People of color less likely to have ‘creative jobs’

(l-r): Juxtaposition Arts; Dave Seru)
(l-r): Juxtaposition Arts; Dave Seru) (Photos by Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Since 2006, Minneapolis has experienced a 10 percent growth in “creative jobs,” but Blacks and other people of color are not benefiting from such growth, according to a new City of Minneapolis report. Minneapolis Creative Index 2015 is a report by the City of Minneapolis’ programs on arts, culture and the creative economy that examined data from 40 occupations and 72 creative industries. Among its key findings:

  • The city’s top five creative occupations are musicians and singers, photographers, writers and authors, graphic designers and public relations specialists.
  • In these creative jobs there are far fewer people of color percentage-wise than there are women. For instance, there are 45.3 percent women photographers compared to 12.8 photographers of color, and 54.7 percent female graphic designers compared to 6.9 percent graphic designers of color.
  • Blacks make up 5.3 percent of the metro-area workforce but occupy only 2.8 percent of creative jobs.

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We live in a place of abundance here, but not everyone benefits from this abundance, and why. That was our question: Why?

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Gülgün Kayim, director of the arts, culture and the creative economy program since 2011, says, “One of the things I was asked to do was look at the creative economy.” She hopes the 2015 report will better highlight the racial inequities in Minneapolis’ creative occupations.

“There are a lot of people who talk around assumptions in the creative community, but we needed to bring facts to the table. There is systemic racism problems that we need to address.”

Gulgun Kayim
Gülgün Kayim Photo courtesy of Gulgun Kayim

The report defines the “creative sector” as “a dynamic ecology of economic and social relationships,” including not only artists but also architects and designers, arts educators, foundation funders and theater-goers. Using demographic information, Kayim points out, “What we try to put forward in our report is that we live in a place of abundance here, but not everyone benefits from this abundance, and why. That was our question: Why?

“We interviewed artists and designers…and asked them what the challenges are,” Kayim explains. “‘What are the things that are preventing you from being successful? What advice would you give to a young person who wants to go [into your field]?’”

Juxtaposition Arts Communications and Marketing Manager Davu Seru, who also is a literature adjunct professor, published writer, and former editorial assistant, says that being an artist of color is tough “because the audience in the Twin Cities is a White audience.” As a result, he says that it becomes a “burden of building an audience that is more likely to appreciate people of color.”

Kayim’s office produced the first creative index report in 2013. “We just organized information, found right information, and we made sure that we included people who worked in nonprofits,” she explains. “We looked at people who did all kinds of creative work.

“Many of us have multiple jobs” in the creative community, says Kayim, who adds that low wages and finding affordable housing are just two issues members of the creative community wrestle with.

“I know what it feels like because I live that reality every day,” she notes. “Most of the people I knew did not have full-time jobs, but put together all kinds of jobs” to make a living. “We are not getting paid at the same rate as other workers in the metropolitan area. I have lived in this community for over 20 years and I have seen how hard it is to make a living…as a creative worker. One of the ways I had to support me and my family was to get other jobs.”

When asked if North Minneapolis could be a creative sector, “Yes, of course,” responds Kayim. “I know some great work is happening there. There are some amazing people doing some creative work, making all kinds of things from design to all ranges of stuff.”

Kayim gave Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) on Emerson Avenue North and West Broadway as an example. JXTA was founded in 1995 “as a youth-based arts organization,” notes Seru, who is an alumnus of JXTA’s inaugural year. Most of the youth who work there come from the North Side — 75-80 young people ages 14-21 currently are apprentices, he says.

Kayim says in her city council presentation she stressed the importance of mentorship and education as well as helping the City look at things “especially on how they should be considering people in the creative economy.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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