Tilt West’s roundtable conversation on Art, Social Justice, and Culture Wars: Creative Practice in a Time of Change (photo credit: Mindy Bray.)

Cut the Check

4 min readApr 11, 2024


By Kerrie Joy, in response to Tilt West’s roundtable conversation on Art, Social Justice, and Culture Wars: Creative Practice in a Time of Change

Pay artists


Yea, period. Pay artists.

But, I am an artist before you cut the check.
Remember that.
Just like a tulip is a flower before their beauty makes you break your neck and cut the stem and take them home where you share their essence with your friends.

In fact…

I am an artist because I chose to open up and stop caring about your love and started choosing
myself while I send most opinions to hell.
I mean, I have my collective,
I have my people I manifest with,
We should probably be more protective,
But many of us are givers, you see.

Folks witness us pour out and they want to take our seeds.
Some to sow them
And others to deny posterity.

Yet, I’ve learned the sky provides and my roots will have plenty.
So even in a drought, I will always have what I need.
But you should still pay artists,
Yes, pay me…and pay me well.

How is this still a topic?
Why do we not yet believe?
I take the shit from life, feed the earth and produce giving-trees.
Hungry souls pick the fruit, turn into gods and oft forget
The beat, the word, the brush stroke that awakened their deity
Maybe I should stop taking shit.
Hey artists, maybe we should stop taking shit.
That’s why we write and why we sing and why we paint hoping they’ll get it.
We speak louder, we reach farther, wear our dreams in public.
Folks think it’s crazy until we’re like Basquiat…
Started off as vandalism while gentrification creates mural fests.

So I repeat, cut the check.

Four people sit in a semi circle listening and talking.
Tilt West Roundtable Prompter Todd Edward Herman speaking in a group with three other participants.

Artists are the teachers so pay us…
Wait, y’all don’t even pay them.

Artists are the healers, the doctors, the therapists.
Artists break the molds, we pay attention to the “accidents,”
We let failure transform us and transform our world: butterfly effect.

And, real quick, let’s address this:
Art transforms even if aesthetes aren’t around to witness it.
Because if the artist is changed, so is the world they live in.
Let that sink in.
That’s my contribution: a better me.
Artists discover life’s derivatives, call us mathematicians.
We step inside rips in the continuum and come back more than human.
Writing, painting, sculpting…hopefully en-light.
Folks think we’re crazy until death proves us right.
It is too often that creatives are overlooked on park benches; we need post-mortem advances.
Pay us while we are alive.

Pay us in the present.
Pay us in the moment.
Pay us until we kill the blasted term “starving artist.”
Pay us, at least, until we completely transform the system,
Until we reach higher grounds by sharing our inner visions,
Even Stevie Wonder saw it and named it…expanding senses, breaking limits.
Pay us for breaking limits.
Pay us for doing it different.
For those of us that survived hell-like conditions,
Pay us for living.
Pay us for telling these tales so that you could feel something.
Pay us for feeling it first.

Two participants in a conversation, one a white appearing woman wearing jeans and a white sweater and the other a black appearing person wearing a red top, yellow cap, black pants and white tennis shoes.
Poet Kerrie Joy making an insightful point during the roundtable conversation.

And although many of us think to change the world, creating worlds that we deserve, creating
worlds that hold up mirrors…this is our world.
A beautiful tragedy:
Wars and the artists that cry out against them, freedom and the supremacies created to deny
them, slave trades and doors of no return, reclamation of roots while books and forests burn,
rhythm and poetry that fight the powers that be, greedy souls that rather move to Mars than pay
their employees or for peace.

We are…indeed…a beautiful tragedy…
And will likely remain to be.
But I thank the gods that I am an artist that will shine love from my chest.
My throat thick with hope because I will not be bested.
I will write and will write so that the children never forget,
And I will be paid for this sacred light.

That’s on periodt.

Copyright 2024 Kerrie Joy Landell

Kerrie Joy is a poet, singer/songwriter, storyteller, educator, and revolutionary. She is based in Denver, CO where she channels her creativity through poetry, hip-hop, song, graphic design, and fashion. She is an organizer of ideas and a facilitator of critical thinking through art. Kerrie Joy has performed at Red Red Rocks, TEDx Mile High, City Winery DC, Atlanta, & Charlotte, the Denver Womxn’s March, Dazzle Denver, The Soiled Dove Underground and much more. In 2022 Kerrie Joy was named the Creative-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum continuing to challenge herself as a master creator. In 2023 Kerrie Joy made history as the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Adams County, CO. She recently released her very first EP “Preachin’ To Myself” and is working on her next project, “Love, Me.” Stay tuned.

Learn more at www.kerriejoy.com. She/Her/Hers




Tilt West is a nonprofit org based in Denver. Our mission is to promote critical discourse focused on arts and culture for our region and beyond.