Stories

The text used in the assessment tools are great descriptors, but its stories that bring this work to life. 

Below is a growing portfolio of stories from artists and advocates from across the country that can be filtered on the assessment tools, spectrum, and categories.  You can turn on and off these filters by clicking on the buttons. 

Use these examples to help locate yourself on the assessment tool and see how to move up on the spectrum. Read our Guidebook for more suggestions on how you can use Artists Thrive, putting the tools to practice, and sparking conversations with Artists Thrive.

Have a story of your own to add?   Click here to submit it.

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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.

Rubric Spectrum Category
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.

Rubric Spectrum Category
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.

Rubric Spectrum Category
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.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists