W.A.G.E.

Providers are becoming W.A.G.E. certified to show they’ve made a commitment to operate ethically in relation to artists and wish to have this commitment acknowledged by their communities.

A W.A.G.E. Certified organization signals that it stands in solidarity with artists as part of an equitable community no matter what their material practice or reputation might be.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Budgeting for Substantial Artists' Fees

Our organization works with artists in many capacities – we teach artists, we ask artists to perform at festivals and run hands-on activities, we find them opportunities like when we recently booked an act for the City Council swearing in ceremony. They are all local paid artists. We have our monthly third Saturday event here on the center’s campus. Those artists get paid. We actually pay an independent curator. That was actually where the idea for our bigger festival came from. We were hiring an independent curator to curate each event and design the whole thing and that idea of actually paying local artists to be curators was something new for us that started with the one event and now has sparked to the full big festival in March. So, we pay a lot of artists. And then we also pay the touring, national and international, artists for our performing live program, which is our big presenting program. This year’s budget for artist fees is well over $2,000,000. So we’re paying a lot of artists.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Integrating Paying Artists Full Wage Throughout Our Work

The story about paying individual artists is critical to our mission –when we do things, especially for our fundraisers, we make sure artists are paid. One of the things the city is known for is the birth of the studio glass movement. The fine art glass movement started here in our community a little over fifty years ago. When we hold events to promote the history of this in our community, we also conduct an exhibition that ends in an auction and in the closing event with that auction, we begin the bidding with the auction price guaranteeing the artist full wholesale value, as if they were to work with a gallery, and then we begin the bidding from there upwards. So the artists are paid before our organization can generate revenue off of the artwork. We’ve transferred that process over to any other auctions that we do, and make it a point to pay performing artists that join us at any of those events. We’ve worked to expand that at different activities where we’ve raised additional funds to make sure that we can hire performers to come out, instead of just relying on them to busk for revenue. We’ve worked to integrate paying artists in pretty much wherever we can through our programming.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Paying Artists Throughout the Process

I think a lot of people think, “Oh, you like drawing and painting, you should want to do it for free.” And that’s not something that we want to do. So any project that we’re involved in, unless there has been a reason, we always pay. Part of our process, especially with public art, is that we include a design concept fee. Everyone gets paid for their design. Typically, it’s two to three artists that are selected for that phase. And then with the partner or on behalf of the partner we will select one individual to move forward with in the final design, for which they are compensated. Then they have the opportunity to say, “I want to execute the design” or “I just want to oversee the project and ensure that someone else who is executing the design is doing it with integrity in regards to the style and aesthetic as well.” So, we will pay them for that next step as well. Honestly, I can’t think of anything we haven’t paid an artist for.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

A Deep Commitment to Paying Artists

Now when I utilize artists for labs, I have them often as mentors and advisors to emerging filmmakers. I pay them $1,000 a day. I make sure when I write the grants to do these programs that the artists get paid because I want the best for the emerging artists coming up. You know I used to work with a guy who worked in the financial inclusion space, and he used to work with these really, really poor people giving them cash grants that they could use to send their kids to school and get them health care. And they would find these women running for office and all these things but they were unconditional cash transfers. And his thing he used to love to say was, “For the poor, nothing but the best.” Because you can’t just give, you know, the pittance of what you have left as a society to poor people. It’s like the bar needs to be high. And so, for me, for artists, I have to model the world that we want to see. And their work is of such deep value, especially now in the political situation that we’re living in. So, I don’t do programs unless I do pay the artists who are running them. 

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Open Dialogue with Artists to Ensure Equitable Pay

Heather Pontonio, Art Program Director for the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, describes using multiple perspectives, open communication, and trust to create a process that will result in fair pay to artists.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Changing Perceptions

Artists who we invite to co-present workshops, convenings and meet & greet encounters are continually surprised when we mention that we will be remunerating their services through AZ ArtWorker. I seem to encounter the general perception that artists and culture-workers are lucky to be in these roles; therefore, we need not remunerate their work when it is not a tangible thing that we can touch and admire.

It has been most rewarding to treat local Arizona artists with the same degree of thoughtfulness and respect and financial support that we offer our national and international artistic partners. Changing and engaging in conversations around money and fair compensation of intangible creative work has been an unexpected and welcome part of the work the initiative is undertaking.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Artists Tell Us What Their Rate Is

All artists receive payment or honorarium for any services they provide in partnership or on behalf of our organization, even those that we commission for public art or those that are contracted to perform during the jazz festival. Most times artists invoice us for any service that they provide to us or for us. They invoice us, so for projects that are grant funded, we adhere to the budget amount that was submitted in the grant proposal. That is communicated to the artists prior to them being commissioned so that they are aware of what the artist fee would be. As far as the artists that perform in the festival, they are on contract. So they tell us what their contract fee is to perform. That is working with all artists on all the stages. For any other service that we need we ask artists for an invoice and they tell us what their rate is.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

