To establish sustainable economic relationships between artists and the institutions that contract our labor, and to introduce mechanisms for self-regulation into the art field that collectively bring about a more equitable distribution of its economy.
Working Artists and the Greater Economy began in 2008 with a series of informal discussions between a small group of visual and performing artists and independent curators in New York City who shared their experiences working with art institutions, and specifically the common practice of non-payment. These discussions took place casually in various apartments and studios across the city, culminating in the writing of the womanifesto and soon evolving into a series of large, open meetings and public forums held at Judson Church that collectively brought language to this inequity, making it central to W.A.G.E.'s cause.
As this loose affiliation of art workers began to coalesce into a core group of active members, W.A.G.E. responded to the community's growing interest in the problem by regularly giving speeches, making videos, holding open teach-ins, coffee klatches and workshops—W.A.G.E. RAGING in panel discussions and symposia at museums, galleries, conferences, festivals, schools, summits, and art fairs. Through education and consciousness raising W.A.G.E. helped to bring issues of economic inequity in the art field back into circulation. These remained W.A.G.E.'s primary activities until mid-2010 when we chose to work towards a single achievable goal: the regulated payment of artist fees by nonprofit arts organizations and museums.
This focus narrowed W.A.G.E.'s platform but it also expanded activities to include information sharing and negotiation. In Fall 2010 W.A.G.E. launched an online survey to gather information about the experiences of visual and performing artists with the payment practices of nonprofit organizations in New York's five boroughs between 2005 and 2010. With almost 1000 respondents, the results of the W.A.G.E. Survey have become a key tool in concretely illustrating—and documenting—the common practice of non-payment.
Also in Fall 2010, W.A.G.E. initiated a certification program that publicly recognizes nonprofit arts organizations that voluntarily follow a best practices model and demonstrate a history of, and commitment to, paying artist fees that meet a minimum payment standard. The first certification took place at the New Museum in New York via an invitation from curator Lauren Cornell to participate in the group exhibition Free. W.A.G.E.'s contribution as an activist group and not an artist collective was to successfully negotiate artist fees for all participating artists, qualifying the New Museum for Exhibition Certification. But because W.A.G.E. believes that the goal of establishing permanent payment standards implies a long term commitment on the part of an organization, the development of W.A.G.E. Certification was to be limited to organizations and would not apply to single exhibitions.
W.A.G.E. received its 501c3 non-profit status in 2011, and after 3 years of consciousness raising and aggregating data from the field we chose to focus exclusively on establishing W.A.G.E. Certification and on consolidating our own resources in order to support the kind of sustained, internal work necessary to achieving policy change. W.A.G.E. elected an interim board of directors and began to shift away from a horizontal, non-hierarchical, consensus-based configuration into a more compact institutional structure.
In March 2011, Artists Space initiated a dialogue with W.A.G.E. about the implications of the W.A.G.E. Survey and W.A.G.E. Certification, resulting in the formation of a temporary research partnership between the two organizations. The partnership provided W.A.G.E. and Artists Space with a cooperative platform on which to organize a series of symposia/public discussions and strategic think tanks involving artists, activists, curators, grant makers, administrators, economists, sociologists, and the public in an extended conversation about payment practices in the arts.
Events began in early 2012 and were designed to engage a diverse arts community on multiple levels, providing vital dialogue and feedback through which W.A.G.E.'s certification program was to be developed. The first forum, Feeling the Shape of the Arts Economy was followed by W.A.G.E. Survey Release: Presentation and Open Forum, and later Marion von Osten: Be Creative! With responses from Andrew Ross which included a presentation by W.A.G.E. summarizing recent developments in the conception of W.A.G.E. Certification.
