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Introduction To Creative Work In The Solidarity Economy

The What And The Why In Four Parts

In partnership with Art.coop


Course Description

1. Welcome!

“We need to make our businesses and our nonprofits as radical as the ideas in our artworks.” 
Are you fed up with our current system of exploitation, where creatives are asked to compete with each other for little pay? Our aim is to move you closer to living in alignment with values of care, cooperation, and solidarity.

This module introduces you to a growing library of courses dedicated to creatives building their own worlds. It is a part of a living, breathing process created by people who know that values-aligned ways of working together can be joyful, impactful, and pay the bills. We have survived and thrived by being in community and we welcome you. Guided by Cooperative Journal podcast host Ebony Gustave and artist Rad Pereira, this first module sets the tone and lays the foundation for what will be shared.

This lesson consists of a 3-minute video and an hour of reflection, guided by worksheets.

2. Why Do Artists Build Systems?

“We have no poverty of imagination…Creatives are resisting unethical systems and building new ones.”
You know that saying: “Give a person a fish, and they will eat for one day. But teach them to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime?” Well, Ed Whitfield tells us that this is a lie. In this video, culture workers Ebony Gustave and Rad Pereira walk us through the metaphor, outlining many of the myths surrounding a life in the arts. They balance the statistics of inequity that result when artists are undervalued and scarcity is believed with exciting statistics that prove those beliefs wrong. Examples highlight creatives working together toward a systemic shift to community control, rejecting disempowering myths of isolation and worthlessness. They demonstrate the incredible results achieved when creatives take action and address flows of money and power.

This lesson consists of a 9-minute video, 30 minutes of reflection, and hours of research opportunity.

3. What Is The Solidarity Economy?

“The Solidarity Economy is about self-determination for all people, including creative people.” 
You may have heard about the Solidarity Economy and even watched the last two videos without yet knowing how to explain it or whether you are a part of it already! In this video, culture workers Ebony Gustave and Rad Pereira guide us through a brief history of the term, what it means to use shared vocabulary, and how you might already be participating in the Solidarity Economy without even knowing it. We believe that creatives who can recognize and name the Solidarity Economy's values and practices in their lives are empowered to resist exploitation and create jobs, housing, and resource exchanges that value creative people as whole people. Once you recognize the language and values involved, you can connect to the much larger community. Rad and Ebony will show you how.

This lesson consists of a 12-minute video, 30 minutes of reflection, and hours of research opportunity.

4. Where Do We Go From Here?

What happens when the person who has been in charge–the boss, the landlord, the banker–is gone?
Now that you have a better sense of what the Solidarity Economy is, where it comes from, and how you as a creative person may (or already do!) fit in, you need a values-based foundation upon which to build. Using the shared term “Solidarity Economy” will help you find other people and connect to long legacies of wisdom and power whether you are starting with a material swap or a tool lending library, making a timebank, or looking for a job where you can shape your working conditions. But what are the values that connect everyone? What are the principles and practices core to successful cooperative organizations? Ebony Gustave and Rad Pereira outline core tenets of Solidarity Economy work so that you’re able to take next steps with confidence and the right mindset.

This lesson consists of a 5-minute video and several hours of reflection, research, and activities.

Course Contents


Ebony Gustave
Creative Architect, Creative Journal Podcast Host
Ebony Gustave (she/her) is a web weaver, community architect, and storyteller. She is the host of Cooperative Journal podcast, an archive of interviews highlighting international examples of the solidarity economy. As a co-steward of its multimedia umbrella, she is bridging the gaps between political education, imagination, co-creation, and actualization. The common thread between all of her work is bringing awareness to, and activating, solutions for collective autonomy, care, and trust.
Rad Pereira
Artist, Culture Worker
Rad Pereira (they/them) is a queer (im)migrant artist and cultural worker building consciousness between healing justice, system change, reindigenization and queer futures based in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn) and Haudenosaunee territory (northern Hudson Valley). Their work in performance, education, and social practice has been experienced on stages, screens, stoops, and sidewalks all over Turtle Island through the support of many communities, institutions, and groups. Their book, Meeting the Moment: Socially Engaged Performance, 1965-2020, By Those Who Lived It, is available through New Village Press. They are building a Native led food sovereignty project called Iron Path Farms.


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. The video scripts for this course were written by Caroline Woolard in collaboration with Ebony Gustave and Robin Crane. For more, go to art.coop.

Feedback was provided by: the International Cooperative Alliance, Doc Servizi, MEDLab, Commons.art, Heather Bhandari, Nati Linares, Marina Lopez, Francisco Pérez, and Sruti Suryanarayanan. We've also asked for feedback from Sylvia Atwood, Julia Clark, David Ferris, Rice Gallardo, Hope Ghazala, Andréa Jacome, Mei Kazama, Emilie Miyauchi, Rachel Plattus, Mike Strode, Sadé Swift, Eddie Torres, Amrita Wassan, Cheyenna Weber, and Dexter Wimberly.

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 the Mellon Foundation.

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, Paul Robeson, Shirley Sherrod, Nina Simone, Comandante Ramona, Elandria “E” C. Williams, Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, and many others.