As artists, we have long believed racialized capitalism, cis-hetero-patriarchy, and ableism fuel the theatre industry and undergird the business structures available to us. Accordingly, when we first decided to found a devised theatre company in 2015, we struggled to identify alternatives that would support our creative work in ways that aligned with our values. It wasn’t until Daniel began working at the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives that we found the name to describe our alternative: the worker cooperative. In 2019, we began the process of restructuring our company, Obvious Agency, based in Philadelphia, from an informal agreement between Daniel, Arianna, and our co-founder Joseph Ahmed, into a worker cooperative.
Worker cooperatives are desirable, just, democratic alternatives to nonprofit business models in the arts and entertainment sector. They offer artists and arts administrators opportunities for ownership as a way of building equitable power, long-term stability, and investment in community. Though we are still in the process of formalizing our business, we’ve learned a lot over the last three years, including how the cooperative model has immanent benefits in a cultural sector faced with increased austerity and precarity for its most vulnerable workers.