Alongside public programs W.A.G.E. conducted research into Artists Space's history of fee payment between 2005 and 2010, the same time frame as the W.A.G.E. Survey. Charting the organization's exhibition schedule year by year, counting the number of participating artists and confirming what the organization had paid out in fees, we learned that there was little consistency in the fee size and that Artists Space had spent between 0.6% and 1.4% of its total annual operating budget on artist compensation annually. Further research indicated that if Artists Space had used CARFAC's recommended fee schedule it would only have spent between 1.3% and 2.3% of its total budget on fees. By looking at artist compensation in direct proportion to what the organization had chosen to spend on its operations, the actual value it had placed on artistic labor became apparent. At that point the question was no longer whether artists were getting paid or how much, but how the value of artistic labor should be determined and how its compensation could be enforced.
W.A.G.E. Certification's early principles also took shape through invitations from artists and institutions to travel to the UK and Europe. These included a public meeting in Glasgow with the Scottish Artists Union, a first attempt at W.A.G.E. Certification with Truth is Concrete in Graz, long overdue in-person meetings with Precarious Workers Brigade, CarrotWorkers' Collective, and ArtLeaks, as well as the delivery of a speech at the MMK Zollamt in Frankfurt where we met with the Art Workers Council Frankfurt/M. Dialog began with London's Artquest, while the a-n company used the W.A.G.E. Survey as a basis for its Paying Artists Campaign.
In January 2014, a group of minds from across the fields of labor, sociology, economy, theory, and arts administration, whose work has been central to W.A.G.E., convened at Cage, NY to establish the policy for W.A.G.E. Certification. Using Artists Space as a test case, A.K. Burns, Howie Chen, Andrea Fraser, Alison Gerber, Stephanie Luce, Andrew Ross, Marina Vishmidt, W.A.G.E., and key Artists Space staff looked closely at the organization's institutional structure and budget, considered the conditions under which it operates, and questioned the mechanisms it uses to determine the organization, valuation, and compensation of labor. Over two days we talked through, negotiated, and arrived at a framework for fee payment and a revised set of principles. W.A.G.E. Certification was further developed and refined over the following months, with additional input from Abigail Levine and Suhail Malik.
The summit marked the conclusion of W.A.G.E.'s Research Partnership with Artists Space, and its findings were presented publicly at Out of Alternatives, a conference organized by Common Practice New York and the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College in May. W.A.G.E. Certification was officially launched in October 2014, at which time Artists Space became the first organization to be certified.
Also in October, W.A.G.E. launched Wages 4 W.A.G.E., a 6-week fundraising campaign intended to help us transition into a functioning non-profit organization after operating on volunteer labor for over 6 years. Thanks to the generosity of 777 friends and supporters, Wages 4 W.A.G.E. raised close to $53,000, finally making it possible to employ its core organizer.
One year later, W.A.G.E. received its first grants. These came from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. This support stabilized W.A.G.E. organizationally while also signaling to arts organizations that funders stand in solidarity with artists as part of an equitable community.
While continuing to administrate W.A.G.E. Certification, we actively began work on a parallel certification program for artists that had been conceived years before. In November 2015 a mini-summit took place at MayDay Rooms in London, UK to establish the program's framework. Over 2 days, W.A.G.E. board members Suhail Malik, Marina Vishmidt, and Tirdad Zolghadr, along with W.A.G.E.'s core organizer and artist and writer Anthony Davies, developed a set of guiding principles and the strategic approaches to effectively engage them. With the intention of providing working artists with the necessary agency to negotiate compensation or withhold content and services from institutions that refuse to pay them fees according to W.A.G.E. standards, "WAGENCY" emerged—a new form of labor organizing for an unpaid and atomized workforce.
In addition to the regular certifications in cities across the U.S., in 2016 Open Space, a department of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art represented our first 'partial' museum certification, setting an important precedent: Open Space agreed to pay fees according to SFMOMA's total annual operating expenses despite that as a department its own expenses are 200 times smaller than the museum's. The scope of Open Space's operation is analogous to a small-scale organization and yet it chose to pay fees according to W.A.G.E.'s standards for a museum. By making the decision to "not operate from a sense of resource scarcity that, often, simply camouflages over-production" Open Space chose to prioritize equity over quantity by opting to do less with more.
