Fresh Arts Podcast

S2, Ep. 2: Should I or Shouldn’t I Work for Free?

October 06, 2021 Fresh Arts Season 2 Episode 2
Fresh Arts Podcast
S2, Ep. 2: Should I or Shouldn’t I Work for Free?
Show Notes Transcript

“It’ll pay in exposure!” artists have heard time and time again. Often, this just means doing something for free, that being featured on a platform is somehow a form of compensation in and of itself. Artists should value themselves and their work by requesting monetary payment. However, artists are also vital members of their community that can serve in various roles: advocate, volunteer, supporter, activist, etc. Does one interact with a small community center the same as an institution with an endowment? When should an artist donate their time? Under what conditions should an artist work ‘for free,’ if ever? We will have two guests discuss their experiences on contracting their services in different contexts, agreements and payment scales.

Moe Penders is a Salvadoran artist, whose practice is mainly framed in traditional photography. They moved to Houston in 2009 to attend the University of Houston, they received a BFA in Photography and Digital Media. Their work explores the social construction of home, intersectionality of identity and gender expression. Moe predominantly focuses on themes regarding home and culture, as well as the systemic socio-economic inequality in El Salvador. They also work with themes regarding the LGBTQIA community, and their constant work to be respected within all societies.

Carla Lyles is a multidisciplinary artist, activist, and entrepreneur who hails from Alief in Houston, Texas. Carla first shared her passion for community service by creating The Haven, a grassroots organization that empowered the youth  through the arts. Providing free arts activities to the community and local shelters. Currently, Carla's drive to support the community has manifested in Keep Houston Dope, a movement started during Hurricane Harvey to help bring the city together, and her business Carla Sue,  a fun and bold greeting card company that encourages self-love and hopes to help destigmatize mental health, one greeting card at a time. She also created the Carla Sue Network, a home shopping network to highlight other small businesses which she hosted on Instagram during the first months of the pandemic. You can find Carla Sue products in stores nationwide. Carla's work has been featured by Houstonia Magazine and Huffington Post among others. She has been  honored with Pop Shop America’s Maker Awards in the Best Prints and Paper Goods category. Carla Lyles is a fellow of the esteemed arts program Artist Inc and in 2019 she was named one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs Who Turned Their Hobbies into a Successful Career by Entrepreneur Magazine. When Carla isn’t working on her business, she enjoys hanging outside, listening to hip hop with her spending time with her husband and adorable 5-year-old son Kaleb.

Music: "Ike is Gone" by Nick Gaitan

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Transcripción en español disponible aquí: https://fresharts.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/s2-ep2-spanish.pdf

Reyes: Hello and welcome to Should I or Shouldn't I, a Fresh Arts podcast hosted by me, Reyes Ramirez, where we explore the decisions artists make every day to succeed in their creative practice. Hello, yeah, so, welcome back y'all, it's been a while since the last podcast recording, but we'll come back as always. This is Reyes Ramirez with the Fresh Arts podcast. Should I or Shouldn't I? And so today's question is presumably pertinent, I think, I mean, rather always, it's always just a pertinent question of, should I, or shouldn't I do something for free? I think this is a question that artists get a lot. For many reasons I'd rather, I mean, I have my own answers, but I think I'd rather have our guests answer that because the reason why, I particularly invited these two artists is 'cause they're so amazing, but I also know that with great power comes great responsibility. And when you're kind of a great, great artists, like these two, great creatives, you get asked all kinds of stuff and to varying degrees and in different contexts for different purposes. And so that's why I asked them to kind of lend their expertise and their experience to us for about 45 minutes to really let us know, like how does a creative or an artist really get through this business aspect, this aspect of just eating to eat, really, and live. And so we have Carla Lyles and we have Moe Penders, so certainly with you Moe could you introduce yourself and let people know who you are?

Moe Penders: Okay, so my name is Moe Penders and am a Salvadorian artist, and I've been here in Houston for about 12 years. I use they, them pronouns. And for, should I say where I work or what I do?

Reyes: If you want.

Moe: Well, I guess I'm a freelanced, all sorts of things, actually. So I do art installation and I also teach afterschool programs. So that's really it.

Reyes: Awesome. Thank you Moe. Carla.

Carla Lyles: Hey. Thank you Reyes for having me. This is so cool. I'm Carla Sue, well, I'm Carla Lyles, but people call me Carla Sue. I'm the owner of Carla Sue greeting cards and gifts. It is a greeting card company and gift shop that encourages everyone to take up space and to be their authentic selves. My cards are sold in the stores and, my cards are sold in stores nationwide, what a tongue twister. And yeah, that's me in a nutshell, I'm a mom and I make things with my hands and I love it.

