On the heels of Between the Door and the Street, we’d like to participate in the conversation about the use of volunteers in the project by clarifying a few points.
Initiated by Suzanne Lacy—one of the most important artists of our time—in collaboration with hundreds of others, Between the Door and the Street was an enormous effort based on principles of inclusion, equity, respectful conversation, debate, learning, understanding, sharing, and democracy. On October 19, hundreds of social-justice activists gathered on stoops on Park Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to discuss a number of issues related to gender equity in all its complexity. The list of organizations involved is stunning, and we owe the diversity and complexity of this amazing group to Suzanne, the participants, incredible advisors, a team of community organizers, home owners, and numerous others who helped take discussions of gender equity from behind closed doors and into our streets.
Just three days before show time, an open letter that was circulated on the Internet grabbed some attention. We shouldn’t be surprised, as controversy excites attention, and activist politics moves fast. The letter tapped into concerns about authorship, pay, neoliberalism, gender rights, and more—all of them important issues. While we might have hoped that people would learn and weigh the facts before coming to conclusions (particularly before signing petitions), our response was to welcome the debate in a spirit of listening, learning, and acting with transparency. Now that the dust of production has settled, we would like to take a moment to clear up the basic facts in relation to pay, child care, etc. We do this in a spirit of openness and sharing, as the debate has been instructive and surely will continue to be.
So what’s the deal?
- Creative Time, Brooklyn Museum, and Suzanne Lacy spent several months working on this project. We contacted social-justice organizations and individual activists across the City to participate in the development of the initiative and to assemble a group of activists who would engage in the conversations that were the heart of the work. While most of the participants have professions other than social activism—doctor, lawyer, sex worker, restaurant worker, artist, editor, etc.—all of them were explicitly approached in their role as activists, and all freely exercised their own agency in deciding whether to volunteer for the project. Again and again, they told us how excited they were to seize the opportunity to engage in a new form of politics, one that they hoped would help to broaden the conversation about gender justice. Check out the reflections of Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem and other participants. And Suzanne has also shared her thoughts.
- Creative Time has always been an advocate for paying artists for their work. Always has been, always will be. Neither the presenting organizations nor the artist considers the participation of the activists in this work to be in violation of this ethic.
- The subject of childcare came up quite early, and we spent a good deal of time researching our options for dealing with this important issue. As one might guess, the laws around childcare are very stringent. Our solution was to offer a stipend and we were pleased that it was useful to a few people.
- We are doing our utmost to keep the conversation and debate as transparent as possible. We have posted the letter and our reactions to it, and we welcome your thoughts as well.
It is our hope that the conversation on Suzanne’s Between the Door and the Street can now focus not only on the question of artists’ pay, but also gender-justice writ large. That is, after all, the intention of the work, a project of such incredible diversity and profound and moving experiences that it would make any movement proud.