By : Stephen Grigelevich
7 min read
What’s up, everyone? My name is Steve Grigelevich, and I’ve been a contributing writer for BCN since March 2020. Before that, I was a fan in the crowd at DAP shows. I started writing for our blog as a way to deal with the stress of the pandemic, hoping to foster creative connection with others. After my twins were born unexpectedly eleven weeks early in April ‘20, I was thankful to be able to write a piece about my weeklong stay in the hospital with them. Last year, I started writing for the print edition, focusing on labor movement issues. It was because of this new focus that I became interested in BCN’s own process toward facilitating worker dignity and solidarity. So, for this month’s edition of “Notes from the Crew,” I present my interview with BCN’s founder Sam Potrykus and our Editor-in-Chief Kevin Dacey about the recent decision to start paying BCN contributors.
SG: How did conversations on paying contributors begin?
KD: We've been wanting to pay writers for years. We finally feel stable enough with our current team and finances to invest in the artists we work with. It also comes from the original mission of our non-profit, Brain Arts Org: GET ARTISTS PAID. Pretty much putting our money where our mouth is. We’re working towards sustainability of the paper now more than ever. By investing in our artists, we hope to uplift them and show them that they are more than just words on a page.
SP: Like Kevin said, we’ve been having these conversations for years about wanting to pay all BCN contributors. But without a vision of overall financial stability, it wasn’t wise to begin paying folks. This new revenue plan is similar to our work in the past with donors small and large, grants, and sponsorship. The main difference is we're investing more into our fundraising efforts and reducing BAO programming so that BCN, DAP and BAO advocacy comes first.
SG: What have been the logistics involved in paying contributors?
KD: There were two main objectives we wanted to achieve before paying writers. Build a strong admin team to process the backend of paying people. Dedicate team members to sponsorship and community development. We have checked both these off!
SP: It’s true we’ve paid writers in the past. But the key logistical needs of paying contributors are 1. maintaining a healthy admin team and caring for them so they can care for our contributors and 2. committing admin resources to the fundraising and development needed to support that healthy admin team.
SG: Is there a set policy on 1)who gets paid 2)what amount for 3)contributing what?
KD: Each writer and comic strip artist will be getting paid $50 for each contribution. Writers must submit articles of at least 300 words to get paid. Our featured artists (creators of the header images) have been getting paid since December 2021. They get $300 for the creation of the header image. We have one main goal that we are striving to achieve in the next couple months: half of the artists paid must be BIPOC.
SP: For now we are starting small. But ultimately this is just year one of paying everyone on BAO staff. All of our models at BAO are part of our emergent strategy and thus will shift and improve as we grow and learn more from what our people need and want. For example, next year we might try paying a team of curators to coordinate writers, but until we have the admin team to support a curatorial team, that wouldn’t be a healthy decision for our staff or contributors.
SG: Are there any other changes at BCN, DAP, or BAO that parallel the decision to pay contributors?
KD: We are taking on less volunteers these days to focus on our core team. Health of each member is our number one priority. More volunteers means more oversight and management. We have had hundreds of vols over the years, but it’s now time to invest in our dedicated team and create sustainability within the org.
SP: Making health and wellness priority #1 has really saved our organization. We used to have 75-100 volunteers at a time which was a beautiful thing, but it was too many folks to manage effectively with the level of CARE needed to do this type of community work. It’s not just an arts platform; it’s an artist-run org trying to be a model and set an example for how workers and artists should be cared for by their employers. We really changed our whole growth approach so that the care of our people is given priority over content, growth or anything else. Similarly with BAO and DAP admin staff, we have reduced the number of folks so that we can give better care and attention. Shout out to all the BAO/BCN/DAP volunteers over the past 13 years that got us this far. We couldn’t have done it without you, but we also can’t grow into the model organization we want to be without making changes and responding to what wasn’t working.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #150 September 2022
Check out all the art and columns of September's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass