Over Facebook, I asked an informal question about who pays artists. I wasn’t surprised by the results. Many artists, including those still in school, tend to pay other artists, actors, and writers who’ve assisted with the production of a work. Even those with limited means tend to exchange work, materials, or other barterable goods. Contrast this with the fact that when a non-profit or museum pays artists and their assistants, it seems like a rare, almost noble deed.
There are expectations in the arts, as with any other industry, to value the time, effort, and labor of others. It’s just harder to figure out how to go after fair payment by arts institutions when the promise—of even a meager stipend—remains an uncommon practice.