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Guaranteed Income

Meeting Basic Needs With Unconditional Cash In Two Parts

In partnership with Art.coop


Course Description

1. What Is Guaranteed Income?

"I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." 

–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?

What is possible when you have your basic needs met? What choices would you make? What art would you make? Care, creativity, and community action are integral to a healthy society, yet many of the people doing that important work live with financial instability. What if we could change that?

Guaranteed income (GI) is a recurring cash payment – with no strings attached – to a targeted group of people. In this introduction, artists and culture workers Naja Gordon and Eshe Shukura discuss some of the reasons why guaranteed income might be a good fit for creatives, the history of unconditional cash payments in the United States, and guaranteed income’s role as a piece in a larger, nationwide project to make our economic system more just.

This introduction consists of an 8-minute video, hours of research opportunities and reflection, and a moment to test your knowledge.

2. Guaranteed Income In Action With Creatives Rebuild New York

"I see guaranteed income as a step toward the future that we want. We’re seeing that future lived presently though this program. It's more than just a check.”   
–Maura Cuffie-Peterson

There are hundreds of guaranteed income (GI) demonstrations in the United States right now, built on a foundation of previous pilots, historic government-funded cash programs, and grassroots activism for financial justice. One such initiative is Creatives Rebuild New York’s GI for Artists program that distributed funds to 2,400 artists in New York State from 2022 to 2024. In this mini documentary, we find ourselves in Harlem’s Riverside Church to meet a host of GI participants, including photographer Claudia Maturell, gathered to share their experiences and testify to GI’s impact. Maura Cuffie-Peterson, the Director of CRNY’s GI for Artists, guides us through the program, its aim, its larger context, and its future potential. 

This lesson consists of a 14-minute video and over an hour of research and reflection.

Course Contents


Naja Gordon
Arts Administrator, Facilitator, Dancer
Naja Gordon is an arts administrator, facilitator, and dancer based in New York City. Currently, she is the Program Manager for the Guaranteed Income for Artists program at Creatives Rebuild New York. Previously, she was the Associate Producer of the Mar Vista Music and Art Walk, and the Company Manager of Okwui Okpokwasili & Peter Born’s Poor People’s TV Room National Tour. As a facilitator, Naja has led movement-based classes at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, The Dalton School, and public schools across New York City. Naja holds a B.A. in Dance and Performance from Bard College.
Eshe Shukura
Narrative & Cultural Strategist, Performance Artist
Eshe Shukura (they/them) is the Narrative & Cultural Strategist with the Georgia Resilience & Opportunity Fund, where they co-architect the story of the movement through narrative building, storytelling, art activations, community centered events, and building authentic relationships. Eshe spent five years working in the field of Reproductive Justice, furthering the vision of its Black Feminist foremothers.

In Eshe's personal life, they are a performance artist and non-linear poet/storyteller/playwright. They went to Hampshire College for theater, where they wrote, starred in, and co-directed their original play, Fat.Black.& Ugly. They are currently rediscovering performance and make work on their Instagram page, producing a series of captioned stories during the pandemic called, #welcomefromthefuture, telling stories that captured a new world after lockdown.


We acknowledge your time and care.
We acknowledge the original stewards of the land.
We acknowledge our ancestors and your ancestors.
We acknowledge and thank all those who have struggled for workers’ rights and racial, economic, and environmental rights and emancipation. 

Course material: This course was made through a partnership between Art.coop and CreativeStudy and the participation of Creatives Rebuild New York. The video scripts for this course were written by Maura Cuffie-Peterson, Emma Guttman-Slater, and Eshe Shukura in collaboration with Caroline Woolard and feedback from Heather Bhandari. We also received feedback from Sarah Calderon, Julia Clark, Raymonii Cowan, Nina Fletcher, Naja Gordon, Jamie Hand, Nati Linares, Marina Lopez, Isaiah Madison, Sruti Suryanarayanan, Ann Tarantino, and Dexter Wimberly.

Thank you to Aarushi Agni, Zisa Aziza, Ryan Christian, Sophia Loren Coffee, James Edward Becton, Dorit Elena K, Leo Lion, Claudia Maturell, Paris Moon, Jessica Samboy, and Cory Scott for sharing your stories, to Leila Tamari for facilitating, and to Maura Cuffie-Peterson for telling the story of Creatives Rebuild New York so well.

Thank you to Commons.art, Grantmakers in the Arts, MEDLab, New Economy Coalition, and Traveling University for their support.

This series is made possible with financial support from Creatives Rebuild New York, a project of Tides Center.

We stand on the shoulders of those who use solidarity and cooperative economics in the struggle for liberation. These are some of the folks who lead the way for us: Ella Baker, James Baldwin, Grace Lee Boggs, Barbara Dane, W. E. B. Du Bois, the Combahee River Collective, Fannie Lou Hamer, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aisha Nyandoro, Paul Robeson, Shirley Sherrod, Nina Simone, Comandante Ramona, Johnnie Tillmon, Elandria “E” C. Williams, Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, and many others.