Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) is a New York-based activist group focused on standards for artist fees by nonprofit art institutions and establishing a sustainable model for best practices between artists and the institutions that contract their labor. ACT Research Affiliate Howie Chen is on the W.A.G.E. Board and has actively participated in the conceptualization and implementation of the W.A.G.E. Certification Program, the first model for artists’ compensation in the United States, which was released in October 2014.

According to the W.A.G.E. “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.”

In order to address this imbalance, W.A.G.E. proposes a voluntary certification model in which willing 501(c)(3) tax exempt arts organizations and institutions can be certified by W.A.G.E. if they meet a specific set of requirements that must be reconfirmed each fiscal year. These requirements include the incorporation of Artist Fees into institutions’ operating and exhibition budgets and meeting minimum standards of compensation for artists who contribute to programs, among others. These standards of compensation are determined by a fee calculator that reflects the complexity of an unregulated economic field, aiming at W.A.G.E.’s “broader goal . . . to work toward a fairer and more equitable distribution of resources in the contemporary art field and in society at large.”

At the time of W.A.G.E. Certification’s release, New York-based Artists Space is the first certified institution in the United States.

For further information, please visit W.A.G.E.‘s website.

Howie Chen is a New York-based curator involved in collaborative art production and research, and a current Research Affiliate at ACT. In Spring 2013 he co-taught Cinematic Migrations with Renée Green, also participating in a seminar with Visiting Artists John Akomfrah and Lina Gopaul dedicated to New political economies and moving images. In Spring 2014 Chen will return to ACT with Unmanageability: pathless realities and approaches (4.s33), a special subject co-taught with ACT Lecturer Gabriel Kahan.