As markets stumble amid the deepening coronavirus threat, it is inevitable to worry about how jobs could be affected. But in our latest Tiny Spark podcast, artist Samantha Fein tells us that for her, this fear is not new. “I feel like we’re at a boiling point in the art world where the system just cannot sustain itself any longer,” Fein says. “And it’s going to implode.”

An artist in her thirties who spent a lot of time working for nonprofits, Fein believes that as young people accrue more debt, see their costs of living rise and their compensation in the gig economy stagnate, it is time to address a painful reality: many in the nonprofit arts world are paid at rates “so low that if you did the numbers, it is literally impossible to live.”

This hit home for Fein when a nonprofit she was working for hosted its annual fundraising gala. She describes how she and her coworkers were speaking with donors at the glitzy event when it occurred to her that “the caterer is probably making more money hourly than I am.” Fein tried to stay in the industry, but eventually concluded that she could no longer afford it. “I just felt like I was in an elaborate game of pretend,” she says.

In our first Tiny Spark podcast of the new season, Samantha Fein shares her frustrations trying to make a living in the nonprofit world. She lays out how low pay, lack of benefits, uneven hours, and more hamper racial and economic equity in the sector, and she makes suggestions for how nonprofit leaders can make their teams feel valued. “None of us get into this field because we expect to get rich,” Fein says. “But I think if you ask people, they would also say, ‘Yes, we love what we do. We care. But we also want to be able to pay our bills.’”

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Photo: Artist Sam Fein, courtesy of Sam Fein.