July 19, 2019

Art-World Salary Spreadsheet Creators Launch Internship Survey

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIAMichelle Millar Fisher, the Philadelphia Museum of art curator who made a crowdsourced spreadsheet of museum workers’ salaries in order to promote pay transparency in the cultural sector, has created a survey that aims to gather more data on internships in the field.

In an essay published by Artnews, Fisher and the group Art + Museum Transparency said that shifting their focus to internships was a natural next step, especially since summer is high season for interns. After reviewing the information entered on the Arts + All Museums Salary Transparency spreadsheet, which has almost three thousand entries, they said, “The most difficult numbers to read. . .were the zeros entered by people working for free.”

“If the base salary in our field is $0, then it’s no wonder that the next step up is not much higher,” the essay reads. “We know what working for free does to the chances of truly diversifying or addressing equity within any intersection of art and museum labor. And yet many of us still support unpaid internships, implicitly and explicitly. Unpaid labor is never truly free. It foists costs onto others, including interns themselves, and ultimately suppresses wages all the way up the pay scale. The elimination of unpaid labor is a necessary first step toward real and lasting change.”

The internship-focused survey comes nearly a month after the board of trustees of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) passed a resolution calling for an end to unpaid internship programs. “Providing paid internships is an important step for the art museum field in creating and sustaining a diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive set of opportunities,” said Jill Medvedow, a co-chair of the AAMD’s professional issues committee.

While the AAMD stated that exceptions can be made, such as for students who will receive academic credits, Fisher and Art + Museum Transparency argue that students should be allowed to receive both pay and credit for internships since they still have to pay their colleges and universities in order to actually get the course credits.

The essay concludes: “This a very particular moment of change. We stand in solidarity with those who are working hard to make things different.” The results of the survey will be posted to the Art + Museum Transparency End Unpaid Internships spreadsheet, which can be found here.

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