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Edmonton martial arts instructor charged with sexual assault

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An owner and instructor at west-end martial arts school was arrested by the Edmonton Police Service Thursday, Aug 9. He faces two counts of sexual assault.


Shaughn Butts / Postmedia

A 47-year-old martial arts instructor has been charged with sexual assault after two young women reported “sexually motivated touching” under his instruction.

The man, who owns ATA Martial Arts School in the city’s west end, was arrested by Edmonton police Thursday.

A news release from the Edmonton Police Service Friday said two women, aged 19 and 25, reported experiencing sexually motivated touching not consistent with martial arts training during individual sessions and several classes.

The women reported they felt pressured into situations they were not comfortable with because of the man’s position of authority at the school.

Kevin Ford is charged with two counts of sexual exploitation and sexual assault.

In a Facebook message, the ATA Martial Arts School denied the allegations.

“The allegations are untrue,” the page said. “We have no further comment to make at this time.”

Police are asking any other witnesses or complainants to come forward by calling police.

“We believe that others may have information that would assist the investigation and encourage them to contact us,” said acting Staff Sgt. Richard Windover in the news release.


Kevin Ford, 47, is shown in this undated handout photo.

HO /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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'The contempt with which Arts degrees are treated is a tiresome trope'

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Points for many arts and creative courses fell as students as Leaving Cert students received their CAO offers, with many choosing degrees linked to areas of strong jobs growth such as science, engineering and teaching.

We asked Irish Times readers about their experiences with an Arts degree: did they enjoy the course, why did they choose that course, was it worth it?

The overall experience with Arts is a positive one, judging from their responses, with flexibility and learning experiences among the positives cited.

Here is a selection of stories we received from readers this week.

Helen, Co Dublin: ‘The beauty of an arts degree was the empty space around the learning that students are left to fill themselves’

In two weeks’ time I’ll be graduating with a BA International in English. It’s not the degree I thought I’d be getting when I filled out my CAO four years ago, but I know that it has been an invaluable experience nonetheless.

I think people write off arts degrees as either the fanciful outlet for the dreamers at the back of the class who will never make any money or else a last resort for the aimless and unambitious who don’t know what else to write on their CAO. While you can definitely find both of these types of people in an arts lecture theatre, there are also all types in between.

The beauty of an arts degree, and the aspect that most benefited myself, was the empty space around the learning that students are left to fill themselves. In between my 15 hours a week of contact time, I was completely immersed in university society life and my own social life.

Arts degrees aren’t about the end goal, and their advocates aren’t motivated by ambition. This is not to say that you can’t get a job with an arts degree, you absolutely can – I myself have a graduate position in a publisher. It’s just that getting a job is not the measure of success by which arts graduates are held against.

We need doctors and engineers as much as we need painters and playwrights. However, if you are the type of person who likes to feel free to explore all avenues, or if you just crave a creative outlet, then arts degrees are definitely worthwhile, and definitely worth preserving.

Darragh Miller, Ireland: ‘The humanities is hugely worth it and is so underfunded that it’s a tragedy’

The question of whether studying the humanities is ‘worth’ anything, is troubling indeed. I made the conscious decision to return to education to complete an undergraduate in Philosophy and Sociology, during the height of the recession.

I had previously decided just to work after the Leaving Cert, to save money, and to experience the ‘real world’. Nonetheless, I was back in education driven by a will to study and better understand the problems occurring in society around me.

After getting decent grades, I started to use my knowledge and curiosity in the voluntary sector when I found time, and all of a sudden, my confidence grew from that. I can thank my grounding in humanities for giving me the basic human, logical and critical skills to allow me to perform in challenging environments.

I continued into post-graduate study to conduct fieldwork, and I am delighted with how this has gone. The question is troubling because the humanities is hugely worth it, and is so underfunded that it’s a tragedy. There will always be people who naturally excel in the humanities – our Irish history is rich with them, so the question rather is: Why is arts not worth it?

