A few months ago, one of the arts organizations I work for decided to throw an end-of-the-year party in honor of their artists. We got an invitation. We RSVPd. Free food? You know the artists will come – they’re hungry! (Let’s think about why they might be hungry for a minute, employers. Why might free food be so enticing for these people?) Anyway. I show up about 15 minutes after the start of the party (it’s a party, that’s polite.) The security guard tells me to wait in the lobby til someone comes to get me. (Artists aren’t allowed in the building without an escort. ) I recognize another artist already waiting there, busy on her phone. I wait. A long time. Other artists arrive. They are told the same thing. Wait. You can’t go up. An administrator needs to come down and get you. Wait here.
We chat with each other. We don’t see each other all that often, so we make the best of waiting. We ask again about going up to our party with the aforementioned free food. No dice. We wonder if they’re concocting some kind of surprise for us. Why make us wait for half an hour? Oh – wait, it’s 45 minutes now.
Finally, almost an hour after the party began, I see someone with authority outside our department go by. I’ve worked at this Arts Institution for over a decade, so I’ve met her a few times. I ask her if she can go up to our party and find out what’s happening. She does and the administrators upstairs come down to get us. They’d been wondering where all the artists were. What were they going to do with all that food?
It was a simple snafu, of course. And a particularly thick and stubborn security guard. However – I felt this episode was a very symbolic and clear example of the place of the artists in an arts institution. Locked out. Even of the very party that is reportedly being thrown for us. Standing in the lobby, unable to go up until an administrator comes and helps us. This is our place in the way arts run in America. This is how important we are.
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