A Commitment to Always Pay Artists

It is our practice to always pay individual artists. We understand that we would never ask any other profession, any other person who relies on their talent, skill, intellect, to give their services freely unless it were explicit that it was a volunteer opportunity or something that fell in the realm of philanthropy. So, it is always our practice to pay artists for the work that we ask of them. We often get third party requests. Someone will come to us and say, “Could you get an artist to donate their time to create a mural?” or “Could you get an artist…” and we are very clear that they need to negotiate that with the individual artist and that we ourselves are not in the practice of asking artists to do things for free in the open market. We pay artists to do collateral for us, to create marketing materials, graphic design materials, and we always pay them for that. We help facilitate a festival here and we ask artists to contribute to the festival through panels, discussions, and participation in workshops. We pay them for their participation in those endeavors. Whenever we do workshops or ask an artist to provide their perspective or their insight or their direct talent, to informing the community or any other work we pay them to do that. We also pay them to perform: we haven’t really done formal fundraisers, but if there’s an event that we are sponsoring or supporting and we want to engage artistic practice in that, we make sure that we budget for artists to participate.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Working to Pay a Fair Wage

Regardless of the programming we do, we always want to compensate. Whether or not that compensation will meet the artist’s fiscal needs or not is another question – we are nonprofit and our capacity to compensate is based on funding and grants that we’re able to secure. Still, we really do try our best to be within what the fair market value would be for their work. We try to compensate them to the best of our ability that would equate what they would get from someone else. It’s a really important thing for our organization to invest monetarily in creatives, as well as through education and professional development.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Financial Support for Artists Is an Essential Component of Our Work

Our stance here is clear: we believe support for artists comes in many ways, but financial support is an essential component of the work that we do. And, in that vein, we feel that the compensation for artists is important in all of our programs. For example, in the past year we have been fortunate to host a major political event, and as a public agency we considered that opportunity and asked, “What can we do to provide a meaningful support for the organizations and the artists that we fund, and create an opportunity for them to connect with the community and really help showcase our community as a destination for arts and culture?” So, we developed a program wherein artists and arts organizations could apply to perform at the airport or to activate public spaces downtown during the convention, and through that process we ensure that artists would have meaningful stipends and compensation that was there, whether that was a group of performers or an individual artist. And we look forward to replicating that this year in the heart of downtown through a partnership with the public park in the center of downtown that’s been newly renovated. We feel strongly that artists should be fairly compensated for their time and for their work and we look for that to integrate that kind of perception through all the work that we do.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Paying a Stipend, Not Living Wage

We used to run a carnival in conjunction with a local music festival in town. We would shut down a street and bring in a moving truck that artists programmed. Even though we didn’t necessarily pay the artist for the days they spent at the truck, we paid them a stipend to produce it.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Trying to Create a Norm of Paying Artists

We often think about paying artists during our state-wide arts convening, which is for both individual artists and arts organizations to build networks and introduce new concepts. As an agency is that we’re working really hard for the norm to be that we always pay artists. We are also in a position of feeling that we would like to pay individual artists more for their work. So, during convenings, we will pay artists, via contract, to perform – or, present or do contracted work. And then times that we haven’t paid artists, we usually work to compensate them with a full conference attendance fee waiver. It’s a way to provide a non-monetary incentive or non-monetary benefit to them as a professional artist.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Some Consideration of Experience in Setting Pay

Using an exhibition as an example, we pay an artist only if their work is sold. We do keep a commission. For exhibition work we retain 40%, and we’ll pay 60% out as an honorarium at the end of the exhibition. If artists are selling their work through our gift shop we’ll retain a 30% commission and we pay by check once a month for sales that are made. We engage artists as teachers here as well, and we pay hourly wages for the work that they’re doing. Generally, it’s a minimum $20 an hour, but it could be up to $30 an hour based on experience and other credentials.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Struggling to Pay Competitively within Budget

We always try to have artists get paid whenever we are doing new work, commissioning new work, or involving them in some way in which they’re actually contributing first-hand to the project. Just recently we had a tenth-year anniversary exhibition and we worked with twelve artists to do some site-specific commissions and also show artwork that they shipped from their studios. In that case, most of the people who were participating in the exhibition were creating works on-site in the gallery, or for off-site locations. We tried to pay them a stipend based on a rate that they felt was competitive or applicable for the amount of work that they were doing, but also we had a max budget. In most cases, we found artists to be really flexible in terms of how much they’ll work for and what they won’t work for. At the time, we appreciated this flexibility because it helped us meet our budget. In hindsight, though, we realized that we need to have an open conversation with artists to acknowledge that we’re not paying competitively right now and create solutions together. We want to be a leader in paying artists fairly as opposed to another organization asking artists to take less than they are worth.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists

Exposure as Compensation

If we have a local artist who’s contributing to the exhibition in some way, we typically don’t pay them an artist’s fee or honorarium unless they’re doing something substantial for the exhibition.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Paying Artists

Artists Asked to Donate Their Time

There was one time very early on in the creative catalyst program, when our creative catalyst coordinator was working on an art demo project. There was a festival downtown and the creative catalyst wanted to do something with it so they went out and recruited a bunch of aerosol artists to use these art cubes we had built, doing aerosol art outside onsite at this festival as a part of community engagement for creative catalyst. When I realized that they had lined up all these artists that were willing to donate their services – the only thing we had done was buy the paint – it actually bothered me because we don’t generally ask artists to work for nothing. So, as a thank you to them, because they were already lined up and the event was about to happen, we ended up giving all the artists who participated vouchers for tickets to come see a show. They got two free tickets to a show of their choice.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Paying Artists