Why DebtFair? On Outing Debt, and the Mutual-Aid Economy

Come September, DebtFair will have artists exchange artworks for checks, which will directly pay off lending banks. The idea is to reduce the amount of money which ends up out of artists’ hands. DebtFair also takes place in galleries, bodegas, and the streets, which would presumably minimize the cost of space and booth rental.

If you’re an art school dean, consider yourself officially accused. Last week, Occupy Museums released a open letter calling on deans to help change their policy of indebting their students.“The educational product you currently offer is misleading,” it begins, “and it’s having a toxic effect on our culture in the form of debt.” Occupy Museums offers a few solutions to the problem: 1) encourage an environment of transparency, 2) encourage presidents to freeze tuition, and 3) lend support to DebtFair, an art fair model which exchanges work directly to pay off artists’ debt. While clearly the function of this type of event is mostly symbolic, we wanted to know—would DebtFair’s “mutual-aid economy” work in practice?

William Powhida: ”I don’t think outing yourself as having debt would be that embarrassing, or would negatively impact somebody’s reputation,” he told us. “The reality is that artists take on a significant amount of student loan debt. The project’s trying to raise awareness about how much someone seeking a master’s degree is taking on.”


Really interesting take on supporting artists. #DebtFair. What do you think?

DebtFair (by Noah Fischer)