Updated: Jun 2
In uncertain times, often the most comforting words can be found in children’s books. “A Child of Books,” by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is one of those books. Simple yet profound truths are told. Illustrations allow the imagination to wander. Whimsy is layered to appeal to the innocent and the jaded.
It tells the story of a girl who whisks away a boy on an adventure of the imagination—pathways, oceans, mountains all constructed with words from lullabies and classic children’s stories. About halfway through the book, there is an illustration of a middle-aged man sitting and reading the newspaper; the articles in the paper are titled “Important Things”, “Serious Stuff”, and “The Facts.” The man is obviously reading the words, but his glasses only reflect numbers.
That image can stick with a person. It can make one wonder: how many stories am I reading right now through a lens of numbers? How many articles leave my mind screaming: The economy! The budget! Bills! How many more days until my child can go back to school?!
For the gig economy, the adjunct market, and the freelance system, our stories are currently being told with numbers in order to influence public policy or make an eye-catching headline: 5 million self-employed workers in Britain, $3.6 billion lost already in the arts and culture sector in the US, €232.6 million in estimated income losses for Germany’s small music festivals, 73.8% of reporting visual aritsts in China won’t be able to support themselves for more than two to three months. While these numbers are important, they are only possible because of the willingness of artists and arts managers to tell their stories.
The simple truth in “A Child of Books” is that there is a return on investment with reading and sharing stories. If we forget to use our words—our voice—during this time, we will have done ourselves and our sector a disservice.
“Some people have forgotten where I live…” are the words that accompany the illustration of the middle-aged man obsessing over numbers. Let’s not let people forget where we live as artists, as freelancers, as arts managers. Please tell your story here.
Leah Hamilton, M.S. is an instructor, researcher, and consultant specializing in arts emergency management. Her research and teaching methods have been featured by Americans for the Arts, the Arts Management Network, and at international academic conferences including Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts, ENCATC Congress, and the Association for Arts Administration Educators. Her thesis, Arts Facility Emergency Preparedness in the State of Missouri, was awarded the Top Thesis Award and Academic Excellence Award by Drexel University (Philadelphia, USA) in 2016. She currently teaches arts emergency management for the University of Kentucky Department of Arts Administration and resides in Germany with her opera-singing husband.