Molly Twomey, Cork: ‘The Arts are where dreams are no longer just notions but real life plans’

I studied Arts with Creative Writing at NUI Galway before transferring to study English Literature in University College Cork.

The years I spent as an undergraduate were the best years of my life. Studying English allowed me to understand people and the culture they inhabit on a much deeper level. I was opened up to literature from around the world and written from a variety of perspectives. As result, I became a lot more compassionate and accepting, and empathy and understanding are the values that I pride myself on today.

Molly Twomey: ‘The Arts are where literary journals are set up, plays are performed, dreams are no longer just notions but real life plans’

Moreover, I met the most innovative and critically engaged people, and there is nothing more powerful than a group of students amalgamating together with unique and original ideas. The Arts are where literary journals are set up, plays are performed, dreams are no longer just notions but real life plans.

People, myself included, look to the Arts to create meaning and to make sense of the world, to find a character we can relate to or a poem that makes us feel something raw and inexplicable. I did not let commercialism and fear stop me from pursuing my passion and I am about to enter into a Masters of Creative Writing.

Yet I do worry about my future, but this is caused by the lack of financial support and recognition the Arts gets. The real issue we need to face head-on is not that students aren’t choosing the Arts but why the majority of the public do not value the Arts. We expect free admission to galleries, free access to articles online, free publication advice and the list goes on. We need to value our artists and we need to do it now.

Oisin Mahon, Dublin: ‘I would recommend an Arts degree to anyone’

I’m 24, did a BA in Geography and Sociology in UCD and am starting Graduate Entry Medicine in September. At 17/18 I wasn’t particularly motivated. I knew I’d be interested in Medicine or Physiotherapy but the points seemed so unattainable. Science courses were ahead of Arts on my CAO but they were also realistically out of my reach.

The only other class I enjoyed in school was geography, so I put that down, and ended up in Arts. The best thing about an Arts degree is the amount of choice. There were a number of core modules which were compulsory but for the majority of the degree I was able to pick modules that seemed interesting to me, unlike the majority of degrees where every class is chosen for you.

I’m happy to have done an Arts degree, it has introduced me to new topics of interest as well as providing me access to postgraduate studies. I would recommend an Arts degree to anyone considering it, even if it’s not your first choice it will open up opportunities.

Heather McGowan, Belfast: ‘I would say that if your head isn’t sure about the course, follow your heart’

I changed my mind at the very last minute. I was going to study Public Relations and had a change of heart at the start of the summer. I had a music course down as an insurance if my grades didn’t go as I wanted, and I was allowed to change it to a degree course and had to let the university know what I wanted to do when my results came out.

I’m so glad I changed. I had three years of studying the subject that I loved and gaining experience of working and playing with musicians from all different fields. My course gave me a strong basis for the first two years and then offered the opportunity to specialise in performance, history or composition depending on my personal strengths.

I went on to do a PGCE in music education and have enjoyed the last 20-plus years working in an integrated secondary school where I’ve been able to spread my love of music to countless young people. I would say that if your head isn’t sure about the course, follow your heart.

Leslie Spillane: ‘I think postgraduate courses should be offering specialised skills for the job market’

I studied arts in UCC and graduated with a first class honours degree in 2011. I chose UCC because of the choice of four subjects in the first year. My degree was in English and Art History.

Graduating into the middle of the recession meant several unpaid internships and emigrating abroad. I have struggled to get employment with an arts degree and have only been able to find generic office/receptionist work. I went on to do a master’s in art history again in UCC, I’ve found this has hurt rather than helped employment opportunities, and I am more likely to get job interviews if I don’t put it on my CV.

The Masters programme didn’t offer any practical job skills or work placements and after graduating I found employers, even in the arts sectors, wanted graduates with more practical experience and a job history rather than a qualification.

If I could do it over again I would have waited a few years and gotten more work experience in the industry and then gone on to do a master’s in a more practical field that offered work placements or a direct track into the job market. I am grateful for my education and feel my degree really enhanced my life.

