Kiela Smith-Upton discusses Artists Design the Future, her worker cooperative of BIPOC people.


Kiela Smith-Upton spent some time with Politics Done Right at Netroots Nation 2022 discussing Artists Design the Future, an intriguing worker cooperative of BIPOC people.

Kiela Smith-Upton on an intriguing cooperative

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America sells itself as a Democracy. Too often, it associates its economic system, capitalism on steroids, as the fruit of said Democracy. I will allow their definition, but at the same time, one should recall that China is the following largest capitalist country. Given the structure of corporations, that’s apropos.

It is in that light that I love what Kiela Smith-Upton is doing with “Artists Design the Future,” a cooperative she co-founded. Unlike corporations which are one of the most undemocratic structures, it is democratic in every aspect.

The following from Artists Design the Future (ADtF) Facebook page is more than just aspirational but intentional.

ADtF’s mission is to foster creative, equitable, and stronger communities where African American, Latinx, and marginalized creatives live on Chicago’s south side. Our goal is to provide sustainable and affordable ownership for artists.

We plan to nurture an ecosystem with sequential year long projects to engage community leaders, organizations, and neighbors in an active dialogue about the value of arts in larger community change strategies. Our ultimate goal is to create effective partnerships to develop an affordable mixed use building with shared ownership for creatives, serving as anchor in a commercial district on Chicago’s southside.

Ms. Smith-Upton said the concept of the mixed-use building they are putting together is replicable. I’ve discussed the idea of cooperatives with many, like political economist Gar Alperovitz and others. The only way to achieve genuine democratic institutions for the masses is for them to control and own their resources. The work that Kiela Smith-Upton, like others in that space, are doing is the beginning of cutting the corporate chains. I am sure you will find the interview enlightening.

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