I have been paid minimum wage twice in my life, the first job I ever had ($5.15/hour in Florida) and the first job I was offered after finishing graduate school in the middle of the recession ($8/hour in California). Needless to say, I was desperate. I had just moved to LA, and I knew no one in this city. I had applied for over 200 jobs that summer. It was a difficult time, but honestly, I would not change a thing. Something I learned from the experience is that you can struggle at any point in time in your career.
You have to make a choice, especially as an artist, to seriously keep climbing the mountain even when you feel stuck in the desolate valley. I did not decide to study art history because I wanted to make a lot of money. I studied the arts because I truly believe that a good education is arts education integrated into public education. I wanted to (and still strive to) support access to high-quality arts education for all youth regardless of socio-economic backgrounds.
I eventually found part-time gigs as a tutor, a teaching artist, and a museum educator. Supervisors became my mentors. Colleagues became my friends. I took as many classes at the Center for Nonprofit Management as I could. I just kept going until I stumbled upon Arts for LA’s ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Program. There I learned how to advocate for what I believed in. I found the strength to speak up about diversity and inclusion, the lack of representation, and the importance of nonprofit partnerships. I also started mentoring inner-city youth, and then the election happened. I realized that I had to dedicate my career to truly make a difference. I had nothing to lose because I already knew that I could survive at the bottom.
When I found Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, I could not believe that there were other passionate, open-minded individuals striving to make a difference in the arts sector. I was so inspired. I wanted more. I needed to be part of this change-maker. It has been a pleasure and honor to be on the Leadership Council and to be elected by my peers as Co-Chair of the Development Committee. I hope that some of the programs that we have planned and will continue to develop have inspired others as I was. This is my career path, to give back to those who need the arts, as I needed it.
I hope that by sharing my story and struggle to stay in the arts sector will help others to believe in following their passion. Success is what you make of it. It is not the same for everyone and that’s beautiful. We are each our own artist, painting the tapestry of our own lives with whatever colors and materials we have available. Let’s support one another.