Somebody to lean on

Supports for freelance creatives in Winnipeg

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

In the gig economy, freelance and contract work is often the norm for those in the arts and creative sectors. Luckily, Winnipeg is home to a host of organizations and unions that can lend creative professionals a helping hand. 

Sarah Fuller is the administrative co-ordinator at the Manitoba affiliate of CARFAC MB (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens), an organization that advocates for visual artists in Manitoba. One of the most widely used supports they offer is a minimum fee schedule that dictates what government-funded galleries and museums are required to pay artists. 

For a budding artist, knowing what price tag to put on their work can be a daunting task. However, the minimum fee schedule, which can be found on CARFAC MB’s website, can act as a baseline. 

It “can be a challenge to go ‘this is what my work is worth,’ so it’s helpful to have a reference tool,” she says. While the minimum fee schedule provides a standard, Fuller says CARFAC MB artists are encouraged to ask for more. 

Rob Rowan works as the business agent for the IATSE Local 856, a union of film technicians in Winnipeg. He says working in the gig economy involves balancing both finances and lifestyle. However, film industry workers with union membership to the IATSE Local 856 can be assured of more protections in an often-uncertain environment. 

“We offer protection when you’re in a gig economy,” Rowan says. “We’re making sure the best-possible conditions, fringe benefits and rates are there for you.”

The film industry in Winnipeg has only been growing. In the last few years, Rowan says the number of productions has doubled. Aside from ensuring safe and fair working conditions, Rowan says IATSE Local 856 also provides Winnipeg film workers with industry training and skill upgrades so they can grow. 

When talking about advocacy, accessibility is key. Fuller says that advocating for Manitoban visual artists also means making sure that resources are widely known and available to those CARFAC MB represents. Outside of the minimum fee schedule, this includes access to shared studio space at a subsidized rate, as well as discounts to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and for Border Crossings magazine. 

“We’re here for artists. We welcome questions and will do our best to try and answer them, or direct visual artists to resources that might help them,” Fuller says. “The door is always open.”

The life of an arts industry worker can be tough, but rewarding. Rowan, who has been working in the lighting department of the film industry for over 18 years, says, despite the challenges that go hand-in-hand with working in film, he’s glad he pursued it as a career. 

“It’s challenging. You have to love it, but it’s a great place to be,” Rowan says. “I can’t stress enough how happy I am to do this as a career.”

Published in Volume 75, Number 03 of The Uniter (September 24, 2020)

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