Maine creatives are talented, hard working, humble and just plain awesome…but they are not making ends meet.
Let's focus for a moment on a common art job,
According to Design Quote….
Maine Graphic Designers Average Salary is $39,040.00 per year
Average Hourly: $18.77
Median Hourly: $16.97
Total Maine Employed: 680
> side note: most job listings (all two) I could find listing for a "graphic designer" in Maine offered pay considerably lower than the above statistic and required a Bachelors degree as well as a minimum of 4 to 5 years of experience at a previous job.
that's $3250 a month at the top end
- rent or home 1200
- electric 120
- car 150
- parking/gas 150
- insurance 200
- wifi 65
- imac 25
- food 450
- heat/other utilities 100
- cloths/health/toilet paper etc 200
- medical 450
- taxes 650
After relatively basic expenses that's $3760 a month, a $510 deficit already… not even accounting for a few other things that come up, like college loan repayment, credit card debt, gifts or help for family or church or charities….
and…whoops! You are already over budget and you also have a child to take care of, and no dental plan and an infected tooth, and
OH SHIT your car broke down…and now, your mom was diagnosed with dementia and may have to move in.
Obviously, the estimated numbers I unofficially listed above are…"estimated" …but if you look carefully, you'll find them completely reasonable and even estimated low for some of the costs in Maine. For instance, heating costs can vary or be included in some rental agreements, and rents and home costs can vary from town to town or maybe you can find a loan on a car that is 99 instead of 150…or take the bus...but there it is, and still missing those "other" things, like when your boss asks you to attend a group function at Margaritas and doesn't foot the bill, or an unexpected tow truck need. Those are also the costs listed assuming you are shopping at Family Dollar and Good Will for your clothing and toiletries and cooking your own economical food every night. As a graphic designer, continuing your education to keep up with trends is also important, forget continuing education or that Coach bag you spotted online, (or even the one from Target) you will be lucky to not have to shell out for $900 worth of tires and brakes next week for your six year old hyundai.
I asked a writer friend of mine what she was paid by the local paper for her wonderful articles about local artists and events. $25.00 per article, $30 with a photo. She must maintain a phone to keep the job (oh crap, i forgot to add "phone" to the above list of budget minuses!).
She also has to have a lap top or computer to write on, she submits an average of 10 articles a week, 7 or 8 are printed and invoiced, she needs a pretty nice camera to take shots of the local soccer games, her aunt bought it for her as a birthday gift. She uses her own car, her own paper and pens, phone, camera and laptop to complete a job as a "freelancer" and she gets $25 for it, with no medical benefits, luckily, she's a healthy woman at the moment. So now, she is required to file taxes as a self-employed freelancer and pay taxes on her $25, and on the rest of her 'accumulated wealth' from the year. Okay, she can "write-off" the mileage, the laptop and camera (okay, not the camera, her aunt didn't save the receipt) as a job expense…but…she still has to file, and pay out her taxes like the rest of us, which in the end, really gave her about $6-7 an hour at 20 hours a week (she spends about 30 hours a week at this gig). She would like a place to call home someday instead of sharing a small apartment with four others (one of which is a huge slob that has a drooly dog). She thought her four year journalism and design degree would yield a BIT more of a professional opportunity for her, and believes that it won't be long when she can stop waitressing on the weekends to make rent and save for a car, and she figures she's working her way up to that $39,000. Silly girl, I adore her, she's bright, articulate and passionate about what she does and still believes in the American Dream. She sells her old stuff on a tag sale page on Facebook to try and make extra gas money to visit her sick father out of town and sometimes he throws her $100 to stock her fridge and asks her when he can move in with her, he doesn't understand the roommate situation because she's almost 30 and has worked so hard for so long that he thinks she should have a home of her own by now and even suggested to her that maybe she's on drugs, and that's where her money has gone and why she is so skinny and stressed out.
Now, we haven't even touched on being an "artist" …. ya know, the kind of artist that paints from the soul, without direction from a client or boss. To reach close to $39,000 (or $18ish an hour) you would have to sell at least one $750 painting per week for the entire year. That would be an AMAZING feat, and if YOU are doing that, we need to talk, because YOU are AMAZING and should share your AMAZING secret with the rest of us EBT artists.
If you are a musician getting $2 in royalties from each CD sale, that means you will have to sell nearly 20,000 full length CD's in one year to come close…YOU are also amazing, and we need to talk about how you are doing this! I have yet to locate one of these elusive creatures that gets paid properly for their talent, at least enough to make some ends meet, even if we have an "art job" during the day we are not making ends meet. I spent 7 years designing for a local company at $10 per hour. 30 years of design experience, and I had to accept $10 an hour as the gift the business owner kept reminding me it was. In his words "you are lucky to have a job at all."
While we are searching for this unicorn, we are also trying to find or invent creative ways to BE THE CHANGE that creates communities where all skills are valued…we would love YOUR thoughts on how exactly this change is going to happen….help us understand that CEO, LAWYER and POLITICIAN or NON-PROFIT ADMINISTRATOR aren't becoming the only optional careers in the USA that pay the bills.
Non-profit IS the new way to create a job and avoid taxes, because I also just discovered that well over 3,000 people are employed by non-profits in Maine.
Here's another graphic of unicorns…
Ahem. I think I will end this article on that graphic.
Where has the American Dream gone?
Why and how have we now made it HARDER and more miserable to work and get ahead?
And still, everyone is wondering why some people choose drugs or accept a pirate street life of cardboard boxes and dumpster diving. At least there is freedom in that short life, and if you get caught, at least jail has a bed, some food, gym time and some contemplation. Now that I think about it, I'm so tired of swimming upstream against the tide, that contemplation in a cel away from everyone doesn't sound half bad… OH LOOK! i found a unicorn!
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul