Where Are
They Now?

From the Great Depression to the Gig Economy

Gigs #8–13, (2021)

Oil and Toner Transfer on Panel, 9″x12″

Where Are
They Now?

From the Great
Depression to the
Gig Economy

Gigs #8–13, (2023)

Oil and Toner Transfer
on Panel, 9″x12″

WATN, Contingent Hobo #03, 9"x12" Digital Sketch, 2024

Where Are They Now: Gigs #8–13, (2024)

Oil and Toner Transfer on Panel, 9″x12″

I always intended my profession to be one of the WATN gigs, as the economic insecurity underlying this series comes from personal experience as a disposable employee. I held four jobs simultaneously for about 5 years after the 2008 crash. I worked as an Adjunct Instructor at two Colleges, as a freelance graphic designer, and as a part-time Union Organizer. Frequently, I designed an email blast during office hours or prepared a lecture while waiting to talk to an adjunct about joining the union. The Union was necessitated by the working conditions of Adjuncts in the Philadelphia region, as those conditions are crap.

Adjuncts (sometimes called Contingent Faculty) constitute the majority of Higher Education instruction, 75% on average. At least 4 of the 6 schools I worked at met this 75-80% standard; I can only assume others followed the trend. Adjuncts are paid 1/3 to 1/2 of their full-time counterparts and do essentially the same job. However, they generally do not receive benefits, and 25% require public assistance. When I went from being an adjunct to full-time, my pay did, in fact, triple in addition to getting benefits. And this experience only confirmed that my job responsibilities were the same. While responsibilities outside of class were codified into my full-time contract, they did not exceed what I was doing as an adjunct. Going above and beyond for students is part of the gig, regardless of the contract. As an adjunct, I designed curricula, hung student shows, mentored Honors students, and joined a local arts non-profit board. There is no justification for paying Adjuncts so little.

So little, in fact, most (if not all) adjuncts have to work at multiple institutions. I’ve known adjuncts who work at up to 7 schools. It’s not much of a leap to pair contingent faculty with the itinerant workers of the Great Depression, Hobos. I frequently immediately leave one class to drive 45 minutes to an hour to another. At one point, I taught at two schools and organized a third, all at least 45 minutes away in opposite directions. You go where the work is if you want to make rent.

But I struggled to represent “adjuncthod” in images of hobos. The other gigs have uniforms and specific locations that easily convey my narrative. However, classrooms are not specific enough to Higher Education. I thought about the adjunct lounge, but not all schools have such fancy amenities, and, again, they are too broad and aspecific a context to dump a hobo into.

Then, quite recently, I noticed the many ID lanyards hanging on my coat hook, each a different color. And these were just my current IDs. I’ve had at least 6 separate employee IDs in my teaching career. Now, I just needed an image of a Hobo to hang them on. I also placed the individual, institutional branding on the side of a train to repeat the colors and move the eye, and trains could stand in for my various destinations.

I give you the Contingent Hobo.