pass off legitimate critiques of the org’s infrastructure as scapegoating another member, and stonewalled discussions about properly compensating members whose contributions go far beyond what should be accepted as volunteering. I said that he was exactly as I remembered him years ago when I was hired by Fulcrum Arts (formerly the Pasadena Arts Council), the nonprofit where he has sat as executive director since 2017 and where he previously served as curator since being hired in 2013. (Let’s not forget the reason behind Crouch’s promotion and the org’s subsequent name change: misused funds.) Among those low-wage gigs I performed was handing William Basinski a lifetime achievement award during a fundraising gala to celebrate his musical achievements. 

I know Crouch is an asshole and a racist because during that earlier period I expressed concern about being the only Black worker in a number of art spaces. I didn’t expect Crouch to sympathize, but I also was surprised that he mocked me in response. “Well, duh, you’re the only one they’ve hired,” he said. (Interestingly, he never denied this retelling when I shared it during our controversial encounter last Wednesday.) 

Honestly, I don’t really take issue with Crouch or think there is much harm in letting other people know what he certainly knows about himself. This isn’t Crouch’s first time being outed as an asshole, a racist, a powermonger, or an ineffective nonprofit administrator. My reason for drawing attention to these aspects of Crouch is that they directly relate to his views on compensation and labor value. It makes no sense to have him involved in LAVA if it functions as a coalition as opposed to a resource-hoarding pipeline where he turns the money valve.

There is also a question of whether or not LAVA can keep pace with the goals it sets. Let’s return to the proof of concept statement from above. In full it reads, “This first financial success is proof of concept that will allow us to make our first dedicated hire and to evolve our next goal of providing health insurance to all 180 full-time and part-time employees who work at member organizations by the end of 2023.” So far, those insurance payouts have not been distributed. It seems that any progress toward this goal has been put on hold until LAVA is able to hire their fundraising consultant. From there, they’ll need to assemble a committee who can direct the distribution of the insurance funds. But these details skip over the fact that LAVA had no governance model until its funders requested one as an accountability mechanism. The same infrastructure they claim to operate without has been reintroduced behind the scenes to lend credibility to the project. As expected, this retroactive divining of a governance model has largely depended wholly on uncompensated labor. 

But I digress.

Assholes are people who hold other people to a higher standard than they hold themselves. They are people who easily crack during conflict, and have a deep, physical urge to demand fealty when feeling hurt. I knew that calling Crouch an asshole would draw these traits to the surface. I also knew that he would likely accuse me of being a violent or mentally ill man because, like I said, I’m familiar with his racism and what he has said about me behind my back. However, I’m not sure if some of the LAVA members are able to parse both the racism and the ableism behind his statement. I’m not a man after all

Assholes cannot be allowed in any group that intends to be functional. Their insecurity is contagious and they will do everything in their power to hold the role of both victim and enforcer. With these conditions in place, and abetted by enablers, they silence and ostracize dissenters. It’s a tale as old as time — one that any person who works in the nonprofit sector is aware of even if they pretend otherwise. 

There is also the strange effect that assholes have on their peer workers. For example, though I understand the dynamics at play — I’ve addressed them in other work environments and have been trained to identify and remove assholes from my projects — I remain surprised that other people in the room during the fateful meeting who were clearly displeased with the dialogue before my intervention would care so much that I had sunk to “personal attacks” and “name calling” when clearly both of these denigratory tactics had been put to use behind the scenes. 

What they were unable to see was that my interjection was meant to corral people toward me as the scapegoat. That’s the thing about asshole-infected environments, they’re easy to manipulate, overworked to the brink of inefficiency, and — especially when underpaid or volunteer workers are involved — the circular forms of bureaucracy they invent in order to stave off dealing with actual issues create countless openings for someone like me with management experience and a history of introducing triage measures to test where the organizational blockages reside. For the better part of an hour, LAVA’s real operating structure was suddenly laid bare.

