The Art of Equal Pay: The Campaign to Close the Wage Gap in the Visual Arts—With a Coronavirus Relief Spin

In the midst of the novel COVID-19 virus, many people are showing their support for those who have been impacted by the virus—including artist Michele Pred, who has created art revolving around equal pay for the last five years. 

A long-time advocate for women’s rights, including equal pay, Pred plans to use her year-long Art of Equal Pay campaign to help raise funds to support COVID-19 relief efforts.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-YhlMblc6p/

The Art of Equal Pay is Pred’s year-long initiative—launching on Equal Pay Day, March 31—calling for women artists to raise their prices over the next year to close the gender wage gap for visual artists. 

Although originally set as a one-day activation, Pred reorganized the project to allow financially-challenged artists opportunities to give back without risking loss of sales.

“Plenty of people are already out of work,” says Pred.  “Since we have already been able to assemble a large group of people supporting the pay equity cause, it felt natural to try and leverage that solidarity to help in some way.”

As a way for artists to help with COVID-19 relief, for one day (on Equal Pay Day) of the year-long campaign, participating artists will raise their prices on their art by 15 percent.  The earned profits on this day will then be donated to organizations that play a part in COVID-19 relief efforts—such as One Fair Wage and National Domestic Workers Alliance

The virus has also impacted Pred’s own life, but she still fights to remain strong not only for herself, but her cause as well.

“In my own world, my studio building has been closed due to COVID-19, so I am now working from home on a shared family table—while balancing home-schooling my 10-year-old daughter,” Pred said.  “I have also been under the weather for the last three weeks, and while my symptoms aren’t severe enough to justify a test, it is, of course, worrying. However, the Art of Equal Pay project has kept me going. I’ve been able to focus on the project and I’m lucky to be working with an amazing team.”

Along with efforts to help those impacted by the virus, the initiative calls on arts professionals, collectors, organizations and gallerists to show support for women raising their prices on their art. 

The Art of Equal Pay launches on Equal Pay Day, which marks the day every calendar year when women will finally earn, on average, as much as their white, male counterparts did by the end of the prior year. 

Although there have been demands for equal pay for decades, men still make substantially more than women across the board.  

“I feel this work has been part of a larger evolution in my practice toward more direct political commentary and action,” Pred says.  “The recent political climate and the assault on common sense from the White House has only accelerated my urge for action. I don’t know if it was the futility of the impeachment effort, but in early February a lightbulb went off in my head. It seemed so obvious; just ask, but ask loudly.”

As part of the campaign, Pred also wants women artists to increase their prices by 15 percent—because the pay gap for visual artists is between 14 and 19 percent

Pred acknowledged that some women are hesitant, even scared, to raise the prices on their art.  Although she said the answer differs from person to person, the primary reason is patriarchy.

“I’ve spoken to countless women that are hesitant to raise their prices simply because they question the value of their own work,” Pred said.  “I also think it is important to emphasize that art is just plain hard to sell; especially if you are an artist that is not represented by a gallery. There are far more artists than collectors out there and an artist who is barely selling artwork may think twice about raising prices.”

Similar to many other artists, Pred has also been hesitant to raise the prices on her own art in the past due to the fear of the pieces not selling.  

“Even when I had poured my heart and soul into something, even when I saw male artists sell work that I thought was not as good for more money,” Pred said.  “Even though I’m represented by a gallery in New York, have been in numerous museum exhibitions and have many collectors, I was hesitant to raise my prices. I’m done with that.”

Pred hopes by Equal Pay Day in 2021, women artists throughout the country will have raised their prices in protest as well as helped close the wage gap in their field. 

To do this, Pred said, requires plenty of solidarity, communication and momentum through numbers. This is why she decided to give the project a year-long timeline.  

“We want the artist pay gap to become part of the conversation between artists, gallery owners and collectors,” Pred said.  “We’d also like to see a more open dialogue about value and compensation in general. Transparency around pay is picking up some steam in high tech and other industries and art should be no different. Of course, this will all culminate in the 2021 activation of women artists raising their prices permanently by 15 percent.”

More information about Pred’s initiative can be found on The Art of Equal Pay website as well as on Instagram at @theartofequalpay


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About

Michael Herrera is an editorial intern at Ms. Magazine. He enjoys reading, writing and horror films.