New Modality Contributor:
Jericha Senyak, Artist and Arts Accountant
Profile edited by Michael J. Seidlinger
Photo courtesy of Jericha Senyak
Last update: February 20, 2020
Jericha Senyak is an artist and a great lover of art, who is also a great accountant — and she lends her accounting skills to artists!
How would you present your bio?
I would say: "Jericha Senyak is an interdisciplinary artist who — to her great and lasting astonishment — accidentally became an accountant. As a financial consultant, she works with artists and arts organizations in the Bay Area to address financial anxiety, develop and manage practical financial systems, and demystify financial concepts. As an artist, her work is bound up in questions of space and place: why and how do places speak to us? How can our relationships to place change our feelings about being in the world? What makes a place feel alive, and how do we make more of them?"
What’s a specific project that you’re excited about *right now?*
Right now, I'm excited about a new initiative I'm developing with Independent Arts and Media called the Dandelion Arts Finance Training Project. This is a comprehensive training program we're designing to expand the financial skillset of the Bay Area arts sector. The goal is to help artists and arts workers, from individual practitioners all the way up to managing and executive directors, level up their financial abilities — and then be able to pass on what they've learned to their colleagues and peers.
Through my consulting work, I'm vividly aware of how much artists struggle with money — the lack of it, of course, but also the lack of resources to learn how to manage it. I see a lot of shame among artists about how "bad" they are with finance, but the stereotype of the scatterbrained artist who can't keep track of their bills is honestly very far from the reality — the vast majority of problems that artists (and people in general!) have when it comes to money are rooted in the fact that nobody ever teaches them the skills they need.
Most of the artists I work with are incredibly smart, thoughtful, creative people — when they get given the tools, they're usually extremely quick to understand how finance works. And that's because finance isn't actually all that hard, but it's also not necessarily intuitive; it's not something you can learn very well just by Googling, and (if I can just get on my soapbox for a second) there seems to be a vested interest among the Powers That Be in keeping finance out of the hands of all those radical weirdos. I consistently see how resources for learning about finance are denied to artists, or provided in inaccessible ways — which, of course, is doubly true if you're also part of other already-marginalized communities. It's hard enough to be an artist and learn how to manage money, but if you're also Black, or Indigenous, or an immigrant, or trans, or... then you're even more cut off from the few resources that are available.
“I see a lot of shame among artists about how 'bad' they are with finance, but the stereotype of the scatterbrained artist who can't keep track of their bills is honestly very far from the reality.”
We've received some significant grant funding to develop this training program, which gets its name from Adrienne Maree Brown's exceptional book Emergent Strategy — she writes beautifully about how she's inspired by the self-seeding strategies of plant communities like dandelions when it comes to racial justice organizing, and we're hoping this project can take a leaf out of that book, so to speak.
To me, financial literacy is also always a social justice question, especially in a place like the Bay Area where there's not only vast and increasing wealth inequity, but a wealth gap that's even wider for people of color and other vulnerable folks. So we're hoping this project will give a huge variety of artists access to the tools and resources they need to make their creative projects more possible, and then help them go out and share those skills with others, too. Ultimately, we want to see a ripple effect where there's a visible, ecosystem-wide decrease in the amount of the shame and anxiety that we see artists experiencing when it comes to finance.
What's a current cultural edge you're excited to see people pushing?
I'm currently inspired by the incredible language and practice of possibility being put forth by writers, artists, and activists like Adrienne Maree Brown, Brontë Velez, Sonya Renee Taylor, and others like them who are proposing a vision of a future and a politics rooted in radical self-love, transformational justice, consent, and pleasure. These visionaries transform the work of social justice into an act of joy. They make room for everyone's liberation; they make change seem beautiful and compelling.
So much of our political language is and has always been about duty, obligation, scarcity, alienation, purity, and these writers and artists and activists have brought us a new language in which working to create change is intimately wrapped up with tenderness, transformation, joyful messiness, celebration, and healing. A lot of these activists are people who have experienced the crushing weight of systemic oppression in multiple ways; they're female, they're queer, they're trans or nonbinary, Black, Brown, indigenous, disabled, neurodivergent; they exist at so many intersections, and yet they're absolutely refusing to replicate the systems that brutalize them; they're completely dedicated to new ways of existing that make the old oppressions impossible, that allow all of to be more free and more beloved. The approaches they have to problem-solving — whether political or interpersonal — are so creative and alive, and I'm always trying to follow their lead in my own practices.