Reyes: Awesome. Thank you, you two. So, kind of just to get right off the bat, starting with you Moe, have you ever been asked to do quote, unquote free work and what did you do? What did you say?

Moe: I get asked to do free work all the time, for years. I still get as to do free work. And I think it's difficult and it's something that I've been very trying to learn to unlearn, actually, sorry to not do. And of course, I mean, we'll go more into it, but yeah, it depends on the situation. But I mean, it's something that like, even recently things have happened, right? Like, and realizing like, oh no, I'm still doing this, right. Like, I'm trying to figure out like, oh wait, I can't, like, this is not okay.

Reyes: Yeah, yeah. I know what you mean. It's kind of like, almost like a weird, like putting someone on the spot to be like, obviously depending on the context, but can you do this? And they won't say like the compensation, they'll just say, can you do this? And you ask them in a very nice way, or let me pick your brain, right. Kind of like the getting of information for free, right. But same for you, Carla. Have you ever been asked to do free work and what did, or what do you say?

Carla: So like what is free? Are we talking about like free, just like monetary or is that what we're talking about right now? As far as like free work?

Reyes: Yeah, so kind of like I did earlier. But yeah, I kind of put the phrase free work in quotations because it's however you define it. 'Cause it can be, it can be monetary, it's mostly monetary. It could be your time. It could be your skills and experience. And so, it's however you define it.

Carla: Okay, cool. Well, in that case, of course I've done free work. I've been asked to do free work. And, but the thing is with me is whenever I do accept, air quotes, free work, free work's never really free. It's like, sometimes it'll be something like, if I wanna take on a project and it's like, okay, I have the opportunity to be super creative. It's like, okay, I will commission myself to do this air quote, free work. If it's purposeful, like I used to do flyers for the community, nonprofits in a leaf. And because I wanted to align with such a purposeful nonprofit and I wanted to align with like people doing good things in my community. Yeah, I don't have a problem doing that type of free work. So yeah, that's the only free work that I'm willing to do. If it's something that feels good to me, you know what I mean?

Reyes: Yeah, and I think this actually kind of segues into the next question, of like, 'cause you're right. In terms of one defining what does that mean, like to do quote unquote free work. For me, yeah, it's like, sometimes, there's kind of like a difference between, I don't know, my friends asking me, "Hey, can you help me move? And I'll pay you in like two nasty beer, two warm beers and some pizza." Versus like a museum coming up to you, "Hey, can you do poetry for our event?" And there's kind of like a difference. I have friends who are artists and who run spaces and they'll ask me like, "Hey, Reyes, I'm sorry, like, can you just do like a press release for us?" And it depends, usually they'll help me out by throwing me some free books because they they'll own a bookstore or something like that. And it's kind of like this exchange that's happening. But I think this kind of goes into the question of the lines and the boundaries between let's say a commission, a collaboration or a service, right? And I asked that in that way, because there is kind of a difference of like, let's say someone asking me to volunteer. Right, and usually they might even use that phrase like, "Hey, can you volunteer to do this?" Right, and it's kind of like, the more you read into it, it's like, oh, this is actually just a commission. Like, this is usually a paid service that I would do, you're asking me to do, to volunteer for it. Or there are times when it's another artist who maybe needs a service, but I can think of it more of as a collaboration where it's like, "Okay, I get it, you don't have a lot of money, but you're willing to kind of barter, you're willing to do something in exchange." And so, Moe, what are the lines and boundaries you consider between a commission, a collaboration or a service or use any of your skills, people who ask to use any of your skills?

Moe: I mean, yeah. It's kind of like, so for instance, in art installation, I'd try to have, well, I don't try, I have a, I do sliding scale, right? So for more of like my friends and like businesses, organizations that are running, like by BIPOC, then I try to do, like, I charge less. And then like the organizations that have more money or like white-led, then I'll charge more.

Carla: Exactly.

