Death and taxes

by Jini Stolk

Nothing, it is said, can be certain except death and taxes but I wonder how often anyone has spoken to you, as an artist or arts manager, about wills and inheritance. That’s what I thought: never.

I mention this because friends recently inherited a beautiful collection of paintings left by an artist in their family. The line of inheritance was somewhat complicated, and they’ve been through a seemingly endless series of legal procedures to establish clear ownership. (a project of Social Enterprise Advocates) just wrote a post about artists’ wills which makes the important point that “Creative people (not just artists but designers, inventors and company founders) have creative output, whether a drawing, sonata, patent or brand, which are a particular kind of assets” more ethereal, in some cases, than works on canvas or paper but subject to financial valuation, taxation and possible dispute.

We all know that The Martha Graham Dance Company went through “years of darkness and litigation” after her death – but choreographers can now access the Dance Heritage Coalition’s Artist’s Legacy Toolkit to clarify their creative holdings and legacy intentions.

In Canada we have exceptional archival organizations like DanceCollectionDanse and Theatre Museum Canada to preserve collections, and Archives and Special Collections at York University (mostly dance) and University of Guelph (mostly theatre) hold excellent and fascinating personal and organizational materials – including, at Guelph, Creative Trust’s complete archives.

Now, pension deductions and taxes: that’s another thing entirely, although some fine people love taxes because they’re so clearly essential to the public good. Artists can still be remarkably like the Grasshopper in Aesop’s fable, who had to beg some industrious ants for help because he’d been too busy playing music to store up food for winter. That story didn’t end well, but not all of us have changed our music-playing, art-making behaviors as a result.

There’s lots of information (including from the U.S. and Australia) about the difficulties artists have in finding sustainable employment. Meanwhile, Actors’ Equity in Los Angeles is still fighting with stage performers who oppose minimum wage requirements for very small theatres because they don’t want to risk losing professional development and exposure opportunities.

The Ontario Nonprofit Network knows that nonprofit workers, who usually don’t have workplace pension plans and often work on part-time, casual, and short-term contracts, have a hard time saving for retirement. ONN has been supportive of Bill 56, which provides a legal framework for an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)  because “We know it will increase compensation costs in the sector, but we also know that our sector’s workers deserve retirement income security after dedicating their working lives to serving the public good. “ ONN is trying to ensure that non-profit employees, employers, and self-employed are recognized and protected in the upcoming plan. For updates and high level pension discussion, register for the 2015 ONN Conference.

ONN is also recommending that nonprofits participate in the Boland Survey – the only source of comprehensive Canadian labour market and compensation data for the nonprofit sector. Survey results are only made available to participating organizations, and reports including salary ranges, pension contributions, overtime, turnover, training budgets and more, are priced by annual operating budget. You can sign up to participate at, until Sept. 1, 2015.

Also. Performing artists can now come together to learn business and professional skills through the recently formed IRCPA: check out their interesting and informative workshop series.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.