CAPE to Compensate Teaching Artists During Coronavirus Shutdown
The following is a message from Amy Rasmussen, Scott Sikkema, Mark Diaz, Joseph Spilberg, and the rest of the CAPE staff:
On Monday March 16, 2020, the CAPE Board of Directors took the extraordinary step of voting to commit to paying hourly CAPE teaching artists 75% of their teaching rate in compensation for their loss of instructional time during the coronavirus school shutdown. CAPE has committed almost $100,000 from its organizational reserve fund to support our teaching artists through the end of this school year. CAPE recognizes the essential role that our teaching artists play in carrying out the mission of our organization. As one of our board members noted during an emergency board meeting, “CAPE would not be here without its teaching artists.”
CAPE is a network of teachers, students, parents, researchers, staff, and artists. Teaching artists are integral to our practice of cross-disciplinary, arts integration partnerships in public schools. Our teaching artists drive artistic investigations, social dialogue and change, community engagement, and contemporary art making, which changes the lives of students, teachers, and families.
The spread of the coronavirus has engendered a public health crisis that has understandably compelled the closing of public schools and the curtailing of any outside visitors to classrooms. We understand the urgent need for this action. But just as schools, teachers, students, and families are affected, so, too, are teaching artists. Losing the ability to work in schools removes a major portion of their income and poses a challenge to their maintaining their homes and lives. Potentially, this loss of work could even impact their ability to dedicate themselves to teaching artist careers. One of our teaching artists told us, “If this were happening a few years ago, my family would lose our home. We’d lose our insurance. Things are different for me now, but that’s still the situation many of our teaching artists are in today.”
Because teaching artists work on a contract basis, they are not eligible for unemployment insurance. National, state, and city authorities are debating emergency financial relief for workers; however, passage remains uncertain, and it is also still in debate whether hourly workers will benefit. For the CAPE staff and board, there is no debate–now is the time to act. If we are indeed a network of mutually supportive educators and artists, then this is the only logical choice.
Our partners- our artists- deserve to have the income security, and so CAPE puts forward this compensation plan as a just act. This is also an invitation to other arts organizations to enter into a broader conversation about how we demonstrate the value of our cultural workers, especially in the most difficult of circumstances.
On the night of March 16, Associate Directors of Education Joseph Spilberg and Mark Diaz emailed teaching artists to announce this decision on compensation. One artist wrote back, expressing thanks for the investment in, and care for, the community, and added that such care “resonates all the more in this anxious time of isolation.” We hope, too, this decision resonates for others in different fields and walks of life, in the arts and beyond.