I did enjoy every minute of being in university, but I think postgraduate courses should be offering specialised skills for the job market and be preparing students better for going on to earn a living after they graduate.

Michael Leahy, Co Galway: ‘The contempt with which Arts degrees are treated is a tiresome trope’

My Arts degree was absolutely worth it. Not only was I able to discover my own strengths and decide which subjects I enjoyed, but I now hold an LLB thanks to my BA in legal studies.

I know countless people who jumped into nursing, teaching or other “jobs-friendly” courses only to regret it after finishing their degree. Arts allows people to figure out what they want to do with their lives, through a vast range of subjects, rather than deciding that you want to pursue a single avenue immediately after sitting the Leaving Cert and having little real-world experience at 18 years of age.

The contempt with which Arts degrees are treated is a tiresome trope, and parents would do well to allow their kids to consider it as a degree.

Caolán McManus, Killoe, Co Longford: ‘Our workload in languages is more demanding than that of degrees with tougher entry requirements’

I’m actually still completing my BA degree at NUI Galway – I’ll be starting my final year studying French and Spanish this September, all going well. I chose the BA (Joint-Honours) in NUIG as I’ve always loved Galway City, and after school I wanted to study French.

Caolán McManus: ‘For the moment, I’m fairly sure the Arts degree will be worth it for me in the end’
Caolán McManus: ‘For the moment, I’m fairly sure the Arts degree will be worth it for me in the end’

The BA was the only way of studying French as a language in its own right in Galway, so four years later here I am! I coupled it with Spanish on a whim, unsure which subject to also study to degree level, but knowing my knowledge of French would help me in acquiring Spanish. It’s a decision which has shaped me and my career path!

The skills I learned in Arts benefited me greatly while on placement in Spain – time management and organisational skills for managing class time, creating resources and planning, and the leadership skills I gained translated well in trying to make Spanish Junior Cert students interested in the succinct dynamics of the English language, as did being patient.

My one regret regarding my Arts degree is not choosing Italian as my third subject in first year. I’ve heard so many good things about the course and department, and it would have been nice to have at least a basic knowledge of it after one year. My advice to future students is thoroughly research your courses before you commit to one.

Be motivated from day one – turn up to class and get involved in debates and discussions; this will help you learn. Pace yourself – you’ll need to in order to cope with the demanding workload. Despite the flack we get in Arts, it’s very much academically rigorous – often our workload in languages is more demanding than that of degrees with tougher entry requirements.

Robyn Hamilton, Co Dublin: ‘I finished up with no better idea of what I ultimately wanted to do compared to when I started’

I recently turned 27 years old and I did my Leaving Cert in 2010. I currently work as a Content Marketing Specialist at a price comparison website based in Dublin.

Eight years ago when I was contemplating filling out my CAO form, I had no idea what career path I wanted to take – I knew I liked writing, and I had a flair for languages, but that was pretty much all I knew. Going to university was a given for me, and two years following the economic crash, I got the same advice everywhere I turned: “stay in education as long as possible – there are no jobs out there and there won’t be for a long time!”

Robyn Hamilton: ‘I knew that I wanted to go to college in Dublin and secondly, going to Trinity was a top priority for me’
Robyn Hamilton: ‘I knew that I wanted to go to college in Dublin and secondly, going to Trinity was a top priority for me’

I knew that I wanted to go to college in Dublin and secondly, going to Trinity was a top priority for me. So I sat down and read the TCD, UCD and DIT prospectuses cover to cover and picked out courses that looked vaguely appealing, with Trinity courses making the top of the list.

I chose mainly arts courses and a few science ones but no business ones as I had some sort of allergy to anything remotely business-sounding at the time. In the end, I got my second choice, which was French and Film Studies (after English and Film Studies), which probably worked out for the better as I now have a second language.

