About Certification

W.A.G.E. Certification is a national program initiated and operated by W.A.G.E. that publicly recognizes those nonprofit arts organizations demonstrating a history of, and commitment to, voluntarily paying artist fees that meet our minimum payment standards. If you are interested in becoming W.A.G.E. Certified please read the guidelines below, use the Fee Calculator and then begin an application here


The U.S. non-profit arts sector is a robust economy involving thousands of tax-exempt organizations that range in size from small artist-run spaces struggling to support a single employee to large institutions with thousands of full-time workers, annual operating budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and top salaries in the seven figures. Many were founded to support living artists and have enshrined this goal in the mission statements that define the charitable purpose on which their non-profit status depends.


Among all the professionals who participate in this economy, artists are often alone among those whose contributions go uncompensated. While many non-profit arts organizations provide fees to artists for some forms of participation, fees are rarely provided for the most basic contributions artists make. Exhibition budgets include compensation for curators, writers, insurers, shippers, designers, printers, preparators, caterers and event organizers, among many others, but rarely for the artists on whom the exhibition itself depends.


Artist compensation has never been mandated by city, state, or national legislation, by government agencies or by the private foundations that provide financial support to non-profits through the grant making process. The result is a sector in which participation is often unsustainable for the very people its organizations were created to support.


W.A.G.E. Certification was initiated in 2010 in response to these conditions and was developed by artists in dialog with local and international organizations. It was established as a policy in January 2014 at the 2014 W.A.G.E. Summit, and launched in October of that year.