HOME    scores    RESPONSES    notes    about︎︎︎



Can everyone be paid
the same,or at least
more evenly?

by Art.COOP

Listen to the conversation between Art.coop organizers Marina Lopez and Caroline Woolard here:

Caption: page 43 of the Solidarity not Charity report that launched Art.coop in March 2021. The report was co-authored by Nati Linares and Caroline Woolard, commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts, and designed by Shea Fitzpatrick and Lucy Siyao Liu of Surplus+ Co-op. Download the report and learn more at http://Art.coop 

Art.coop exists to grow the solidarity economy movement* by centering systems-change work led by artists and culture-bearers.

*What is the solidarity economy movement? Around the world, groups that value collectivity and transparency (like mutual aid groups, giving circles, bail funds, and co-ops) have organized together to win paid training programs (yes paid education!), solidarity financial vehicles (yes, loans you only pay back if you can), and pro-cooperative policy platforms in what is known as the Solidarity Economy movement internationally. We are decades behind in the US / Turtle Island, but momentum is growing. We are here to connect with and build power with this energy.

In March 2021, Art.coop launched with a REPORT commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts and written by Nati Linares and Caroline Woolard. In September and October of 2021, we added Marina Lopez to the team and held a 7-week program called Study-into-Action with 105 cultural innovators and 7 facilitators. In November, we added Sonia Erika to the team to amplify research, inspiration, and resources as a communications organizer. We invited and received feedback from participants, interviewees, and people reaching out to us from around the world about Art.coop. The result? We heard from 100+ organizers, grantmakers, artists, and popular educators that Art.coop’s role in the solidarity economy movement is to:

♥️   CONNECT cultural innovators across silos in the solidarity economy movement,

📣   AMPLIFY research, inspiration, resources, and events that lift up this work,

💰   MOVE MONEY to multi-year, self-determined, systems-change efforts led by artists,

📚   STUDY together to practice spreading power and wealth and rooting it in community.

Caption: Art.coop collages, graphics, and art by Emma Werowinski, an information designer and artist making work about textiles + systems + the government. Sruti Suryanarayanan introduced us to Emma.

What follows is a conversation between two Art.coop organizers: Marina Lopez, dancer, somatic educator, and social practice artist, and Caroline Woolard, artist and Director of Research and Partnerships at Open Collective Foundation. Our full and transparent budget is available here, alongside 7000+ collectives who choose to share their budget publicly.

Caption: Art.coop collages, graphics, and art by Emma Werowinski, an information designer and artist making work about textiles + systems + the government. Sruti Suryanarayanan introduced us to Emma.

Can everyone be paid the same, or at least more evenly?

Marina Lopez: I love this question! When I first read it, my initial response was a resounding, yes, absolutely! And then I sat with it a bit more and felt a little stirring in my belly. When I dug in, I found that I was afraid that in a similar way that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion have become these boxes to tick, there could be a missed opportunity here to engage more deeply in the discourse around why. Why should or do people need to be paid more evenly? Why has there been a hierarchy around compensation? Who is privileged in that hierarchy and why? Who has it served and who has it not served?

And so I think that my answer is yes if it is accompanied by a commitment to investigate and explore these questions more deeply; these often uncomfortable truths. Especially around compensation because we are socialized and culturalized within these Colonial, cis-heteropatriarchal capitalist systems to believe that our human worth and value is equated in dollars. There is so much weight that people carry around the stories of money. There is so much that we need to unravel around our stories of money. There are many ways that we can collectively foster unlearning these beliefs. And there is healing we can do together if we choose to grapple and explore these questions.

Caroline, you and Nati have been profound teachers for me in my journey around this question of valuing myself and my labor in dollars. At the end of last year Art.Coop was internally in this place of transition where we'd undertaken and completed this big task of organizing a 7-week learning series for artists, culture workers, and grantmakers who are innovating in the field of Solidarity Economics.

Caroline, you asked me, “What do you need to continue doing this work?” And for a couple of months I stewed on this because no one had ever asked me that, so I didn't even know where to begin finding that answer. Somewhere I have journal pages and post-its where I am trying to figure out what that question means. We talked through my process until your invitation became clear, what is the dollar amount that would support you showing up joyfully in this work? That question was so profound because my experiences, my stories around money, have been that I have had to grovel, negotiate, and prove my worth and even then I have been met with resistance and shame for valuing myself in that way.

So for me, your invitation deeply acknowledged my humanity but it was also clear that you were asking me to recognize joy as fundamental to work and that money was a tool to facilitate my ability to show up, not a measure of my value as a person. This is really beautiful because as we transition from this extractive economic system that values our bodies for the labor they can produce, to an economy that values the our beings as a part of an intrinsic whole that contribute to the ecosystem, we need to dive deeper into these stories that are held within our bodies so that we can transition to an economy that allows for, nourishes, and supports joyful embodiment.

