Myung-Sun Kim's "Rituals For Belonging" exhibition tour & Ritual Sharing. Photo credit Sarah Hassanein.

Fair Pay for Artists

July 4, 2024

​​Are you planning your event for Ontario Culture Days and need guidance on artist fees? Here are some tips and best practices to ensure fair compensation for artists.

Artists enrich our culture and our communities. However, many artists struggle to make a living from art alone. Ensuring that artists get paid fairly is essential for a thriving arts and culture sector. Galleries, museums, and other creative and cultural spaces can help by setting and upholding fair pay standards. Fair wages allow artists to continue creating amazing art, benefiting everyone involved!

Alisa McRonald’s Booth at the Queen West Art Crawl Photo by Samantha Woo

Paying Artist Fees

All Ontario Culture Days organizers should ensure that the artists and creators they hire are fairly compensated for their work. While exposure is valuable, it should be accompanied by appropriate remuneration. Organizers should meet—or exceed—industry standards and adjust their fee schedules to reflect increased complexity of artistic work. 

For resources and guidelines relating to industry standards on artist fees, including when to pay artist fees, how much should you pay, and how should you calculate an artist’s time, organizers can refer to:

Kitchen Traditions Photo Courtesy of City of Vaughan

Covering Artist Fees

Ontario Culture Days is not a government agency or a funding body. However, we encourage organizers to seek revenue through various avenues to offset the cost of artist fees:

  • Organizers can generate income through corporate sponsorship. Check out Business/Arts Artsvest for free virtual mentorship and training.
  • Explore opportunities available through government grants, such as those offered by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council
  • Additionally, community funds, including local arts councils and cultural foundations, can provide valuable support. For more information, visit the Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario.
  • Finally, organizers can earn revenue through Pay-What-You-May admission. To keep Ontario Culture Days events accessible, events should be offered for free or using a Pay-What-You-May model.

Oakville Hub Events Photo by Sarah Arfan

Volunteer Work and In-Kind Support

There’s no doubt that volunteers contribute significantly to community initiatives and cultural activities. However, volunteer work should not serve as a substitute for paid work. The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement provides guidelines on when it is appropriate to use volunteers and stresses the importance of not exploiting volunteer labour. 

In-kind support can also be highly valuable. This can include providing exhibition spaces, offering letters of support for grant applications, and facilitating networking opportunities. However, it’s essential to ensure that such support supplements rather than substitutes fair monetary compensation for artists and creators.

KasheDance Showcase Photo Courtesy of Kevin Jones

Resources for Artists

Artists often juggle multiple roles and sources of income. In the art world, where income can be unpredictable and opportunities vary, financial management and negotiation skills are not just beneficial—they’re essential. 

For information on participating in Ontario Culture Days as an organizer, check out our organizer resources page here.