Survey Shows Less Than 50% of Professional Artists Get Paid

A survey conducted by the group W.A.G.E (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) has turned up some depressing, but not particularly surprising, statistics. After speaking to nearly 1,000 New York artists (including visual and performance artists), W.A.G.E. found that 58% received no compensation at all for exhibiting or presenting their work at local nonprofits.

Not only that, but 58% didn’t even have their expenses for participating in exhibits reimbursed. They had to cover their own cost of materials, transporting the work to the museum or  gallery, and installing the work.

What makes this data particularly troubling is the fact that it reflects nonprofit organizations – groups which receive federal funding in order to promote the arts. If the arts are a form of public education, why isn’t the educator – the artist – being compensated for their time and effort? And why aren’t more grants available to directly enable artists to create their work?

While this survey only looked at New York, I think it’s safe to say that art scenes across the US suffer from the same issues. I certainly don’t know any professional artists who are able to make a living off their work – and I know quite a few throughout the country. Most of them have day jobs or teach in order to pay the bills.

W.A.G.E. is managing to make headway in encouraging galleries to pay artists – they’ve been working with the Soho gallery Artists Space to conduct presentations and discussions aimed at educating the public and sparking dialogue between artists and curators. Artists Space is attempting to lead the way by implementing best practices when it comes to compensating the artists they work with.

What do Care2 readers think? Do artists deserve to be paid for shows displaying their work? And should galleries receiving federal arts funding be required to pay artists?


Related Stories:

Over the River: the Fine Line Between Art and Environment

Social Media Raises Money for Arts than Federal Arts Program

Why You Should Give A Damn About Arts Funding

Photo credit: Katsrcool via Flickr


Natalie W.
Natalie W.1 years ago

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Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Typical for our society, we do not value the intrinsic qualities of beautifying our world... humanity only seems to value industrial/military oppression... says enough...

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Typical for our society, we do not value the intrinsic qualities of beautifying our world... humanity only seems to value industrial/military oppression... says enough...

Suzanne L.

There are a few in the arts who make it big and are possibly overpaid. Then there are so many who are talented and love to create but are not compensated. I guess it's all in the eyes of the beholders.

Glenn Byrnes
Glenn Byrnes4 years ago

Grated that art isn't the best career choice you can make, but we still need it.

Apollo Environmental Arti

We always make it from point A to B. Even with the financial hardships of being an Artist, people envy us.

Apollo Environmental Arti

This is the Artist Apollo

To all my fellow artists. It's not about giving back. It is about giving! Have faith. It is not about the money. God will provide. I have been a professional artist for 40 years and have always donated my art and time. Over the last decade or so I have donated more than I have earned. It is about exploring the true nature of creativity and becoming connected with that creative force that permeates the universe. You can learn technique and improve your skills, but true creativity flows through not from the artist. I have worked with several non profits and have never handled any money. There are some artists out their that have set up non profits primarily to promote themselves not the agenda they claim to care about, but I see them for what they are and so do a lot of people, self promotional tools and a money scam. One Artist according to Fox news has a self promoting non profit that has brought in millions upon millions that he is using to buy himself credibility. Over the years this so call artist has made a fortune off the copying of other artists ideas. Several of my paintings and the artwork of others have had derivative works created from our pieces. Get ready the truth is out there.
Asking for money when you donate to Non-Profits makes your gift unclean.

Truly creative people understand that their creativity goes far beyond the brush meeting the canvas. They create circumstance, the true power of creativity. We always make it from poi

bindy Hopper
bindy hopper4 years ago

Nothing proves capitalistic ideas more than the world of art. If you don't need to be as talented as you NEED to be lucky, and you need a good bit of business savvy and the right connections to get a hold of any share of the market, no matter how tiny. I got to hear many professional artists speak, and the most common thread through all of them was their connections to wealthy people who loved art and could afford it. There's a couple of "good artist, worked hard" stories, but people also win the lottery- so there's a 1 in million chance for everything. I did not ever think I would say it, but getting an art degree was the stupidest thing I ever did- not going to college, that was smart, but majoring in art was stupid.

Gayle R.
Gayle R.4 years ago

As a professional artist I have to pay a fee to exhibit my work in many shows,
more often than not have to carry insurance on the pieces I show,
and expect to have up to 30% (so far the highest I've encountered) of a sale deducted from the sale price (benefits the show venue),
and galleries are picky about which artists they will display, no matter how good the work is.

Art supplies are anything but inexpensive, transportation is more and more expensive, the economy is currently not conducive to people buying much art, so the expression "starving artist" isn't a joke--it's a truism. Without the variety of artists and their work, galleries would not exist.

So, yes, artists should receive some kind of compensation. Without artists the world would be a less colorful, less beautiful, less tolerable place.

Ira L.
Ellie L.4 years ago

Art depicts life, and those blessed with the talent/gift to transfer their interpretations onto canvas, film or other medium, should be financially compensated not only for the cost of their labor, but for the visual pleasure it affords others.