We did it . . . we are W.A.G.E. certified!

July 6, 2022

The Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to announce that it has been certified by Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), based on its demonstrated history of and commitment to paying artist fees that are appropriate to the institution’s operating budget. The Arthur Ross Gallery is the 105th institution in the United States to receive the certification. Founded in 2008, Working Artists for the Greater Economy seeks to create “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.” W.A.G.E. certification offers recognition to institutions that pay artists fees that meet appropriate fee standards.

The Arthur Ross Gallery is delighted to join our colleagues at the Institute of Contemporary Art in W.A.G.E. certification, in advocating for artists fair pay, and for a more equitable, sustainable arts ecology. W.A.G.E. is part of a history of artists advocating for fair pay in the United States.

About the Arthur Ross Gallery

The Arthur Ross Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania advances scholarship, collaboration, and outreach through direct engagement with original art and artifacts. Presenting art from a wide range of media, periods, cultures, and traditions, the Gallery serves as a rich educational and cultural resource for students, faculty, scholars, artists, and the local and regional communities.

About Working Artists and the Greater Economy

Since its founding in 2008, W.A.G.E.’s work has developed in service of a single achievable goal—the regulated payment of artist fees in the nonprofit sector—but we emerge from a long tradition of artists organizing around the issue of remuneration for cultural work in the United States that dates back to the 1930s.

We see the contemporary fight for non-wage compensation as part of a wider struggle by all gig workers who supply content without payment standards or an effective means to organize. In the context of contemporary art, where the unpaid labor of artists supports a more than $60 billion-dollar industry, W.A.G.E.’s mission is 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. 

Self-regulation is central to our approach because artist compensation has never been mandated at the city, state, or federal levels by government agencies or by the private foundations that provide financial support to nonprofits through the grant making process. In this context, and in the face of accelerated privatization, deregulation and defunding, we have concluded that the task of regulating the field has been left to us.

To that end, W.A.G.E. currently operates two connected programs, W.A.G.E. Certification and WAGENCY, and is currently developing a series of contracts for non-unionized freelance workers whose labor facilitates the conception, fabrication, production, exhibition and circulation of art.