Moe: Yeah. And so, I mean, yeah, and my friends, like, I'll do a lot of stuff like that. Like, and that, I think that for me also personally, I tend to be a person, like I'm very willing to help. And so then sometimes I feel like that I also like put myself in those situations that then I'm like, wait, I've been working for a long time, and then everyone just knows to ask me. And I'm like, wait, no, I need to not just do so many things for free. And even a few years ago, I came to the realization, I mean, it was about like five years ago, I was super broke and living in my studio, I was houseless and I was still doing work for free. And I was like, wait, I shouldn't be doing work for free if I can't even take care of myself, right. So it's, and the things that I also tend to work a lot with the community. So sometimes it's difficult for me, in being like, "Oh, wait, I don't wanna charge." But then for instance, like I was saying that something that happened recently, like I was in my first show at a museum and I didn't get paid. But I'm so used to not getting paid to be in a show that I was like, oh, this is normal, right? And then one of the other artists asked that question and I was like, are we getting paid? And was met with like, oh, you should be grateful for being here, right? And I feel like I've also been trained in that ever since I was young, very like, just be quiet and be grateful for what you have. And so I can fall into, and I'm like, oh yes, I have to like, I'm here. And then it was like, wait, no, like this place has tons of money. And they're like, you have to pay to get in, like people have to pay to get in. They're selling a book with our artwork and none of us got paid. And it's like realizing that, and that's just a few months ago, right? And I'm like, oh my God, I'm still not used to it. Or even when I asked the question, I got asked to be on another kind of panel or something, and then it was a couple of weeks ago and I asked like, oh, so are you paying? And the person was like, "What?" Kind of like surprised by my question. And I was like, "Uh..." So it's kind of like trying to find those balances. And I guess at times it goes back to checking in with myself and seeing how I'm feeling and where I'm at, since I do freelance, right, like in regards to finances to be able to be like, yes, I can provide these services, or if I'm at capacity, I'm like, I can't do it for free or I can't do it right now. So that.

Reyes: Yeah, and I know what you mean in terms of like the, well, I guess we get into it in a little bit, but this idea of like kindness, right? Like an artist is like, I think artists tend to be very collaborative. They tend to really wanna be part of a community and help out other artists and help out other communities. And it's kind of like, yeah, at one point there is that line of boundary of like, yeah, this is not me contributing to community, this is me contributing to you. Kind of like you're asking me to do something and you should be, I shouldn't have to be assertive to be seen as like a work, someone who's providing work. Right, it should be like, why aren't you starting out with that basis of wanting to pay someone. Carla.

Moe: Sorry.

Reyes: Oh sorry, please Moe.

Moe: It's always weird that people have that expectation, I don't know why there's this assumption that artists don't need to get paid. Like, I don't know where they think we're getting magic money from or something.

Reyes: Yeah, yeah. Carla please, yeah. What are the lines, boundaries you consider between like a commission and a collaboration or service that you do in your practice?

Carla: Yeah, I feel like with, when it comes to like free work, I mean, I think we realize, we don't realize as creatives sometimes, especially like being like a baby, like beginner creative, like me, I'm pretty new in my art life and you don't feel worthy. So it's like, you feel like, okay, well, I need to do this for free because I'm still learning or, okay, maybe this is what I, maybe I won't get paid for this being in this art exhibit or maybe I won't get paid. I'm still beginning. But the truth is like you deserve to set the terms in the beginning. We need to be setting the terms of like what we are willing to do and how far we're willing to go when we do this free work. You know what I mean? I mean, the free work, like I said, you can do it, you can do whatever the job is, whether it's with commission or I forgot the other, no matter what you're doing, having a contract and setting terms for yourself. So you're not doing a million revisions for a month. So you're not like just stretching out this long project that's like never ending. We can set the terms at our day one of our art practice. You can set the terms right away. So the boundaries are, for me is like just stepping outside of those terms. Someone that's not abiding by the rules. It's like, "Hey, I said three revisions, just because it's free." You have the power. We still have control of the job, so we don't have to accept whatever the client or whoever is receiving the free work. You don't have to, we don't have to accept that. We can set our own terms. Like, for example, I learned the hard way, I'm still learning how to like figure out boundaries as an artist. Because, I don't know, a few months ago I reached out to Fresh Arts. I reached out to one of you, I don't know if it was you Reyes or Angela, but I reached out to y'all 'cause I was like, "Hey, I need a lawyer." Because it was one of those situations where you're kind of like giving away a commission and you feel like, okay, because they commissioned this project that you don't have rights on where it goes. And then you look up and then you see the artwork or design or whatever it is on shirts and mugs and everywhere and you're not profiting from it. So that's why it's so important to just like set those terms and make sure like, hey, if you're giving commission, you can still set guidelines. You can still set your own terms what happens with that work when it's out of your hands, when it's done. So I had to learn the hard way, unfortunately, over and over again. So I'm right there with you, Moe. I still have those struggles too. But I am learning though that we hold a lot of power when we are doing this free work. We don't have to kind of like accept anything they say really, it's like the ball is in our court. 'Cause a lot of times these free things, if it's not something you love, it's painful to do. It's painful. It's hard to get through these free projects. When it's like, when your heart's not in it, it's just like a drag. So, yeah. That said, I don't know if I answered the question.