Caroline Woolard: Wow, first of all, Marina, when I hear this (context for the reader: we speak in voice memos to each other), I feel what Alexis Pauline Gumbs says “What is the question that will make your voice tremble?” These questions around money are these questions. To have you reflect back that I was able to ask that question of you, wow, it resonates. I asked: “What is the dollar amount that will allow you to show up at Art.coop?” To hear back the transformation that made in you, and the transformation that it made in me, is so beautiful. It is tremble-making.

I want to name that this was possible for me because you asked me to share my money story. You listened and heard it in an embodied and somatic way when you invited me into your Uncomfortable Conversations series. This is also possible for me because of experiences I’ve had in groups that went from having no money to having some money and all of the structural violence around valuing our time that manifests interpersonally as people play out who is “worth” what. We are only in the beginning of this work together. I still haven’t asked you about your money story and the transformations that are underway for you right now. I want to name that we are doing this work as a “side hustle to our side hustle” as you put it, in voice memos, which we have found as an asynchronous flow, that allows us to rest across time zones, because when it is 9am for you it’s 6pm for me. That in itself is an economy of time and care. As I hear your voice tremble and we name this practice of figuring out what the dollar amount is that we each need in order to do this work.

I want to name that Janelle Orsi at the Sustainable Economies Law Center helped me and so many people, and continues to help so many people imagine this -- equal pay -- with the Nonprofit Democracy Network and the Worker Self Directed Nonprofit structure. I want to name that Alanna Irving at Open Collective has mentored me into this space by being so transparent about our full budget. Asking me, for example, “What could your role be at Open Collective?” And then paying me for 2 months to interview the team and find that role that is joyful and needed in the organization. I want to name that Dan Taeyoung, a collaborator, helped me by always asking what work is joyful in our collaboration. Nati Linares also helped me because at the New Economy Coalition where she works, they pay everyone equally (and made this decision together because they are a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit). Nati also said sometimes it is too heavy to get into the depths of what is equity with pay and money stories and it is easier or healthier to do equal pay.

On a basic level I also simply know: I don’t want to do this work alone at Art.coop -- it would be impossible, and boring, and I would stop. It is clear to me that the only way to do the work is if all collaborators all find a way to do it. For me, I know that I am supported with my job at Open Collective. I also know: there will be no Art.coop without Marina. So it’s very clear: how do I keep working with you? What will enable that? I don’t want to go out into the world and say we are fundraising for your position. That feels awful. People have tried to hire me and convince me to fundraise for my own position. I say to them: “If I have to fundraise for my position with you, I’ll just fundraise for myself and do my work.” I don't want that. We are fundraising for our vision, and to bring more capacity into the Art.coop world, but let’s start with the knowledge that we are both taken care of and that is the bottom line.

Marina: Caroline, it’s so beautiful to see the lineage you acknowledge and how it intersects with my own. It brings even more clarity to the ways in which our money stories bump up against one another and weave in and out. It would be cool to trace the lineages of your influences and collaborators and see this great web.This experience of being invited in to consider my needs and joy as intrinsic to work has been transformational for me. You are forever a part of my lineage around shifting my money stories. Thank you!

Caroline: Thank you too!

Caroline Woolard
She/ Her/ Hers
New York

Caroline Woolard is the Director of Research and Programs at Open Collective Foundation, an Assistant Professor at Pratt, and co-organizer of Art.Coop with Nati Linares, Marina Lopez and Sruti Suryanarayanan. Since the financial crisis of 2007-8, Woolard has catalyzed barter communities, minted local currencies, founded an arts-policy think tank, and created sculptural interventions in office spaces. 

Marina Lopez
She/ her/ hers
Traditional Wiyot Land, Eureka, Northern California

Marina Lopez is a Mexican-American performing and social practice artist, massage therapist/somatic educator, and cultural organizer based in far Northern California on traditional Wiyot land also known as Eureka. As an artist, her work is an interdisciplinary weaving of many voices that links to history, social movements, and tradition. She is a co-organizer and creative collaborator with Art.Coop and co-coordinates a national Arts, Culture, Care and Solidarity Economy working group.

Natalia “Nati” LinaresShe/ her/ hers
Queens, New York

Natalia “Nati” Linares is a cultural and communications organizer who comes to the solidarity economy movement after a decade of witnessing inequities while working in the music and media industry. Linares is the child of Cuban and Colombian immigrants who landed in Queens in the late 1960s, benefited from low-cost public college, and raised her with a love of learning, exploration, and music. She tells the stories of people resisting capitalism and building new systems, especially those creating a culture of revolution.


  SIGN UP ︎