Director of Analytics for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s men’s basketball team, Jake Brudish, apologized for his ad calling for volunteer artists for the team. The ad, posted March 16 on myUMBC and later taken down by Brudish, asked for volunteers with Adobe Photoshop skills to create graphics for the team’s social media profiles. Artists and undergraduate visual arts majors took to Twitter to call out the ad, stating that the volunteer position and its wording was an example of people trying to get art for free.
To senior animation major Aaron Wescott, the men’s basketball team’s ad was reminiscent of Twitter account For Exposure where artists submit calls for their service in exchange for exposure or credit for the work instead of money. Specifically, Wescott cited the ad’s phrasing as “win-win for all” as leading him to believe the men’s basketball team was trying to swindle UMBC artists.
“That’s another kind of thing that people say to try to get free art out of people,” Wescott said. “They try to describe any other benefits that they would get, aside from money, which is one thing that artists really need.”
Wescott explained that one of these other benefits often described to artists is exposure. When people say an artist will be paid in exposure, they mean that the artist is paid in the increased visibility of their work because of the specific client’s use of the art. Many companies and brands use this method, particularly over social media, stating they will give credit to the artist. However, Wescott and other artists state that this is simply a way to avoid paying what artists really need to survive: money.
“I’ve seen a lot of different posts and instances of people trying to swindle artists for free art and trying to say that exposure is just as good as money for compensation for time and their work,” Wescott said. “This felt just like one of those instances where someone well off [who] can afford to pay just doesn’t want to out of greed or something like that.”
Senior graphic design major Marissa Clayton emphasized Wescott’s sentiment that being paid exposure is not valuable.
“In all other professions, you wouldn’t pay someone in exposure, you would pay them actual money,” Clayton said.
Clayton also said the ad’s wording reminded her of an unpaid internship because it relied on experience building as payment. To her, because the men’s basketball team makes money from their games and the team pays a dedicated marketing staff, they should be able to pay a student artist.
Another student artist, who wished to remain anonymous, believes the ad was an example of a larger systematic problem in how visual art majors and artists are treated at UMBC. As a former computer science major, the student artist said the university consistently advertises paid positions to STEM majors while advertising volunteer and unpaid positions to visual art majors.
“It’s kind of like a punch to the gut where we’re paying all this money to basically teach ourselves and then the opportunities they offer that you would be able to put on your resume are stuff like this,” the student artist said.
Brudish says that, while he had innocent intentions in posting the ad, he now understands how his wording and making it a volunteer position makes it seem like he and the men’s basketball team do not value artists’ work.
“I negated the value and the skill that these artists have and work so hard to have and the value they do give to whatever they set their mind to, whether it is marketing a sports team, whether it’s marketing a business, whether it’s expressing themselves,” Brudish said. “I’m in no place to not value that.”
Brudish explained the initial idea of a volunteer artist position came from the volunteer graphics work Graduate Assistant Jeffrey Kee did with the men’s team before he began working with the UMBC women’s basketball team. He said his wording of a “win-win” came from his hope that the relationship between the marketing team and the student artist would be mutually beneficial with the team getting help and the artist gaining experience.
“But my wording was a bit more entitled than that,” Brudish said. “I can see how it’d be viewed as ‘We need help, so you have to help us for free.’ I’m so embarrassed that that’s the way it came across because that was not my purpose.”
Currently, Brudish and the rest of the men’s basketball team are working on creating a compensated student artist position. In addition, Brudish and the Athletic Department are now developing a more clear line of communication with the Career Center to ensure that all future student positions’ responsibilities and forms of compensation are fully thought through.
For the artists that were angered by Brudish’s wording in the ad, he knows that his actions have not shown the treatment they deserve.
“Just know how much respect we have for the artists and their expression that is so valuable,” Brudish said. “It’s an amazing way to carry a message, and I understand that and wish I had honored that better from the start.”