From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Patricia Maloney’s response to the workshop “Gauging the Gray Area: Standards for Artistic Labor,” which was part of the practicum Valuing Labor in the Arts hosted by the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley. Maloney notes, “…negotiation is the most demonstrable and effective means of creating agency.” This article was originally published on May 22, 2014.
“Gauging the Gray Area: Standards for Artistic Labor” is both the name of the workshop organized collaboratively by artists Helena Keeffe and Lauren van Haaften-Schick and its product. In their stated goals for the workshop, they posit that the prevailing measures for valuing artistic labor fluctuate between its contribution to a collective good (vis-à-vis a gift economy) and its potential for professionalization (with the ensuing promises of exposure), and that both measures leave artists and institutions with insufficient means to establish fair compensation. “Gauging the Gray Area”—the workshop—sought to formulate a set of standards by which artists can evaluate proposed opportunities (both compensated and non-compensated) as they arise, based on criteria related to the impacts and risks the terms on offer create for the artist. The resulting eponymous broadsheet is conceivably a viable tool to help artists measure subjective, difficult-to-quantify conditions, but its most effective application may be as a precursor to evaluating what negotiations are necessary and what precedents are established in the working relationships between artists and organizations.