Reyes: No, I think you added like a really important element to it, which is kind of like in writing, like what is the agreement and really setting those boundaries yourself. Of like, if someone, again, is asking, if another artist were to be like, Reyes, can you write a press release or can you help me with this grant? I'll probably say, yeah, absolutely. But then like, if it's free work, then there is kind of no agreement. So it's kind of like, I'm helping you because I want to, and then like, they'll be like, the day before and be like, "Oh Reyes, can you do another round of edits the night before?" And that's when I can be like, "No, I already helped you. Like, I did my best, what I could, and good luck." Like I have boundaries, we all have limits, and it's kind of like, yeah, how do we set those boundaries and limits for ourselves? And usually if someone is providing you a contract to sign, they usually, mostly means that they can afford to pay you. Right, 'cause someone had to draft that document, right? And someone had to draft all that legalese for you. And it's kind of like, if you can afford that, I think you're gonna pay, you can afford to pay me something in something. And if you're gonna get my work in perpetuity, that's an exchange. And so, yeah, really setting those boundaries and limits is important. And I think Moe you touched upon this really important idea of like where does this come from, this kind of audacity to wanna ask artists to do free stuff. And 'cause, I think it'd be awkward to ask, to go up to a plumber or like air conditioner, like someone who fixes air conditioning to be like, "Yo, can you fix my air conditioner for free? I'll pay you, you'll get a shout out on my Instagram." They'll probably boot you in the face. Like you can't just do that. And so it's kind of like, where does this come from, this idea? And so I don't know if y'all have thoughts on like, why do people want to go up to artists and like want free stuff? It's like a weird thing that is kind of like, it's just an occurrence.

Carla: Yeah. I don't know. I feel like a lot of it is like just ignorance on other people's part on just like how time consuming some of these projects can be. Sometimes I feel like a lot of people feel like it's something that they can do. And they, it's not a big deal. I just feel like, we're not, artists aren't, they're not respected, we're not taken seriously a lot of times, only by like other artists or other creatives and other enthusiasts, but like anyone else, that doesn't have an understanding. I don't know. I just feel like, like I said, ignorance, or just not understanding how time consuming things can be. And also just not valuing this, you know, I don't know.

Moe: Kind of like also what you're saying and thinking like when I was in college and now everyone's always saying like people studying art aren't doing anything or whatever, they're always like, oh, you're all just hanging out or whatever. And then being asked to do like photograph something for free at the time, I think for me as a young kid, was like kind of validating. I was like, oh, this person is trusting me to do this, right. Like they value me in some way. And that's how it started, right? And I'll post you or whatever, it'll be exposure. And at the beginning I was like, oh yeah, right. Like I can start doing this and build my name or something. And then all of a sudden it's like all the time. And it's like, wait, no. And that's, yeah, that's always the funny thing, how people always want our services, but never value it, right? Like, I mean, yeah, somehow it doesn't have monetary value and we don't eat.

Carla: What do you think, Reyes?

Reyes: I mean, I think we're in a particular case whether it be in America and Texas in particular, I think constantly growing up in Texas and Texas education system, it's, the arts are always just constantly devalued like year after year. And then like this whole stem kind of movement came out and now it's starting to become steam 'cause they add the a in arts. And it's kind of like, I think in Texas in particular, there is just kind of like a constant de-valuing of art is not necessary. And therefore, like it's aesthetic, it's a holistic kind of field. It's not a particular science, so you don't need to know any hard numbers. And so it's kinda, it's creative, anyone can do it. And it's kind of like, I get it, like as a writer, anyone can be a writer to me, and like anyone can write something and that's awesome. And they can contribute their contributions to letters and yes, but it's also, you're asking me to do something, right? And so it's kind of, why are you asking me to do a certain thing? You're not just asking anybody, you're asking me because of my expertise, you're asking me because of my experience.

Carla: Right.