In summer 2016, the collective MTL+ invited W.A.G.E. to be a collaborator in Decolonize This Place, an action-oriented space working around indigenous struggle, black liberation, Free Palestine, global wage workers and de-gentrification. In late 2016 W.A.G.E. began working in coalition on the People's Cultural Plan, a profound roadmap for anti-racist regulatory reform within New York's cultural sector, and beyond.
Alongside the continued coalition-building work that started in 2016, W.A.G.E. began to lay the digital foundation of a new platform to accomodate our growing scope. In preparation for the addition of WAGENCY and an updated and modular version of Seth Siegelaub’s The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement on Blockchain later this year, an automated system for W.A.G.E. Certification and this new website were launched in August.
A gift from an anonymous donor through The Chicago Community Foundation
Bety N. Giles Charitable Foundation
Foundation for Arts Initiatives
Henry S. and Margaret Gay Mika Charitable Foundation
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
The Danielson Foundation
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
In 2014, a 6-week fundraising campaign enabled us to make the transition from a volunteer activist configuration into a functioning *but not bureaucratic* non-profit organization. Through the generosity of 777 friends and supporters, Wages 4 W.A.G.E. raised almost $53,000! Thank you:
"My W.A.G.E. RAGE at work." THANK YOU for what you do.
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." - Mark Twain
A day late + a dollar $hort
A few years ago, your information was very helpful to defend myself against my state tax revenue department. I was successful. Thank you very much for your work!
A very important cause. It's about fairness!
Always happy to support the great work WAGE is doing.
Amazing things <3
Art student. My (undergraduate) degree costs $160,000 only in tuition money.
Artist should always be paid! Thanks for your hardwork!
Because $TRUGG¬£‚Ç¨$ sap ¬¢REATIVIT¬•!!
Because I do enough "shadow labor" volunteering at my kid's school.
Congrats y'all! The new material is fantastic. I hope this helps meet your goal!
During times like this how can we not donate and make art
Everyone wants my little bit of money, but you guys get it, because wages for art are the ticket to restore criteria in a world that has lost its aesthetic compass
For Agnes, who might be an artist.
For A.L. Steiner
For higher Artist's fees in all The Americas. En Latino America tambien tenemos WAGE RAGE, RABIA SALARIAL.
GIVE GIVE GIVE
Good luck everyone!
Good luck! I hope your target is met!
Gooooooo ! <3
Got a grant and I got a job. Some parts of the art world treats me right and other parts just ignore me unless I serve to care and to listen. I'd like some of that service and care to come back into my direction. Maybe the donation will help.
Great job!! and thank you for doing this important work!
Hats off to W.A.G.E. for doing important work.
Here we go!
Here's to certification spreading across the land
Honoring my sister A. L. Steiner who in my eyes #is everything
I believe in this! Donate what you can, if you can. If you can donate, make a contribution for someone who can't right now.
I have W.A.G.E. Rage because I am a "successful" but totally non-commercial artist.
I have W.A.G.E. RAGE because I'm an art student and I'm broke and will be broker once I have to start paying off these goddamn loans.
I heard A L Steiner speak only about her work recently, and she briefly mentioned this, but her commitment with so many good ongoing projects left an impression on me that gives me the kind of life one can hope for. This is where money ought to be spent.
I love you, Listings Project loves you and we are so happy you exist!
I never get any fucking grant and most often have fucking wage rage
Here is 100 borrowed from amex credit card at 15% interest rate be my guest keep up the good work
I really am broke, but I support the cause! Next, could you advocate for fair wages for arts writers??
I support this because capitalism still exists and we currently need money to survive but looking forward to a day when our value is not based in any form of currency. Until we are ALL able to live in abundance, I believe in paying people!
I support this cause. looking forward to seeing where this goes!
I support WAGE's fight for artist fees. Solidarity means nothing if I don't put my money where my mouth is. Good luck!
I wish it could be more.
Important work for all artists!