I’m sure that in the few days it took me to write and edit this piece, including a weekend interlude of twiddling my thumbs and wondering if I had said everything I needed to say, there has been a chain of emails, text conversations, phone calls, and oral conversations that will culminate in a motion to form a committee who will convene to decide what, if anything, needs to be done about me before sending that decision to the larger group for ratification. Predictively, none of the individuals involved in conducting this draining emotional labor will be compensated. Instead, much like an earlier group within LAVA who tried to orchestrate a ceasefire statement with respect to the genocide Israel is conducting against the Palestinian people, these volunteer workers will probably be stuck in an irresolvable deadlock where their loyalty is questioned and all parties except those pulling the strings walk on metaphorical eggshells. Heaven forbid they do or say the wrong thing and lose the chance to be taken advantage of even further.  

INSURANCE REALITY CHECK

It might cut closer to the heart of LAVA’s misgivings if I retitled this essay DO MISGUIDED NONPROFIT ADMINISTRATORS DESERVE SUBSIDIZED HEALTHCARE MORE THAN THEIR CONSTITUENCY? I’m a self-employed artist whose disability and chronic illness require near-monthly interactions with doctors, in part because I have not yet been able to receive a diagnosis that explains the symptoms I regularly experience, which are closely associated with sometimes life-threatening medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma, and lupus.

In fact, since January 2023, I have been referred to specialists ranging from dermatologists and rheumatologists to endocrinologists, urologists, and cytopathologists. This range of tests and treatments is typical of any person who has an intersex condition, which usually leads to a number of related chromosomal, hormonal, and developmental complications in the body. To make matters more manageable, I switched insurance about halfway through last year and began paying for insurance out of pocket, planning to deduct the expenses from my taxes like many small business owners do. In the future, when I can afford it, I plan to upgrade to a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan so that I can have even more discretion over my treatment — an expense I could technically justify now but which would eat away at my ability to deduct other business expenses like equipment and my studio rent. 

Having shopped for insurance as both a director of a company and as a private business, I’m aware that California’s health insurance premiums are significantly cheaper than, say, New York, where even entry-level insurance can cost up to five or six times more than comparable plans in California. Considering purchasing insurance for a small team of employees in New York in 2022, I found myself deferring to a health care stipend that added more money to my paycheck than contributing $500 a month to a Bronze insurance plan whose costs I would split with my employer. I also recognize that people with families have additional health insurance and treatment costs, but that dialogue can be taken up in a later critique.

Today, I spend about $250 per month on Gold coverage for my health, vision, and dental insurance. In other words, I pay about $3,000 per year plus out-of-pocket fees like deductibles for insurance that gives me access to quality care. As a self-employed person whose annual income for last year will likely land above $80,000, that $3,000 will help reduce my tax liability from $16,000 to $12,800 while also removing any concern I have about having access to medical care. In fact, in the future, I plan to place all of my deductible medical expenses on one credit card attached to my business. 

If you’re unfamiliar with self-employment, tax deductions, and having to purchase your own insurance, I’m sure all of this may sound confusing. But what I’m hoping to illuminate is the misguided nature of a string of nonprofit workers, who very likely survive at least in part on freelance or self-employment income, viewing health insurance as a particularly gruesome obstacle to overcome. As it stands, there must be a segment of LAVA who either have health insurance or possess the means to acquire it without considerable labor, and I question if they are the ones who should be leading the efforts to distribute it. 

Having done the napkin math myself, I similarly question whether some of the organizers in LAVA who are rallying behind this unfulfilled promise actually understand how much healthcare costs. If the workers who had contributed hours of unpaid labor had instead picked up commissions or gigs, they could have afforded insurance on their own and had greater say over their options. For example, if they were paid a fair rate for their contributions — let’s assume a less-than-competitive rate of $50 per hour — they would be able to afford quality insurance on their own after working on LAVA projects for about 5 hours per month. If you saw this financial perspective, why would you volunteer hours of your time for benefits that you’ve yet to receive? Benefits that you could acquire on your own if you had simply been paid the below-market rates associated with work in your industry instead of giving your labor away for free?

