Arts workers are building a labor movement to save a creative economy

It would hardly seem necessary to state: A life in the arts — in a theater, in a studio, at a writing desk, on a film crew — constitutes honest-to-goodness work. And yet planting this truism in America’s consciousness has proved such a thorny challenge that a whole new labor movement has been spawned to drive it home. Built on the concept of the “arts worker” — an immense labor category representing 8.8 million Americans doing everything from designing clothing to sweeping museum floors — this movement asserts that the arts are as foundational as farming or manufacturing. And its focus is not so much public relations as it is survival, an aim reinforced daily by the financial devastation the coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the nation’s creative economy.