Open Letter

Building a sustainable future for festivals requires that we take equity, inclusion, and democracy as our foundations. A festival economy that expects workers to assume its risks without accounting for itself or including them in its decision-making, provides no such basis. The contributions exhibitors provide, the time, money, and labor that makes festivals possible, must be returned to them with a corresponding say in how these events are organized and managed.

Those who call on our shared resources must use these means to uplift all, insisting on transparency and cooperation over setting terms and enforcing hierarchies. What is asked of us should never result in the privileging of the advantaged or the lessening of our right to self-determination. Instead, it must be used to advance new modes and systems, where we define our own needs and empower each other to serve them.

We are those who require this future. We are those without whom festivals cannot exist. We join the Festival Workers Association in calling on festivals to adopt their principles:

Festivals need to open their books.

Artists and their publishers shouldn’t be asked to pay thousands in fees or have money solicited in their names without there being 100% transparency in accounting. All revenue, expenditures, and payments/gifts in kind made to staff, special guests, or outside persons and organizations should be publicly disclosed.

Artists need a say in festivals.

No matter how well-intentioned, those who manage these events are not sufficient proxies for the needs and concerns of those whose labor makes them possible. Artists should have their own independent, democratically-elected representation included in the planning and execution of festivals.

Festivals need to make honest and measurable commitments to understanding and reducing costs for all exhibitors.

Too much of their initial financing and too much of the risk associated with their performance is being placed on the backs of artists and their publishers. Festivals need to first devote themselves to improving the material standing of all of their exhibitors before growing themselves in ways that result in higher costs or subsidize the few at the expense of the many.

If someone is getting paid, everyone is getting paid.

If a festival is providing compensation or gifts in kind to its staff, special guests, or others, everyone else should be compensated for their participation in readings, instructional sessions, or similar festival-related activities.

Festivals need formal commitments to diversity and inclusion, including favoring broad, need-based support over hierarchical or individual celebrations.

Dispossession on the basis of things like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia is a systemic problem. It must be countered systematically with means that improve the standing of all members of these communities, not just for the most visible or well-established.

Signed,

Io Ascarium
Ivy Atoms
Amanda Bernal
Nick Bernal
Adam Buttrick
William Cardini
A Chaunyan
Jo Cook
Sarah Crowe
Michael DeForge
Alex Degen
GW Duncanson
Georgy Elaev
Daniel Elkin
Charles Forsman
OK Fox
Ganzeer
J Gonzalez-Blitz
Hiller Goodspeed
Henry Guerra
Reilly Hadden
Sven Hegedus
Ethan Heitner
Alex Hoffman
O Hovarth
Priya Huq
Carmen Johns
Kim Jooha
Austin Lanari
Laura Lannes
August Lipp
Don L’Orange
Connor McCann
Ian McEwan
Bjorn Miner
Carta Monir
Evan Morien
Sunny Nestler
Hazel Newvelant
Flynn Nicholls
DK Nicklaus
Laurie Piña
A.T. Pratt
Barrack RIMA
Simon Reinhardt
Karissa Sakumoto
Gabby Schulz
Ben Sears
Kelsey Short
Michael Stenbæk
Dean Sudarsky
Sunmi
Sam Szabo
Vincent Tao
Colleen Tighe
Pete Toms
Tiffany Turrill
Beatrix Urkowitz
Zach Vaupen
Kat Verhoeven
Lale Westvind
Tom Whalen
Eric Kostiuk Williams
Connor Willumsen
Shelby Wolf
Savanna Woolsey
Lina Wu
Wendy Xu
Garrett Young
JR Zuckerberg

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