Though often perceived as such, my course wasn’t a total doss. The most valuable things I took at the end of my four years were the ability to think and analyse critically, as well as the self-discipline to research topics and projects thoroughly on my own.

Given the chance of a do-over, I would choose the same course again – I loved it! But what about my career you ask? Well, it was at the end of my arts degree that I ran into problems. I finished up with no better idea of what I ultimately wanted to do compared to when I started. It took me a whole year to figure out where to channel my skills into an outlet in which I might actually make a living.

It was a very frustrating time in my life, where it felt like undergraduate degrees (at least as far as arts degrees were concerned) were a dime a dozen, and no employer was going to look at me without a Master’s or more.

So that’s exactly what I did. I decided to do a Master’s degree in Advertising in DIT, and it was only after I graduated that I felt some measure of confidence when applying for jobs.

I’d say there’s a lot to be said for abandoning creative courses in favour of ones that lead to better job growth. The path I chose meant that I wasn’t able to start on a proper career path until I turned 25. Having said all of this, as I noted above, if I could do it all again, I would have chosen the same path.

Emily G, Co Dublin: ‘We are supposed to be the land of saints and scholars, yet we do little to support the arts’

I studied Archaeology and Art History in UCD for my undergraduate degree, I then went on to complete an MA in Art History at UCD as well. I graduated this MA in 2016. Now at age 23, I am fully employed in the museum sector. Since then, I have worked in the National Gallery, EPIC immigration museum and freelance for Sotheby’s.

Though people tend to scoff at the idea of doing an arts degree, I am not even a year graduated and I am carving a career for myself in the arts sector. I am not the only one in my class either, I have friends around the world working in the arts, including one in the Guggenheim in Venice. I am lucky as I have extremely supportive parents who are confident in my ability to succeed no matter what, so I received no judgment for pursuing the arts. My classmates were not all so lucky. A lot of people look down on the arts, often using the worn-out excuse that “you’ll never get a job”.

It’s difficult at times, especially in a country like Ireland that has let a lot of its cultural institutions down in the past few years, neglecting them financially, but it is rewarding to work in the cultural and creative sector. It’s a sad truth but, as is the case with a lot of other occupations, a lot of young aspiring arts students are being forced to emigrate to countries that value the arts more than Ireland. In the rest of Europe, it is a lot easier to get a job in museums and galleries than here.

I understand that a lot of my classmates and colleagues are frustrated with the lack of appreciation from the Government here; I feel the same at times. I think that the educational systems in Ireland are catered to those who are mathematically and scientifically inclined. It’s disappointing because we are supposed to be the land of saints and scholars, yet we do little to support the arts. The Leaving Cert is a test of memory and does not support creativity or opinionated, autonomous thought. This notion that you can only be successful if you do a course in science or business is ridiculous. If you are creative, if you are passionate about the subjects you love, whether that be history or art, you can be successful.

Do not allow yourself to swayed by other’s judgments of your choices. I can’t imagine going back and doing anything else in college; I really don’t think I would want to. My advice to any young person considering the arts – don’t listen to anyone telling you you won’t succeed. It is possible to make a career in the arts, you just need to push yourself.

Ethel Crowley: ‘My Arts degree helped me to think for myself’

My Arts degree helped me to think for myself and to unthink the Catholic propaganda that passed for my primary and secondary “education”. I got hooked and went on to do a PhD in sociology!

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Arts interns: 'All I wanted was not to be treated like s**t'

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“I once worked as a venue supervisor for one of the biggest arts festivals in the country as an unpaid intern,” says Martin. “I worked 14-hour shifts, and had guests routinely verbally abuse me for delays or cancellations totally outside of my control . . . [Later I was] working as assistant director as an unpaid intern, a very common occurrence in the theatre world. Seven weeks between rehearsals and performances I spent without pay. Six months later, I’m sitting at the Irish Times Theatre Awards where I’ve had to sneak in drink because I couldn’t afford to buy one drink there, watching the play I worked so hard on win awards. I knew what I was signing up for, and [I’d] do it again. The experience was great. But it was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing how much of my time and effort went into the show, seeing it succeed at the highest level, and knowing the value that had been put on the effort I put into my contribution in getting it there was zero.”

