Realistic budgets that cover the full project scope are essential for any M/A project.

See this budget outline for an idea of key categories to include in a partnership/project budget. Besides knowing what should go into a budget, the ethics and power dynamics of budgeting are equally important. Below are some things to think about when determining how to craft an equitable budget.

Centering Equity in Budgeting

Measures to ensure fair compensation should be built into the budget (and work plan) in order not to perpetuate harmful patterns of disinvestment or exploitation. Important things to consider:

Establish fair and equitable fees for artists

Make sure that the artist is compensated at a professional rate commensurate with experience and on par with other skilled contractors. Several of the programs researched for this guide set artist fees for a one-year part-time contract (usually between half to three-quarters time) between $20,000 and $40,000, amounting to $25 to $35 per hour. However this hourly range is low compared with the $75 to $225 per hour earned by other professionals such as tax preparers, plumbers, graphic designers, and landscape architects.

Even when a fair rate is established, artist fees can end up too low. For example, partners often underestimate the amount of time required for work like community engagement. Also, when the artist fee is bundled with project costs into a lump sum, artists often underpay themselves in favor of investing limited dollars in the project. Establishing a separate artist fee will ensure that artists are adequately paid.


Los Angeles County's program offers $40,000 per year and an additional $10,000 to support community engagement.

Budgets for M/A partnerships should be jointly developed to consider the full scope of potential costs including personnel. Artists should be prepared to advocate for a fair and equitable fee—this is in the artist’s best interest and lays the groundwork for fair pay for subsequent artists in the program. The WAGENCY tool can help partners establish appropriate fees. This online system developed by Working Artists and the Greater Economy (WAGE) calculates equitable compensation for 15 different categories of artistic labor.

Especially in ongoing, artist-as-employee, or long-term partnerships, finding ways to provide benefits for artists further recognizes the artist’s role and professional contribution. Municipalities may be constrained by their contracting guidelines, but some agencies have found ways to provide benefits.


The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a public agency in Boston, provides employee benefits to its part-time artist in residence. Public Art Saint Paul, the nonprofit intermediary for the City Artist program, hires artists as employees and provides health and retirement benefits during their tenure.

Compensate key community partners and participants

Community partners often act as advisors, provide knowledge and expertise, make connections, provide feedback, and directly participate in an M/A project. These partners also help artists and agencies engage responsibly with communities. It’s important to consider how to acknowledge these critical contributions with fees, stipends, meals, or other meaningful manifestations of appreciation.

Involve partnering community organizations in the fundraising and budgeting process to make sure that resources are justly allocated. The municipality can contract directly with a community partner, or, if it’s restricted from compensating outside organizations, work through an intermediary.

“If you’re working with communities that have been severely impacted by...institutional racism or poverty, you can’t divorce yourself from real human needs. For example, youth need jobs. Paying them for their participation in a program helps them. They’re less distracted by having to earn money another way and it builds up trust that we actually care.” Trey Hartt, Performing Statistics, Richmond VA

Compensate municipal employees who participate outside of their job description or work day

Projects may require municipal staff to participate outside of their regular duties and working hours. Availability of overtime, comp time, and other types of compensation should be clarified in the planning and budgeting stage.

It’s also important to consider the implications of who controls the resources in a project. For more on this, see Power Dynamics.

Challenges and Strategies


Municipal budgeting and art project timelines don’t necessarily align.


  • A city’s budgeting process usually begins a year or more in advance. Partners need to get ahead of the game and develop project timelines and budgets at the beginning of this cycle if not before.
  • If a city’s or intermediary’s fiscal year is not aligned with the project timeline, involve fiscal staff early to help troubleshoot and set up systems for tracking and reporting expenses. This challenge can be compounded when other funders are involved.


Municipalities often choose contractors through a bidding process which prioritizes the lowest bid. This is not a suitable process for identifying a qualified artist and/or contractors to support the creative work—these should be chosen by different criteria than lowest cost. See Contracts for more on this.


  • Get creative with workarounds.

The City of New York requires bidding for any contract over $20,000, but the PAIR program pays artists $40,000. The Department of Cultural Affairs and the host agency divide the budget into two discrete parts and each pays half the cost in order to avoid the bidding process.

  • Municipalities can work with an intermediary organization that can pay artists more flexibly; and they can also match public funding with private, unrestricted funds.


Artists and intermediary organizations often bear the burden of raising funds, but are uncompensated for this work. For more on this, see Power Dynamics.


  • The budget should include money to compensate artists and other non-municipal staff to fundraise for a project.
  • Third-party partners may help access new funding sources, but their ability to raise money especially for ongoing programs cannot be sustained indefinitely. Municipalities need to determine their own strategies to resource ongoing programs. For more on this, see Funding.