I am in no debt, despite never having a job that allows me to accumulate savings. I attended private college but have no student loans, because my family paid the tuition. My family also buys a comprehensive health insurance plan, so my out of pocket costs for healthcare are extremely reasonable. When costs come up that I haven't budgeted for- when I needed a wisdom tooth pulled, when my house got bedbugs and my landlord wouldn't pay- I've dipped in to my inheritance to cover it. If I made the same income, but was born in to a different class position, even these non-catastrophic problems would have landed me in credit card debt. I am choosing to participate in debt fair as an act of transparency and of solidarity with artists in debt. I believe that economic inequality ultimately benefits no one, not even those of us who the current system is set up to serve. When those of us using our “leg up” don't make our wealth known, we perpetuate the myth that the art economy (and any economy) is a meritocracy.
My main job is as a visiting artist in public schools. This gig covers my rent, metro card, and some food. I took this job with the explicit understanding that my family would continue to pay for my healthcare and cell phone bill. I get some commissions and extra teaching work that cover other expenses like entertainment, clothes, etc. but during months I don't make enough, I rely on the wealth I've inherited from my family to make up the difference.
After I finished college, I, like many young artists, struggled to make work in the world. After a few years, I decided it was now or never: I switched to a less time-consuming job and started renting studio space, so I'd have time and space to make art. I wonder often if I would have made the same choices had they carried any real possibility of economic hardship. I feel very lucky to get a steady streams of commissions and exhibition opportunities. But of course, the vast majority of these opportunities are unpaid or under-paid. I end up using inherited wealth to pay for my own living expenses, in addition to using this wealth to cover the material and transportation costs related to a lot of projects I get asked to do. My work is largely about ecological and economic inequality, and is designed to interface with political movements- to get shown both in galleries and on the street. I feel proud of the way I choose to be an artist. But the irony is huge: the unfair advantages I was born into are a big part of how I get to be an artist who resists inequality with my work. I know I will spend my whole life wrestling with how messed up this is, and trying to make it less so. I'm making long-term plans to allign my inherited wealth with my values, but as I do this, I don't have to worry that I'll be able to cover my basic expenses. If you are a young person with wealth in a similar situation- check out ResourceGeneration.org.