Reyes: And so I think kind of like this idea that, where you were hitting on Carla, is this like, well, anyone can do it, or it's a creative endeavor, I could ask anyone to do it. But it's like, no, you're not asking just anybody, you're asking me. And so, I think kind of like the use of the, seeing art is kind of like unnecessary or kind of like just something to add on, right? But again, it's kind of like, yet we still need it, we still use it, we still ask people for it. So it's kind of, is it needed or not, if you have to constantly ask people to do it for free? And so, so sorry, Moe?

Moe: I was just thinking, 'cause I saw this meme the other day and it said, it was like this graphic that had like the essential workers, right, and the least essential people. And it was like the first three were like nurses. Like, I dunno, it was like three different jobs. And then the number one, like least essential person was artists. And then at the bottom it said it had another little drawing of the artists designing that graphic and not getting paid for it.

Reyes: Oh, man.

Carla: That's good.

Reyes: It's too real, it's too real. But yeah. So going into my next question then is, when you are approached to do work, what factors do you consider and how you charge for your work before entering an agreement? And so by that, I mean, for example, like, I think we've touched upon it a little bit is that sometimes we will kind of have, like you, Moe, have like a sliding scale or kind of the consideration of the quote unquote client, right? Who is doing the asking and for what purpose? And so, when you are approached to do that work, what do you consider when you kind of like enter an agreement or when you think about charging or how much you charge and so, Moe?

Moe: I mean, yeah. So, like I mentioned, if it's organizations that are BIPOC led, then I charge less. And then like white-led organizations, I charge more. And also like, if it's my friends. I mean, yeah, if it's my close friends, and I mean, we're also artists and I know that they probably don't have a lot of money. Then sometimes I just ask them to pay me what they can or what they think is fair. And that's what I go by.

Reyes: Can you kind of expand like why though? Like why charge let's say, not that I disagree. I agree with you, why charge a white-led organization more than let's say artists collective of BIPOC.

Moe: I mean, there's a lot of white organizations, white-led organizations in town of, like the majority are. They have a lot of money, a lot more money. So that's why, right? Like, I mean, and I've worked for some. And I know how much, like an installer makes at certain place, right, like the installer they hire. But I mean, and then it goes into that too, that would other organizations that are white-led that won't want to pay me my rate and they pay a lot less. And so it's funny because it's kind of like, you're freelance and then it goes into that, right? Like people assuming that what you're charging and they're comparing it to their salary and it's like, it's different, right? Like I'm freelance, I'm gonna do this for two or three days, I don't have benefits. Like I don't have insurance, I don't have it, I have to pay my taxes, right. Like, and they don't take that into consideration, right. So it's like all these things that you have to try to work with. I mean, and yeah. And sometimes it goes to also like, if there's no work, then I have to take the work, right. Like, so it it's, like sometimes I'm like, no, I'm trying to set my boundary and I'm wanna get paid this. I'm not gonna give you my work for less. But like, if I don't have work, it's like, okay, I'll take it.

Reyes: Yeah, and that is kind of like the nefariousness of it all is that because a lot of organizations with a lot of reach can be like, "Oh, so you won't play ball, we'll get someone else who will play ball." Kind of like, if you won't take it at this level, then we'll get someone who can. And it's kind of like that use of kind of like that, corporate kind of, cog in the machine of like, oh, we can just replace you with someone else kind of thing. And I know what you mean, I know what you mean is I'm saying. But, same question, when you were approached to do work, what factors do you consider and how you charge for your work before entering an agreement?

Carla: Yeah, how long is this gonna take me? It's like, time is money. Time is going to be the factor how much I pay you, how much time am I working on this project. It's gonna play a large role in just like how I charge you. So, if it's free, it's like, you have to figure out like, okay, does this work with my existing projects that I'm getting paid for? 'Cause I have projects that I am getting paid for that I need to make room for, so how long will this project take me? And do I even have the capacity to do this project? Am I, need to pass this on to a more competent homie of mine to do it? Am I answering this question? So you're asking me, what are the factors that I put in before I hire them with like a friend's coming like, "Hey girl, I need you to do some stickers for my shoes for free." Or are you talking about when it's just work in general?

Reyes: Yeah, either. I guess the question is kind of gearing more towards like, yeah, like you said, like, let's say if a friend asks you to make those stickers and they're very intricate and they take a long time, but that's your friend, that's your homie. And you're like, there is kind of like math that you, like you just said, you're playing in your head where you're just like, you're asking me something that takes several hours to do and you kind of, I get it, you're my friend and we wanna help each other out. But it's also like, you're asking me to do quite a bit and that we're entering that kind of competition with people who are paying me.