I sense there is some financial trauma afoot at LAVA, mostly because there are many member orgs whose executive directors receive salaries that have sparsely changed for the last decade. In many instances, these directors work full-time and yet have never received salaries that crested above $70,000 — the amount that was previously held as the minimal viable salary to live independently in Los Angeles. This is especially concerning given the rising cost of living and inflation that has become normalized in the aftermath of pandemic. Without crunching the numbers, it seems safe to assume that these workers have considerably less purchasing power than a decade ago and haven’t even seen a meaningful raise in their pay. So why give away volunteer labor unless they were being baited by something like, say, health insurance?  

THE LAST STRAW

The last issue I hope to address here is one that is casually inserted in most of the reporting and press circulated about LAVA last year. The fiscally sponsored project is described as representing 34 diverse neighborhoods in Los Angeles, which rings especially hollow if you’re a moderately aware participant in the city’s visual arts scene. 

Skipping the many decades of controversy and forceful dialogue about gentrification and the arts in Los Angeles, it seems at best insincere to conflate where an arts nonprofit resides with the neighborhood it allegedly represents. This isn’t to say that all groups within LAVA lack a deep connection with their neighborhoods. Rather, I’m pointing out that conflating the neighborhood-oriented programming of groups like GYOPO, Self Help Graphics and Art, and Crenshaw Dairy Mart with exhibition spaces like JOAN, ICA LA, and LAXART seems to diminish the efforts these community-facing orgs put into their respective constituencies. As a result, these art spaces with clear connections to the international art market are given cultural coverfire through their participation in LAVA and presented as if they’re in “coalition” — a term with a specific meaning, context, and history that, given my critique thus far, cannot apply to their org.

Perhaps these appropriative gestures would sting less if there weren’t LAVA member orgs whose executive directors were able to commit to full-time volunteering at 40 hours per week — a point that I raise to emphasize what I said above about contract commissions and gigs and paying for insurance. It’s almost like some people in this fiscal project that wants to call itself a coalition have a vested interest in being associated with things like mutual aid, union organizing, and equitable work — but in only an aesthetic context. Meaning they don’t seem to know much about these topics aside from the fact that they want people to think that they theorize about them on a deep level.

Because I assume many will disagree with the points I’ve made above or take issue with the way that I’ve expressed them, I’ll just expedite this process and say that if I were forced to participate in “constructive” or “productive” dialogue about having to drum up the support of bunch of people who know next to nothing about “trust,” “friendship,” or even solidarity, that I would just recommend placing the people who have the most to gain and least to lose on the furthest fringes of the dialogue. Certainly far, far away from controlling the project’s funds — whether as individuals or acting in concert. Otherwise, LAVA offers only the same old model, but with even less efficiency, twice the performative political gestures, and an outsized capacity for empty critique all built on the credibility and legitimacy of the individuals who are the most vulnerable to the exploitative mechanism of its volunteerism ideology.  

Ergo, LAVA is a hard pass for me and I hope it is for you, too. Until then, I’m happy to be described as one of the many disembodied voices, others, and outsiders who must wait until the designated time and appropriate means have been established to participate in the cool kids nonprofit art club with the big money nepo connections and just enough people of color and radical queers to make the whole thing look believable. Cheers to all parties involved, I wish us all a merry social capital.

Sincerely,
Wyatt Coday, Senior Director NOR RESEARCH STUDIO


— AFTERS —

RESOURCES

← Rhizome Net Anthology
← Filip Magazine
← Holo Magazine
← The Content Technologist on Productization and Templates
← Hyperallergic Opportunities Listings
← Creative Capital Opportunities Listings

JOB LISTINGS

← Arts for Los Angeles Job Listing
← New York Foundation for the Arts Job Listing


— 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.

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.

studio@nor.la
nor.la
@nor_research_studio