A brief 2023 reflection

Thanks for following along this journey with me. 2023 was a year of experimentation.

How do you measure a year?

In true, end-of-the-year fashion, I want to use this newsletter to reflect on the art rebellion’s journey.

The year began on a somber note for me. My grandmother passed away last Christmas Eve, and on Jan. 1, my husband and I were driving across the South — from North Carolina to Mississippi to attend her funeral.

When I think of my grandma, I immediately remember her pancakes: crispy around the edges, perfectly buttery and soft in the center. How she would make a stack of pancakes, with eggs and sausage every time we visited. This year I’ve been making more pancakes — tinkering with the amount of butter in the pan, the heat on the burner, the mix — trying to feel just a bit closer to her.

At the end of January, I launched the Artist Pay Project, and began collecting money stories from artists across the country. I spent most of the year working toward publishing 26 of these stories, or $napshots.

With a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, I’ve begun reporting on initiatives that help artists thrive despite the US' exploitative arts ecosystem.

One of the most exciting developments this year was bringing people together.

In April, I hosted an “Artist Pay Performance” in Ypsilanti, MI. A group of artists performed at a local coffee shop and discussed how they made a living. Months later, after moving to Chicago, I hosted an artist hangout at a brewery.

Photo from the Artist Pay Performance. Halima Afi Cassells leads a collage workshop.

Here are a few more things I’m proud of this year:

  • Starting a TikTok

In the 80s, Patric McCoy traveled around Chicago on his bicycle capturing photos of Black men in the city. Here’s a recent exhibition of his work at Blanc Gallery in Bronzeville. #artistsoftiktok #photography #chicago #blackartist

♬ Agape - Nicholas Britell
  • Applying to more grants
  • Continuing to interview artists
  • Collaborating with others, including my former research assistant Rebecca Hagos, who help make this project what it is.

2023 was a year of experimentation.

So what’s next?

I will publish more Artist $napshots. I'm still looking for opportunities to turn the Artist Pay Project into an exhibition. I'm planning to host regular, in-person gatherings. I want to grow my social presence. I hope to experiment with different forms of storytelling.

I want to write less 😮.

And after spending the year reporting on labor in the arts, I’ve also been thinking deeply about the similarities between the arts and journalism when it comes to pay. In 2024, it’s important for me to find ways to make the art rebellion sustainable financially.

A little bit of personal news

A few weeks ago, I started an exciting new contract position with City Bureau, a Chicago-based journalism organization reimagining local media. I’m the new fellowship manager, helping to run a training program for emerging journalists in the city.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the work I’ve done this year, please reply and tell me what has resonated for you. It helps me know what to keep doing, where to pivot, and what work is having some impact.

I appreciate all of you for following along this journey with me. I hope the last few days of your year is filled with rest, joy, and good food. Can’t wait to connect in 2024.

And Dad, if you’ve read this far — happy birthday!

♥️ Makeda

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