Carla: Right.

Reyes: And so, I think you've answered the question just fine, this idea of the time, right. If someone, like I said, if someone is asking me for example, to do like a really quick review of their grant, right, and they'll be like, yo, can you just check it for spelling and errors? And I'd be like, yeah, that'll take me, depending on the project, it'll probably take me like 10, 15, 20 minutes? And I'll do that for a friend. Absolutely. But if they're asking me to do like deep revision work and like read it, edit it, can you give me feedback, and then can you look at it again? Now I'm just like, uh. You gotta throw something in there for me, right. Versus let's say like yeah, if a university department where they'd be like, Yo, Reyes, can you do like a poetry reading to our teachers at this time and at this place? That's when I'll be like, okay, so you're asking me for my art and to perform for you and you're not paying me? That's just not going to happen.

Carla: Right.

Reyes: And so that is kind of like you just said, like kind of those, that math that you have to play in your head. And because also, I guess I would like to bring up the fact that you two do a lot of other work that I think is more community-based. For example, Carla, I know you do, you have your own podcast and your own show, that you do that I mean... And then Moe, I've seen you do your work and you install. I've seen you do community work, including us too, of like working with other artists in the communal sense. And, correct me if I'm wrong, right, but like, well, I didn't charge anyone to kind of help with that effort that we were in, Moe, lately. But and, Carla, I'm sure you in your podcast and working with, I forget, I'm sorry, All Real Radio. I doubt, I mean, do you, do you charge them for that service, or to kind of put on that programming, or?

Carla: Oh, no.

Reyes: No, but, I mean, that's the thing. It's like, I know All Real Radio, they're awesome. They're great.

Carla:  Are you saying am I charging my guests to come on?

Reyes: No, I guess what I'm asking is like, for you, no, no, it's all good, sorry, I'm getting a really long, taking really long to get to the question. But the question being like, at what point do you involve yourself in something for a communal sense?

Carla:  Oh yeah.

Reyes: And you do that quote unquote for free?

Carla: Everyday.

Reyes: You do wanna help the community. You do wanna be part of the community. And so for you, Carla, how do you gauge that? Where you're like, this is what I, yes, I wanna be involved, but at this capacity?

Carla: Oh, okay, I see. So yeah, I'm still trying to figure out like boundaries. Right now when it comes to community work, if it is something that, it has to be super specific for me to like do it. And any kind of free work, it has to be something that's triggering to the heart. And honestly, like I said, I will dedicate the time that I can around the schedule, my already existing schedule of life-work. All Real Radio, I give, sorry, going back to my, I have a podcast, yes, it's called the Carla Sue's Backyard Brunch. And I interview creatives that are in the art life, they're trying to be working creatives that have done it for 10 years or better, people that have kind of actually created like a sustainable career out out of their art, and ones that are on the way to. And so yeah, a lot of people want to come on the show, and it's just like, of course it's free. Whatever All Real Radio wants me to do and whatever they ask of me, I'm always down, because I just believe in the cause, I believe, I love their work, I love community. So, and yeah, it's a heavy emphasis on the things that I believe in. But as far as like, there have been moments with me just doing community work over the years where I have kind of like stretched myself too thin. But that's all about me and my time management, nothing to do with the other counterparts. It's really just with me and like figuring out how do I schedule this the right way to where I can help the people and help my people and also help myself. So it's been figuring out the balances is a daily practice.

Reyes: Absolutely. I asked that question because again, I'll be asked to do a lot of like stuff that I really care about from people who can't pay, but they really need something. And so yeah, it is kind of like, to me, it does break my heart, be like, I'm sorry, I just can't, I can't do this time. Or, I really have to prioritize this other thing. 'Cause this will make sure I'll eat and, but please ask me any other time, that kind of thing. And so, Moe, did you want to add to that, or?

Moe: I mean, yeah, I agree. It's similar, right? It's for my community and that's really important to me, right? I mean, that's the point, right? Like we're trying to build like communities and stuff, so you have to be a part of it. If it's something that you believe in, right? Like you have to work towards it. So yeah, I mean, there's a lot of things that I am fine with doing, right. Like, but yeah, it's kind of like how Carla said, right? We get times that you've stretched yourself too thin, right. In the end, for me, it's kind of like also learning boundaries or learning like how much I can give or when I can't, like when I should just say no, right. So yeah, trying to practice that more, not just like, yeah, just being like, "I'll do everything," right?

