The Real Reason You’re Going to Struggle to Get into the Arts

This article originally appeared in Catalogue Magazine in November 2017

Here’s a scenario – Imagine you’re in your early twenties (yass queen), and you get your fantasy job in the arts industry (hell yeah). And you’re SO STOKED because this is the kind of role you dreamt about while slogging it out at that mind-numbing admin job where you literally felt your brain decomposing. But it all worth it for this moment, walking into the office on your first day, feeling like a million bucks.  

Well TBH not a million bucks, because you wage is so low even your 16-year-old sister who’s working at Maccas laughed at your $. But that’s not the point, right? The point is you are #blessed to have this job. 

You start on the same day as another new girl, and you know you’ll be BFF newbie twins. But she already knows everyone in the office which is weird…. She tells you she did an internship, that’s how she got the job. You feel a tiny twinge of jealousy thinking about the options internships bring. But you shake it off, because you always had rent to pay, and bills bills bills, so as soon as you finished uni you took the first job on offer. 

You and the other girl hang out all the time. She thinks your minority background/lifestyle is cool and asks tons of questions, because her privileged white bread upbringing/family/life is just sooo boring. 

You go to after-work functions together, and she invites you to heaps of gigs and mini holidays, but you can’t afford them because your salary is so low and city rent is so freaking high, plus you have family shit to help out with. 

Eventually you get sick of living in the cheapest mustiest room in a share house where the walls are so thin you can hear your housemate dry hump their pillow. To get your own place you move to the subrurbs, making your commute is a little bit longer (what’s an additional hour? Just more time to Instagram – right?!). You don’t go to the after-work events anymore because it’s such a bitch getting home, and your days are so long it’s been forever since you’ve had the energy to do anything other than Netflix and cry, but you still love your job, so it’s worth it. 

The other girl’s doing stuff for new players in the arts space like speaking at events and running workshops. She doesn’t get paid for those gigs, but that’s OK because they’re great opportunities to network. Plus, she takes regular holidays to help with the stress. You haven’t had a holiday for over a year because out in the burbs you need a car, so all you and your earned $ are going towards that lemon, but hey! You still love your job.  

Although you’re getting a little frustrated watching friends in other industries get promotions while you’re stuck in the same role, trying to do your best. It’s hard to move up when you can’t stay back late. Because someone you love is sick, and they need your support. Which means they take up all your time and brain space, making you So. Damn. Tired.  

But the other girl just got a promotion, and you couldn’t be happier for your BFF! She’s commissioning works now. Most of it has a white mainstream narrative, but that’s what sells, and it’s OK because she’s also championing women. You can’t help think about the awesome women creatives in your community, but none of them are white. And none of them are mainstream. And none of them sell.  

Eventually, you just can’t keep up any more. You leave your dream job and go to another industry. You’re amazed at the $$$ and how appreciated you are. They accommodate your life balance needs, which means you concentrate better at work. You keep track of the other girl. She’s all over social media at amazing events (in rooms filled with white privileged people), taking amazing opportunities, but also having amazing holidays. And you think to yourself, I loved that job. Didn’t I? 

Don’t think you’ll ever find yourself in this scenario?  

90% of people in the creative industry have completed unpaid work for their employer, including internships 

Industries that primarily employ females are the lowest paid.  

The arts industry employ predominantly white, female employees. 

Audiences for creative industries are overwhelmingly white, middle class and female

There is a diversity crisis in the arts industry employment and production.  

And that’s not good. 

Published by Mary van Reyk

Mary writes to celebrate the diversity of our lives in an accessible and meaningful way

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