W.A.G.E.'s myopic focus on artist fees, while strategically effective, has often made it challenging to address in policy terms other forms of structural inequity that characterize the field, including and especially white supremacy and the underrepresentation of Black and indigenous people, and people of color at all levels of institutional life.
In late 2016, an opportunity arose to integrate W.A.G.E.'s campaign for artist compensation into a much wider struggle to address interlocking forms of racial and economic inequity impacting artists and art workers in New York City: housing, labor, and public funding. W.A.G.E. began to work in coalition with a small multi-racial group of artists, cultural workers and organizers to produce the People’s Cultural Plan , a roadmap for anti-racist regulatory reform within the city's cultural sector.
The project started with a group email from a comrade about the problematic planning process by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to produce CreateNYC , the city's "first-ever cultural plan". A series of emails evolved into a meeting, and then another meeting, until it became clear: vocalizing opposition to DCA's plan wouldn't be enough — we had to develop our own. Over time, the coalition grew and opened up to community input but the core assertion remained the same:
"Housing, labor, and public funding injustices cannot be addressed in isolation, because all three factors intersect to create the inequities we experience. We, the people, a multi-racial and multi-lingual coalition of artists, culture workers and tenants from the many neighborhoods of NYC, demand a cultural plan with concrete policies to:
1) End displacement and dispossession in NYC;
2) Insure truly equitable inclusion within the cultural sector of all POC artists and cultural workers, and equitable wages for all artists and cultural workers;
3) Distribute public funding equitably and commit to rectifying the documented history of neglect, disinvestment and theft from communities, organizations, and artists of color in NYC by investing new funds for these groups and supporting their self determination.
We further demand that changes in funding and housing policies be subject to community control – that the neighborhoods to be affected by policy changes determine the specifics. The most crucial component of equity is equity in power and in decision-making, and we will accept nothing less."