Carla: Yes, I'm at the point right now where I'm trying to do everything for, 'cause there's so many people I love and so many people I really wanna help. But I have had an issue with timing, how long projects will take, having a real gauge on, okay, how long is this gonna take for me to make these greeting cards and cut them and fold them and then make the stickers? I had to start timing myself so I can actually have an accurate, give them something accurate and concrete, of like an actual, like end date, but instead of driving myself crazy and like, "Okay, you'll have it in two days. You'll have it in two days." Yeah. It's a practice.

Moe: Yeah, and I think that, and it can be applied in different ways. Like for you it's like timing it or yet like maybe for me is more like how much, how much I, like being able to like hold back and be like, okay, yeah setting, or yeah, setting a time or being like, this is what I'll work on, and then I'll stop because I need to take care of myself, right. And yeah, always like, if I don't take care of myself, then I don't think I can show up as fully and keep helping, right? 'Cause yeah, it's like when I was talking about like way back when I was broke and stuff, I think at that time I burnt myself out because I was just doing so much and just being like, "No, this is important." And I was teaching at a shelter and it was just like too much, right? And I wasn't getting paid, right? And I was like, "No, but this is important. These kids are through like a way more difficult time." And then it was just afterwards, like after a few months, I just couldn't do it, right? And so, it would be better to be, "Oh, this is how much time I can give or this is how much I can do to make sure that I'm okay too and I can keep doing this," right?

Carla: Totally.

Reyes: Yeah. And I think there is kind of, again, if I can use the word nefarious again, this kind of exploitation of the want to create community, right? Where it's kind of, maybe a space will be like, "Oh," and I'll say in my case, there'll be like, "Oh, we have a Hispanic heritage month event and we want you to be in it." And it's- Kind of like, they're asking me essentially be, use mine-

Carla: Be the token.

Reyes: Yeah, or use my membership of a community to kind of like align their own kind of like clout and stuff like that. And it's kind of like, that's maybe a question worth asking yourself as an artist is like, is the person who's asking you to do this trying to cultivate community or an audience? Right, 'cause an audience is kind of like, this idea that they're gonna pay, right. Or they're gonna, there's something to get from an audience. Right, but as a community, there's something for everyone. You give that's part of a communal kind of exchange. Is that, yeah, I can't pay you right now, but I will get you on the flip side, please believe me. And it's kind of like, again, like as a writer, I'll maybe be asked by an independent author being like, "Yo Reyes, can you read my book and give me a shout out, like a blurb, so I can put it on the book or something like that? And I'll be like, yeah, absolutely, like, do you care about this? What's your record? And I'll look at them. And I'll be like, all right, yeah, I'll do this for you. And I'm sure down the line, if I ever need something from you, you'll hopefully be willing to help me out.

Carla: Yeah.

Reyes: Versus like a university department or a museum or huge museum, they'll be like, can you do this free for us? Okay. And that's it. And that's it, that'll be like the cutoff off of the entire like conversation. That'll be the end of the exchange. And it's kinda, you got essentially a way to tell your donors and stuff like that that you're open to diversity, but you didn't pay for it.

Moe: Something to that. I think that maybe it was happening was also people from our communities, right. Like trying to include more of our own people, like bring them in. And so then it's like, oh, I'm trying to invite my community in, right, but they weren't given a budget, right. And in a lot of cases, I think further back, I was like, "Oh yeah, right. Like, let's do this." Or it's cool, like now we're being included or something, right, but yeah, we're still not getting paid or offered pay, right. So always a, wait, there's another step here too, right. But yeah,

Carla: Okay.

Reyes: Yeah. And so kind of, as we're out the discussion, what boundary, and y'all have mentioned some of these boundaries and values, but what boundaries and values should artists establish for themselves when it comes to accepting work? And so y'all have mentioned time or the time invested, but I recently saw this, if we're gonna ever use memes as reference points. I like this meme of the story of like this dude who like, or this mechanic who goes, and they asked them like, it's a broken airplane or something like that. And they asked the mechanic, can you fix this? And they said, it's gonna cost this much. And they're like, okay, cool. And then the mechanic goes and hits it with like a hammer. And then the airplane starts working again. And they're like, well, we're only gonna pay you, for that hitting it of the hammer. And they're like, "Well, you're paying me for the experience to know to hit it with the hammer. You're not paying for the time," right? "You're paying for the expertise that I've gained to do this." And so, I guess, starting with you, Carla, what boundaries or values should artists establish for themselves when it comes to accepting work?

