«by Matthew D. Chin A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Social Work and ...»
18). In their analysis of the political economy of arts funding in the city, Deborah Leslie and Mia Hunt (2013) argue that community arts programs that target at-risk youth (largely youth of color) living in impoverished neighborhoods are intended to foster creative and entrepreneurial subjectivities and to reduce the risk of violence presumed to be associated with these populations. Yet, a smaller point in Leslie and Hunt's article deserves more extensive consideration: they state that community art programs "divert attention from more systemic reasons for marginalization related to racism and the structure of local labor markets" (2013, p.
It is impossible to note the increasingly availability of funding for community arts for youth, especially youth of color, without also noting the disenfranchisement of these groups from the formal labor market. In 2013, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCAP) and the Toronto Foundation identified youth unemployment as a significant area of concern. In their analysis of youth unemployment in the province of Ontario, CCAP noted that the Great Recession of the mid-2000s hit Ontario youth particularly hard. Standing at 16.9%, the CCAP has linked the Ontario youth unemployment rate to the national economic shift away from manufacturing toward resource extraction (Geobey, 2013). Both the CCAP and the Toronto Foundation, in its annual Vital Signs report, have highlighted Toronto's youth unemployment as particularly troubling. Despite the fact that the economic indicators for the city show signs of positive growth, and that youth have greater levels of educational attainment than ever before, more than one in five youth are unemployed (the figures for immigrant youth, most of whom are of color, are even higher) (Toronto Community Foundation, 2013).
Research into the employment outcomes of people of color has been similarly bleak. In his case study of the regulation of employment standards in Ontario, Mark Thomas (2010) looks at neoliberal reforms to Ontario's Employment Standards Act and argues that these reforms intensified racialized segmentation in the labor market. He maintains that such neoliberal market restructuring has taken place across Canada and has resulted in a situation where workers of color experience significant barriers to secure employment and labor market mobility. These findings are echoed by more quantitative studies. For instance, in their investigation of the impact of race on employment opportunities and outcomes in Canada, Teelucksingh and Galabuzi (2007) analyze data from the 1996 and 2001 Canadian Census, the Survey of Labor and Income Dynamics (SLID) and the Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSD) sectoral employment data. Among their other findings, they conclude that a persistent double digit income disparity exists between racialized and non-racialized individual income earners and that racialized groups are over-represented in many low paying occupations with high levels of precariousness and are under- represented in the better paying more secure jobs. As will be discussed later, QTPOC community arts organizers are not immune to these broader labor market patterns.
The provision public money to the very groups that experience labor market exclusion forces us to look more closely at precisely how this funding is disbursed. My interview with Margo Charlton at the Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) provides a clear picture in this respect.
The TAF "exists to provide the opportunity for individuals, private and public foundation government agencies and corporate donors to join us [TAF] in supporting all the various disciplines of art"(Toronto Arts Foundation, n.d.). It raises funds through "donations, sponsorships and grants" and their programs "directly increase the resource available to artists and arts organizations through TAC" (Toronto Arts Foundation, n.d.). Having learned that she
had been involved in community arts for several years, I asked her:
Matthew: What are the big debates in the field community arts right now and what do you think is missing?
Margo: One of the big debates is training and [the need for] a more, a more empowering engagement and even an entrepreneurial model that gives people an opportunity to make a living, to make some money. … Okay it’s great if there's a dance class in my community and it’s free. Okay but now I'm hearing, "how do I then find out places where I can be paid to perform?" And that's not a bad thing. You've got people who are being paid to be facilitators to facilitate an experience for people from a community that are facing huge socio-economic problems and they [the community members] are receiving something for free but where are their opportunities to make money? So this training thing will shift that [by] giving people a set of skills that will allow them to see this as a way to move forward.
If I'm interested in design, can I maybe start to make like, $100 a month? Is there a way that I can start something? Otherwise, I'm simply receiving something from someone else who is being paid, who is an outsider…that is shifting and that is definitely shifting.
In this interview, Margo highlights how individual community artists are looking for avenues of income generation, which is not altogether surprising given the dismal employment prospects for youth of color, those who are most often the target of community arts interventions.
At the same time, it is important to note that this drive toward artistic entrepreneurialism is also coming from municipal policy such as Toronto’s first Community Art Action Plan (CAAP) implemented in 2008 (it is also worth mentioning that Margo was one of the eleven members of the CAAP advisory board) (City of Toronto, 2008a). This five year plan originated in the Cultural Services department of the city, which was established in 1998 to deliver the city's arts and cultural grants program. The department's articulated mandate for community arts is "to develop and promote opportunities for artistic expression, arts education and audience development and to encourage access to the arts for all"(City of Toronto, 2008b, p. 4). The CAAP has four main objectives including: enhancing funding for community arts; creating more accessible space for community arts across the city; raising the profile of the community arts sector; and sharing resources. It is under this last objective that a push toward entrepreneurialism in community arts may be detected as the plan states "Cultural services will work with youth-led and emerging community arts organizations and artists to ensure they are aware of resources available for developing entrepreneurial skills and other business related training" (City of Toronto, 2008a).
