Debt Squares! Visualizing Debt Together

Nearly everyone is affected by debt, from recent graduates paying hundreds of dollars in interest on their students loans every month, to working families bankrupted by their medical bills, to those taking out payday loans at 400% interest to cover basic living costs, to the teachers and firefighters forced to take pay cuts because their cities are broke, to countries pushed into austerity and poverty by structural adjustment programs.

There is a movement building across the country of debt resistance. Many are mobilizing against the condition of debt, and the servitude and destruction that goes along with it. As part of this mobilization, people have begun to share their debt stories. These conversations make us realize that it is the system that is responsible for our shared condition. We are not alone.

you are not a loan

Another way of looking at debt in contrast to the feelings of financial paralysis it causes, is the idea of “indebtedness.” Not all debt is bad. There are also positive ways that debt that functions in society—being indebted can create social bonds and manifest itself in relationships through love, care and gratitude.  (i.e. think of the debt you owe to your friends or your parents.)

In a gesture of shared storytelling, Arts & Labor is initiating DEBT SQUARES, a community quilting project. We will be bringing this project into town squares, parks, and other spaces around New York City, inviting people to sew together, discuss, and visualize our shared condition of debt. The first sessions will begin in Washington Square Park on September 15th and in Foley Square on September 16th.

Debtors Squares: Join the debt resistance movement!

For those that can’t join us, we invite you to tell your debt story by making your own DEBT SQUARE that will be added to the quilt. Send us your square!

Arts & Labor
888 Newark Ave.
Studio #235
Jersey City NJ 07306

To contribute to this project please consider the following guidelines:
• SQUARES should be approx. 20” x 20”
• Use fabric that is fairly durable
• We have created a suggested color logic for you to consider while building your debt square:
RED = Student Debt / Education
YELLOW = Mortgage / Housing
GREEN= Credit Card / Commercial
BLUE= Medical
RAINBOW, PASTELS & PATTERNS = Love / Care / Friendship / Family, etc.

Note: These are just suggestions! Feel free to ignore this entirely and make your DEBT SQUARE square your own. 

Five Ways We Can Act

Five Ways We Can Act When we identify as ART WORKERS, we see ourselves within a larger economic system, and discover our power to shape it together.

Five Ways We Can Act:

1. Pay and be paid. When others profit from our work, why should we work for free? Ask for payment for presentations, exhibitions, performances, writing, internships and more. Likewise, if you have interns, assistants, or employees, pay them fairly!

2. Reconsider Value. Value Labor. When money is not an available currency, consider alternative compensation and negotiate other forms of exchange.

3. Share. Our resources can go much further when shared. Develop a spirit of mutual aid and interdependence within your community.

4. Build Solidarity. Reach out to fellow art workers and recognize their struggles and successes as your own. Connect, brainstorm, and act together.

5. Organize. Talk to fellow art workers, identify problems and strategize solutions. Go to a meeting, rally or teach-in. Get involved with Arts & Labor or start a group where you live. Stand up and speak out!

Report Back: Occupy The Land! Unconference

596 Acres workshop at The South Williamsburg Garden

This year the NYC Community Garden Coalition invited the working groups of Occupy Wall Street to help organize their first city-wde Community Garden Unconference. A member of Arts & Labor Alternative EconomiesMaking Worlds Commons Coalition  stepped up to organize a schedule of events for the Occupy the Land! Unconference, June 1-3. Continue reading

Media Advisory: Responds to OWS Letter Responds to OWS Letter
Revises Terms of Service for Postings of Internships
#OWS Arts& Labor Issues New Text for Job Board “Best Practices”

Click for PDF[New York, New York] June 19, 2012 –, the theater industry website, has responded to a call by Occupy Wall Street, Arts & Labor to end’s practice of posting classified ads for unpaid internships at for-profit companies by revising its Terms of Service. On April 19, 2012, declared its plans to “amend its terms of service informing all posters of all jobs of the NYS regulations that apply to internships.” Those changes have now been made and can be read here: Continue reading

Demand Justice for Artist Takeshi Miyakawa

From the online petition Demand Justice for Artist Takeshi Miyakawa:

On May 19th, 2012, artist and designer Takeshi Miyakawa was arrested in Brooklyn while installing “I ♥ NY” lamps in a local park, part of a project designed to celebrate NY Design Week and the Tokyo-born artist’s love for New York City, where he has lived for the past 23 years.

Miyakawa was charged with the class D felony of reckless endangerment, placing of false bombs, and criminal nuisance. He is being detained for thirty days to await mental evaluation.

Public safety need be protected, but so must our human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sign this petition to help free Takeshi Miyakawa.

To the Editor of the New York Times, re “Sunday Dialogue: The Value of Internships”

To the Editor:
Re “Sunday Dialogue: The Value of Internships” (pSR2, May 20):

An internship’s ability, as Ilene Starger states, to “greatly expand one’s knowledge, experience, contact base and chances of future career success” isn’t impeded when it comes with a paycheck, just as the law requires.

By focusing so narrowly on how an internship can serve as a transition from school to career for a privileged few, anecdote-based arguments such as Ms. Starger’s fail to take a full measure of the effect this practice is having on the working lives of tens of thousands of workers, including non-interns, all while employers reap the rewards of free labor (an estimated $2 billion in unpaid wages per year). Furthermore, with unpaid internships now firmly established in the labor market and unemployment soaring, the looming presence of this pool of free labor puts downward pressure on the wages of paid employees and freelancers. The effects spread up the career ladder and across the economy, benefiting few and harming many.

Ms. Starger claims to feel empathy for college students entering this job market but offers no solutions, only oversimplified excuses for a practice that compounds their plight. Similarly, she offers no succor to those who cannot afford to work for free but seek the same opportunities, to those who must compete with interns for what once were paid positions, nor to those feeling their wages squeezed by the presence of unpaid workers in the labor market. And for those who don’t happen to luck into a big break through an internship (or three or five…), that they’ve given away their labor to profit someone else appears to be equally of no concern.

We are artists and art workers who have experienced firsthand the detrimental effects of this culture of free labor. And in this era of historic inequality, class divide, skyrocketing student debt and intractable unemployment, we call for an end to this opportunistic and exploitative practice: Pay your interns.

OWS Arts & Labor
A working group founded in conjunction with the New York General Assembly for #occupywallstreet