The arts in Ireland are built on top of unpaid labour. Everyone in the industry knows this. Sporadically, there is outrage about unreasonable advertisements seeking unpaid internships (recent culprits included TV3 and the Fringe Festival) but the hubbub eventually dies away and little changes. Unpaid labour takes different forms. There are the artists, writers and musicians who often create their work for little or no money and can be exploited for this by an entertainment and arts industry eager for content. There are also volunteers who do admittedly valuable work that comes, if truly a form of volunteerism, with no contractual obligations or real responsibility.

Internships, on the other hand, are technically meant to be a form of skills training. In recent years, however, “internship” has become shorthand for “unpaid job” and the means by which Irish arts institutions coped with funding shortfalls.

Are they legal?

Are they even legal? Not really. “As far as we are concerned,” says Oonagh Buckley, director general of the Workplace Relations Commission, “if you are working in a workplace and what you are doing is work, then you are entitled to be paid for it under the legislation. There is no exemption in Irish law for work experience or internships and therefore we take a very clear view that if any of these come to our attention due to a complaint being made or finding them in inspections we will address them . . . Concerned employers need to learn the fact that unpaid internships are almost entirely against the law. A myth has developed among perfectly respectable employers, who know well that they must obey the law generally, that it is acceptable to offer unpaid internships.”

We put a call out for people willing to talk about their experiences. After a few false starts (“I would love to take part Patrick, but sadly I insist on being paid for work,” said one wise freelancer) people got in touch. All spoke on condition of anonymity so the “Martin”, “Kathryn” and “Rachel” mentioned below are all fake names. The Irish art world is small and as Martin notes, “Usually you’re working for people who can make or ruin your career”.

Some respondents were content with their internships, feeling the experience they gained made up for the lack of remuneration, though most also acknowledged they need financial assistance from parents. Others were less happy with their treatment. One young woman who signed up for a design-related internship discovered it was really an unpaid retail job. Another who spent three months putting her multimedia skills to use with a online video start-up wasn’t even paid the meagre expenses she was promised at the outset.

Kathryn, a 29-year-old, who currently works full time for an arts organisation, previously did two unpaid internship (anyone under the age of 30 who now works in the arts seems to have done more than one). One, which was undertaken abroad, “was very hard work but actually wasn’t that bad” but the other, with an Irish arts organisation was “fairly miserable”.

“I was really angry about it for a long time afterwards,” she says. “At the height of what we were doing, there were 11 unpaid people and one staff member. I’d just finished college and there was basically no work . . . I got put in charge of hiring other interns coming up to this big event. I got put in this separate office. I worked very long hours. I would have arrived before [the boss] did and left after she did and I had a huge amount of responsibility with no credit. It was a very nasty work environment in terms of how we were spoken to and if anything went wrong it was always our fault . . . There was no sense of ‘Oh, we shouldn’t do this because it’s causing extra work’. It was ‘Oh, that’s going to be more work? Why don’t you put up another ad on the website and find an intern to do it?’ [Another organisation] used to get a lot of criticism from our board because they didn’t have as big an output as us but the reason was they didn’t believe in using unpaid interns.”

What does she think of it now? “In a way it was great to get the responsibility,” she says. “What wasn’t great was the way we were spoken to and how we were perceived within the organisation. I was prepared for the unpaid bit, to be honest, all I really wanted was not to be treated like s**t on a day-to-day basis and be shouted at. The fact that when all of this was over no one ever acknowledged we’d done any work. I submitted Arts Council grants and got funding and at no point was it acknowledged by the board . . . [it] was a real knock to my confidence and it took me a long time to get over being treated so badly. Everyone at one point or another cried, which is a pretty negative thing to say about a group of young people just out of university.”

