Working in the arts means that you get asked to work for free a lot. There are a ton of jobs that are posted promising experience in exchange for your hard work. While it may seem like an unpaid internship is a right of passage that everyone has to take, you should know your rights before you agree to work for nothing. It is important to really weigh what you are going to get out of an internship because the experience (and/or exposure) that is promised by these positions often isn’t worth your time.
Some things that you should know about internships:
If you are required to be at an internship for a specific number of days/hours per week then what you are doing is considered a job and should pay at least minimum wage.
Someone who is unpaid cannot take away work from a paid position. If the tasks that you are doing are tasks that are required for the running of an institution then what you are doing is considered a job and should pay at least minimum wage.
If a position offers an honorarium in the posting you should be able to ask what that honorarium entails before taking on the job. Asking what a position pays should never negatively impact whether or not you are hired for a position. If it does, then that is likely a position you don’t want to take.
There has been a lot of push back recently about unpaid internships and why they aren’t ever ok. There are institutions (like Xpace) that refuse to take on unpaid interns because they believe that everyone deserves to get paid for their labour.
Xpace has some paid intern positions (funded through OCAD University’s Institutional Work Study Program) starting this fall. You can find out how to apply here.