Waging Culture: Interrogating the Canadian visual artist labour force

Art Gallery of York University, 2020
7×10 in, 96 pp, 67 col., smyth-sewn paperback
ISBN 978-0-921972-80-8 [English]
ISBN 978-0-921972-81-5 [Français]

Over the past ten years, Michael Maranda of the Art Gallery of York University has been conducting the Waging Culture survey of the socio-economic status of professional visual artists in Canada. The data collected from this survey has brought forward a picture of a sector where the majority of the primary producers are essentially working for free, supplying the raw material with which the entire contemporary art sector functions. For those familiar with the sector, that day-jobs pay the rent for artists is not that surprising, but a solid, data-driven illustration of the extent of the need for such side-hustles is important to truly understand the intertwined mechanics of the sector.

This book, drawing primarily on the 2017 survey, includes a speculative look at some of the drivers of the artist labour force. In particular, we contrast a sales-driven winner-take-all model that exacerbates income inequality with a much more equitable grant-driven work-preference model. Accompanying this analysis, we also describe some of the perverse correlations of educational achievement to financial success in the field, with “profitable” artistic practices being negatively correlated to educational achievements.

Research, analysis, and essays: Michael Maranda
Analytic consultant: Kelly Hill (Hill Strategies Research)
Design: Lauren Wickware
Editing: Danielle St Amour
Translation to French: Sabrina Moella; Meryem Alaoui

Monday to Friday 10 am – 4 pm
Wednesday 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday closed
Sunday noon – 5 pm

Always free

Land Acknowledgement



Art Gallery of York University
Keele Campus, Accolade East Building
Toronto ON M3J 1P3


Click here for a map

Nearest TTC Wheel-Trans stop is York University Subway (north entrance)




Staff directory