If an unpaid intern like Kathryn were to complain to the WRC, they might well receive compensation. WRC inspections led to the payment of €1.8 million to underpaid employees (not necessarily interns) in 2017. “An individual can complain [anonymously] to the WRC and that complaint might trigger is an inspection,” says Oonagh Buckley. “Alternatively. . . they can make a complaint into our adjudication service seeking the payment under the payment of wages or national minimum wage legislation.”

Do they see many complaints of that kind? “The short answer to that is ‘no’.” People are, she notes, often frightened to say anything due to the smallness of Ireland and a worry it will affect their career. She stresses that every complaint is treated entirely confidentially and even when there’s a payout it is kept private. In the absence of such tip-offs, the WRC is unlikely to uncover such breaches in spot checks. “I have roughly 16 inspectors working for me and there are a quarter of a million workplaces in the country,” says Buckley, “so with the best will in the world we’re not going to find everybody.”

Rachel is one of the people who complained. She was working at a regional arts centre where she found herself in disagreement with another senior staff member about the treatment and payment of their interns. “We had massive rows over it,” she says. She eventually called in the National Employment Rights Authority (the previous incarnation of the WRC) and they judged that one of the long-term interns was an employee and ordered the centre to back-pay her. “Which pleased me greatly,” says Rachel.

She shows me the letters from NERA spelling out their findings at the time (she is talking anonymously in order to protect the identity of the intern in question, who still works with the institution). There were other employment issues. “These things don’t happen in isolation. There was a general bad attitude to the value of people’s work. Most of my staff were working hours well beyond their contracts . . . It was part of a wider attitude that you should be grateful for your job if you have a job, grateful to work there at all if you’re working for free. It’s a very arrogant position to take.”

Shoddy treatment

Rachel no longer works in the arts, but after many years in arts management and consultancy, she says that shoddy treatment of unpaid interns “is rife within the industry. It’s such an underfunded area. We don’t have the resources to do things properly. A huge amount of it is done on the basis of passion and belief in what the arts can do . . . Those two things mean that voluntary work and working for free and working under ludicrous things like ‘profit shares’ when there is no profit are at the foundation of everything.”

She believes this is tacitly understood at an institutional level. “I don’t think the Arts Council are ignorant of the working lives of those arts workers,” she says. “They know the free labour is critical to keep everything going and they’re not prepared to address that because they can’t fund it. Their budget would have to be quadrupled . . . It’s built into this model. If all of the people working in the arts in all the different aspects, everyone from financial administrator to the producers and stage technicians and stage manager, if they all withdrew their free labour there would be no output. There’s an exponential return on the money that goes into the arts because people are giving massive amounts of free labour.”

Emily Mark-Fitzgerald, assistant professor at the School of Art History and Cultural Policy in UCD, also thinks the pressure on institutions to be productive can incentivise using unpaid labour. “I took place in the Irish Museums Survey and one of the findings of that was that museums across the country were experiencing significantly higher reliance on volunteers and on interns – especially with the hiring moratorium. Public museums were under pressure to increase their programme and outreach to justify diminished funding and yet they couldn’t hire anybody.”

She believes the concept of what a real internship actually involves became fuzzier in these years. “I would have seen jobs advertised and four years later in the height of the recession the same job comes up again but it’s an internship now,” she says. “Personal assistant to the director isn’t an internship.”

As someone who devises internships for UCD’s course on arts management and cultural policy, and who has advised public bodies on their own internship programmes (including a paid internship programme at the National Gallery), she believes well-run internships are very important but she also knows that they can be abused. “Organisations and individuals who have undertaken internships need to think of them along with a continuum of labour practices rather than something that’s separate from that, [otherwise] it becomes easier to excuse or allow types of behaviour you wouldn’t subject your employees to,” she says.