It's only right. Writers for W.A.G.E.
Keep on keep on
Keep on keepin on. Xo
KEEP UP THE IMPORTANT WORK
LACE is on board!
Let's change the way it works!
Listen up! Listen up! Pay the artists!
Love the work you are doing and the dialogue it's generating.
Love to you all <3
Love you wage.
No more economic inequality and corporate exploitation!
No need to send a poster
On behalf of our staff and every artist on our roster.
On behalf of the Feminist Art Gallery, Toronto
On behalf of the Feminist Art Gallery, Toronto
Our labor must be acknowledged and supported! Thank you WAGE.
Pay artists what they are worth.
Pay W.A.G.E. so W.A.G.E. can keep fighting the good fight!
Power to the pie slice and therefore to the class.
RAGE ON WAGE!!!!! THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN!!!!
Rage rage at the no wage. haha Institutions, museums, fly you in, hotel you in, and don't pay you? What the f ? They HAVE TO pay a responsible honorarium, even so they are nonprofit... most artist are nonprofit! except for the 1% :) The Whitney Biennale paid NOTHING, their excuse is 122 artists. They allow so many artists so they don't have to pay! its a conspiracy :) They leave in a fucking bubble. They are the horror that's hard to say no. I shelved my integrity and took the easy calculated yes...rage rage at the no wage. i am done! good rage good bye! Xx
Rage the measly minimum W.A.G.E.!
Rage! W.A.G.E.! Against the plutocratic right!
Rock on amigos
SENDING LOVE !
So badly needed. Thank you, I will join in this effort, and make it part of the education of my students!
So in agreement about the movement. So impressed with the details of your certification program. Thank you.
Sorry to be late, under deadline pressure. Go grrrls and buoys.
Thank you and support
Thank you for doing this. It's about time!
THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO!!!
Thank you for making a difference for us all!
Thank you for raising awareness on this important issue!
Thank you for the work you do. You deserve to get paid, too!
Thank you for this tool that is crucial to our field. It will be key in allowing us, as administrators, to do our work better.
Thank you W.A.G.E yes, it is a structural catastrophe, payment for labor is a good thing. Even if out art is FREE, does not mean it should be for free. how did this happen? who mixed that up?
THANK YOU WAGE FOR TAKING SPEARING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!! I just got asked to participate on a panel, give an artist talk and do a performance for FREE! Cultural capital is nice but you can't eat it!!!
Thank you, WAGE on!
Thanks for this
Thanks Lindsay Benedict for bringing this to me.
Thanks to W.A.G.E.
Thanks to you all!
Thanks WAGE for this.
The Scottish Artists Union supports WAGE's campaign and is in solidarity with the cause to encourage proper remuneration for artists.
THE WAGE RAGE IS REAL
This calculator is SUPER helpful - thank you!
This is really important!
This is where our collective money should go! Especially now after the hideous election results
Transparency = Accountability
Very proud of this movement!
Voluntary exchange between sophisticated parties is the cornerstone of a free society. I support WAGE because it asks artists to think economically, own their economic agency and shed the myth that to be a good artist you must accept a bad deal.
W.A.G.E. is mighty!
W.A.G.E. on!!! You need artists! And we need a living wage!
WAGE against the machine!
Wage rage for all the amazing artists I represent!
WAGE RAGE! I donate because we need the good work WAGE is doing.
We could not have gotten this far without you. Congrats, Lise and co!
We support you!
When everyone else involved in a show is being paid, the artist should be paid.
When we work for nothing we will be paid nothing.
Wish I could give more! Don't stop! Fight on!
Wish I had a grant about now
Wish it could be more!
Working for free to make culture more exciting is so passé...... can we do a workshop for Stolkhom Syndrome?
x struggle x
Y.E.S. and THANK YOU!!!!
Yay for pay!
Yes, I have W.A.G.E RAGE !!!!!!!!!!!
W.A.G.E. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your tax-deductible donation will help keep W.A.G.E. RAGING.
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