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A Look Back at Our AEP & GI Regional Gatherings

December 8, 2023
By Staff

This fall CRNY convened hundreds of Guaranteed Income (GI) and Artist Employment Program (AEP) artists and organizational leaders across New York State as part of sixteen regional gatherings—for program participants to meet, learn, share their experiences, foster new connections, and celebrate resilience in solidarity with one another. 

AEP gatherings convened in Queens, Paul Smiths, Syracuse, Buffalo, Patchogue, The Bronx, and Brooklyn; and GI gatherings convened in Buffalo, Brooklyn, Harlem, Lindenhurst, Rhinebeck, Queens, and Syracuse. In addition, programs held virtual gatherings for GI and AEP participants across the state. 

Attendees had the opportunity to reflect on their successes and challenges, hopes and fears—as artists, workers, community members, organizers, caregivers, movement builders, and thought leaders. “The biggest victory,” said teaching artist and Community Unity Music Education Program AEP participant Annemarie Zwack during an AEP group reflection, “is the feeling of self-realization—of getting to be an artist and engaging in communities in creating self-determinative art.” 

At their core, gatherings were commemorative of the triumphs, both big and small, that employment opportunities and financial stability allow. “These gatherings have demonstrated what is truly possible when the artists in our communities are employed and thriving. As artists and organizational leaders connected, we witnessed incredible momentum toward collective power across the state,” said Bella Desai and Christopher Mulè, Directors of Strategic Initiatives, Artist Employment Program.

Gathering conversations were dynamic and wide ranging. GI artists, for instance, shared how guaranteed income allowed them to buy supplies for their artistic practices, address their medical bills, support their families, invest in future projects, participate in local grassroots initiatives, pay down debts, afford their rent, pay application fees, and take time for themselves. The flexibility of direct cash, as program participants discussed, broadens what kind of support is possible. “These gatherings have made it clear that all of us—including artists—are deserving of financial stability, autonomy, respect, and care,” said Maura Cuffie-Peterson, CRNY’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Guaranteed Income.

Moving forward, we are excited to witness program participants—and all artists across New York State—advocate for their rights as workers. From Buffalo to The Bronx, artists face job insecurity, financial precarity, and hardship—and all deserve not only stability, but also the means and support to thrive.

“Thank you all for these last 18 months, and thank you for bringing us all together,” said artist and GI participant Devika Chandnani of CRNY’s Guaranteed Income program during a Brooklyn regional gathering. “It was the closure I didn’t know I needed. I felt so held today after listening to everyone talk about our shared experience. The space today felt spiritual. Someone said something about how we invited this into our [own] lives. [That sentiment] put a sense of autonomy and responsibility on us. We did that. I don’t know how I did it, but I’m so thankful to you all, life, the universe, and myself for making this happen. I have hope that we will attract more of this into our lives.”

We are so thankful to each and every artist and organizational leader who attended these gatherings, shared their stories, and made these events so joyful, hopeful, and dynamic. Thank you.