Art$Pay is an organization that advocates for visual artists in the Waterloo Region. Over the last two and a half years, they have been working to help artists through efforts such as campaigning for fair pay, organizing exhibitions and events, and creating a directory of local artists to easily connect them to potential clients.

“[Art$Pay] is designed from my perspective of what’s hard about being an artist and making that easier,” said Cathy Farwell, visual artist and manager of Art$Pay.

Many people are aware that artists face financial struggles, but may not understand the factors that contribute to those struggles. Part of the issue is the undervaluation of art which results in artists getting unfair compensation for their work, if any at all.

For example, artists are often asked by local businesses to hang their work on the business’s walls for sale. There is the idea that this will give an artist exposure and a chance to sell their work, but it can often be much more trouble than it’s worth.

“[The businesses are] getting free decor, they’re getting their walls covered, they’re getting that person to bring it in and to install it and to hang it — and the person who produces the art never even covers overhead. Even if they sell a piece or two, that’s not enough to cover [overhead],” Farwell said.

Art$Pay works to get proper compensation for artists in situations like these and many others where their work may be undervalued.

Recently, Art$Pay has added a new project to their already impressive line up, a program supporting up-and-coming artists called Art Incubate. The program provides five recent graduates of the University of Waterloo Visual Arts program with free studio space for a year along with some funds to go towards materials and set-up. The current art incubate artists include Ioana Dragomir, Melika Hashemi, Andrew McKay, Steven Restagno and Jessie Rowe.

“[Art Incubate] is a continuation of our mission to make it easier to be an artist [in KW],” Farwell said. 

“[It’s] an incubator where five people can work together, get to know each other, where I can help them get connected to the community, to other artists, to get them involved in exhibitions, help them find resources, materials, all that sort of thing.”

The two houses, located at 52 Regina St. and 56 Regina St. North in Waterloo, were offered to Art$Pay at nonprofit rates by development company Hip Developments. The houses are the location of Art Incubate, along with several other Art$Pay initiatives such as a window gallery and a space for exhibitions and other events.

Art$Pay’s Summer in the City exhibition is running from July 4 – August 27. Information about this and many other Art$Pay events can be found on their website.