Carla: Yeah. Just get into a habit of like creating terms, writing down what are your non-negotiables, what are you willing to do and what aren't you willing to do? You have the control. The client, they need you, they're coming to you for a reason. They need you, whether it's free work or not. They're not gonna be able to get this project done in the way that you can do it, they're reaching out to you for a reason, as Reyes said earlier. So, I mean, you have the power, you have the power to set your own terms. So just feel empowered by that. And don't be afraid to speak up for what you ask, for what you want, and ask for what you want. And yeah, just set your own terms and get a contract. Make sure that something's always signed, whether it's free or not. Don't be like me. I had to learn the hard way. You don't wanna get into all that stuff of just like having to get a lawyer and have to try to figure... Set the terms and set the standards right from the jump. You're worth it, whether you believe it or not. 'Cause a lot of us deal with like imposter syndrome, but you're totally worth it. So go ahead and just write out what's your wants and needs are and stick with it.

Reyes: For sure. Moe?

Moe: I think I have to take Carla's advice.

Carla: I need to take my own advice.

Moe: Well, I mean, even what you were saying earlier, like we're still learning, right? And it's like, yeah, we get put into new situations and realize like, oh wait, I'm not okay with this, right. And so, yeah. And that's something that I need to do is write a contract or write, like have it in writing and be like, this is how much I charge or this is how it works, right, so people are clear. 'Cause, I mean, I sometimes do photo shoots for people and I charge very little 'cause I only do it for like close friends. But then sometimes, they'll tell their family or something. And then they asked me like, how much do you charge? And I'm like, "How much do you wanna pay me?"

Carla: Oh yes.

Moe: Wait, no, no I can't do that, right?

Carla: You'll get there.

Moe: Yeah.

Reyes: And that's the thing, it's kind of that's almost in revealing in and of itself that this is kind of like a business, right? Or it's like a sense of like, if I have to do all this weighing, then it's a service. It's something that ought to be paid. If you would normally need to go to someone else and they would charge you this much, and you're only coming to me because it saves you money, then it's kind of like, that's in and of itself making it into a business transaction. So I don't know why I'm not making this weird, you're making this weird. You came to me and like you said, Carla, you need me. But I guess kind of the end of on that note before we get to the kind of some fun questions. As you heard here today from Carla and Moe, set your boundaries, know your worth, know the work that you're contributing and what is to be gained from it. And so thank you, you two, for that, for your expertise, for your experience. Now, just some quick lightning round questions that I like to do. First question, Carla, what is a place in Houston that you like to go eat or get takeout?

Carla: I like Axelrad. I like to go to that pizza place. What's the, I don't know the name of the pizza place right next to it.

Moe: Luigi's?

Carla: Luigi's. Yeah, I like to get pizza at Luigi's and then go get a beer at Axelrad and sit in the patio on either side. That's my favorite thing to do. I like their pizza. They have very good vegan pizza.

Reyes: Nice. Moe?

Moe: I like going to Papaturro and getting a mariscada.

Reyes: Yo.

Moe: With all the seafood.

Carla: Yes!

Moe: The cream soup.

Reyes: Nice. Carla, who is an artist in Houston that you like, or you're seeing that they're doing really cool stuff that you would like to recommend?

Carla: Oh my gosh, it's so many. Amy Malkan, is that how you say her last name? Malkan. M-A-L-K-A-N. Oh man, she's the dopest. Yeah. She's the coolest. So yeah, I like Amy. She's a muralist in the city, and yeah, she's just been doing all this like education on her page about like, a lot of artists education, how to protect ourselves, and this is a business essentially. And she gives a lot of information on terms that you should put in your contracts as artists. And also she just does amazing work all over the city. She's the dopest.

Reyes: Thank you. Moe?

Moe: I'm like, uh! All my friends. I'm gonna say Angel Lartigue. I always love all the research she's doing and how she presents her work is always like, it's just, yeah. I've never seen work like that. So.

Reyes: Nice. Nice. All right. So thank you, you too. That's the end of our time. Thank you so much listener for listening in. And Moe, Carla, I'll see you when I see you.

Carla: Peace.

Moe: Bye. Thank you.

Carla: Thank you.

Spokesperson: This podcast is powered by Fresh Arts, a Houston based nonprofit that helps advance the careers of local artists and creatives, the resource sharing, skill building initiatives, and artist center community programs. Visit fresharts.org for more information.