In its 2012 report on the implementation of the CAAP, Cultural Services highlighted a number of community arts initiatives focusing on employment in general and entrepreneurship in particular. For instance, between 2008-2012, ArtReach (in collaboration with others agencies) facilitated the Youth Arts Pitch Contest which has provided over $70,000 in start-up funds as well as business training and support for youth led organizations and creative entrepreneurs(City of Toronto, 2012b). This contest is designed so that young artists can learn the basics of how to make a live pitch to a professional panel whose members include highly successful artists and arts entrepreneurs. Since the launch of the contest, two QTPOC community arts organizing initiatives have won this award (ILL NANA and Colour Me Dragg, both of which were mentioned earlier). In addition to the pitch contest, some of the other activities that have come out of CAAP include a micro-loan program that have supported 15 young arts entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and Live Arts Inc., a virtual cultural incubator for young creative entrepreneurs and enterprises (City of Toronto, 2012b).
As a mechanism of neoliberal governance, it is not altogether surprising that the City of Toronto is channeling public funds to entrepreneurship based arts programs targeting those that experience the most dire labor market outcomes, youth of color. Scholars have posited that the entrepreneur functions as the subject par excellence of neoliberalism because of its drive toward individual profit making13. For instance, in his analysis of neoliberal theory’s conception of human capital, Foucault notes that a worker’s wage is best understood as an income, or the product of the return on capital. In this case, capital cannot be separated from the person who possesses it such that “the worker appears as a sort of enterprise for himself” (2008, p. 225).
Foucault’s insights are in line with Gershon’s examination of neoliberal agency where he states, "a neoliberal perspective assumes that actors who create and are created by the most ideal social order are those who reflexively and flexibly manage themselves as one owns or manages a business, tending to one's own qualities and traits as owned, even improvable assets" (2011, p.
539). For Foucault, that the basic element in neoliberal analysis is not individuals but rather enterprises means that neoliberalism involves a focus on what he refers to as homo oeconomicus, Such an approach does not account for the ways in which other kinds of labor may be fostered in support of neoliberal projects. For instance, the work of Andrea Muehelbach (2011) demonstrates how, through the promotion of a culture of voluntarism, the post-fordist Italian state sought to foster a kind of laborer that is far from recognizable as entrepreneurial. In the context of abandonment of welfare modes of government, Muehlebach shows how unemployed populations such as seniors and youth are called upon to engage in unwaged labor in the creation of a public based on compassion and care. Supplanting modes of citizenship based on Fordist model of waged work, such voluntarism creates (non-commercial) social bonds through affective means.
This approach also does not take into consideration of how practices of entrepreneurship may be corralled into projects in support of alternative political economic arrangements. For instance, in his analysis of Cuba’s Salud y Turismo S.A., Sean Brotherton (2008) advances the concept of a “socialist entrepreneur” to show how practices of entrepreneurship are mobilized to support of a socialist economic infrastructure. In the context of a failing socialwelfare system, the Cuban state has created a private health care industry intended to cater to tourists, effectively producing a two-tiered health care system in which those who are able to pay full prices for products that are readily available, exists in stark contrast to a public health system for Cuban nationals that, though subsidized by the state, is characterized by long wait times and acute shortages. In response to the accusation that it is more concerned with the wellbeing of foreigners than that of its own people, the Cuban state has argued that the funds generated from Salud y Turismo, S.A. are diverted into the public health system in order to subsidize its costs for the benefit of the Cuban population.
or in this particular case, “an entrepreneur of himself…being for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of earnings.” (2008, p, 226).
Sacrificial entrepreneurship: Queering the individualizing neoliberal imperative By returning to Unapologetic Burlesque and closely attending to their work (alongside the work of other queer and trans of color community organizations) I argue that we are able to develop a more nuanced understanding of neoliberal governance. While municipal arts funding programs seek to foster entrepreneurship as a way of attending to labor market exclusion, the unexpected way in which Unapologetic Burlesque engages with these programs forces us to reconsider the relationship between entrepreneurship and neoliberalism. Rather than facilitating projects of neoliberal capital accumulation, the particular way in which entrepreneurship is practiced may actually complicate the unfolding of such projects. This kind of analysis builds on Ong’s (2006) work on the relationship between neoliberalism and exceptionalism. Ong looks at the relationship between neoliberalism as exception (how neoliberalism is manifests in contexts where it is not the general characteristic of technologies of governance) as well as exceptions to neoliberalism (the ways in which political decisions single out populations and places to be included or excluded from neoliberal calculations and choices). She argues that both of these permutations of the connection between neoliberalism and exceptionalism are connected in that those who are governed by neoliberalism are dependent on those are excluded from its purview.
Extending Ong’s work, I look at the ways in which QTPOC community arts organizers, subjects who are considered to be exceptions to neoliberalism, engage with the terms of their inclusion by municipal funding policies by behaving in unexpected ways. Such an approach allows for an understanding of the contingent nature of the mechanisms of neoliberal governance and how the programs assumed to constitute their very essence may also serve as the site of their transformation. This is not to say that groups like Unapologetic do not engage in entrepreneurial activities in order to carry out their work but rather that the emphasis on individual profit making is not their primary consideration both because of the prioritization of community development over personal gain and because of artist’s fraught relationship to financial remuneration.