She talks a little about what a good internship might look like: “The idea behind an internship really is that there’s an equal exchange,” she says. “On the one hand, the organisation is giving its expertise and helping train someone and from the intern’s perspective they’re contributing a certain amount of their labour. Those things have to be very clear, understood and agreed in order for an internship to have integrity. The very least thing you need is some sort of formalised agreement about what the internship is and how long it’s going to take place for and what the responsibilities are.”

She would like to see funding bodies and public arts institutions develop clear-cut policies and guidelines on how internships should function. “The Arts Council, for whatever reason, has never engaged in the question of labour in the sector,” she says, “at least organisational labour. Their attitude is quite different from Arts Council England, whose policy is quite strong on attitudes towards internships.”

When we put in a request for comment, this is what the Irish Arts Council had to say on the issue: “While the Arts Council acknowledges the very positive role played by short-term volunteers in many local festivals across the country, it does not have a policy on whether or not funded organisations should use unpaid interns for non-artistic work. In general terms, we are aware from research that work in the arts sector tends to be insecure and badly paid, and we seek to rectify this. The Council strives to support best practice in governance and employment practice and actively promotes and discusses this with funded organisations.”

In the absence of Arts Council guidelines, there’s always the WRC, which hopes to devise an information campaign on internships in the coming months. Oonagh Buckley says there is a place for internships as “part of a well-regulated educational programme” (the WRC judges this on a case-by-case basis) but she adds that “the idea that by calling a job an internship you don’t have to pay the person, that has to be put to rest. That is not correct and is contrary to the law of Ireland. The businesses that are doing this are effectively undercutting businesses that are obeying the law and they are transferring the burden of being funded onto the people in the organisation who are most vulnerable – the new recruits – and that’s not right.”

Troubling issues

Ultimately, looking at the issue of unpaid work raises some troubling issues for the arts community. Kathryn, who spoke about her unsatisfactory experiences interning, is now responsible for hiring interns at the arts organisation where she currently works. The internships she creates are short-term, goal-oriented and well-supervised but they are still unpaid, which troubles her.

“The first thing I did was get in touch with the interns rights groups around Europe and, at the end of the day, they said there is absolutely no such thing as a safe and legal unpaid internship.” She sighs. “Maybe if you can’t support your programming with paid staff, your funding should be cut back. I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of this work without help from the people who are essentially fulltime volunteering and I think that’s pretty unacceptable. If we can’t deliver what’s expected without unpaid labour, maybe we shouldn’t be doing it.”

She recalls a recent arts event she attended where a speaker spoke “with a straight face about representing a ‘new and diverse Ireland’. Every organisation in the room was using unpaid interns.”

The unspoken problem running through this story is the issue of class and who gets to create art in this country. Martin, whose story opens this piece, feels his unpaid internships led him closer to employment in a field he loves and he has few regrets. “My main issue,” he says, “is that it perpetuates a class system in the arts. If you can afford a six-month internship, than you can do it, but I know a lot of people from working-class background who can’t do that. Do we want an arts culture that’s full of upper-class, wealthy people or do we want something working-class people feel they can engage with?”

Kathryn has similar worries. “Everyone I interview for internships is exactly the same person,” she says. “A version of me – middle-class, went to one of the same three universities, mostly in Dublin, and they can afford to work for six weeks for free. The people getting the worst experience from unpaid internships are the people who’re not even given an opportunity to do them.”

Arts Council of England guidelines

A good internship as recommended by the Arts Council of England:

It pays at least minimum wage. Interns are employees and there is no distinct legal status for someone hired as an “intern” (in Ireland or the UK).

It is short term, ideally between two weeks and six months.

It comes with a contract outlining working hours, goals and obligations.

The intern has a defined role and job title.

It is well supervised.

It is not seen as a cheap way of filling a full-time position (That one goes without saying in ACE’s guidelines).

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VIDEO Arts NL Opens Applications for Community Arts Program

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ArtsNL is currently accepting applications for its Community Arts Program.

The funding will help support projects by non-profit arts organizations and groups. Applying projects must be started on or before December 1st of this year. The deadline for applications is on October 1st.

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