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Pol­i­cy and many of the pro­grammes intend­ed to be sup­port­ive of artists’ devel­op­ment and careers may lack insight into the nuance of artists’ lives and how they pur­sue art prac­tices. By col­lat­ing data from a range of author­i­ta­tive sources, this new inde­pen­dent­ly pro­duced resource pro­vides a demo­graph­ic and eco­nom­ic pro­file of artists as an aid to those com­mit­ted to aid­ing artists’ to sur­vive and (maybe even) to thrive, a bit. 

In demo­graph­ic terms, 75% of the 42,000 visu­al artists’ con­stituen­cy [1] iden­ti­fy as female. Just under a fifth are from glob­al major­i­ty back­grounds, this greater than in the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. A fifth is neu­ro­di­ver­gent (Jowlett 2021) and three quar­ters are like­ly to be dyslex­ic. Visu­al artists are less like­ly than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion to have depen­dent chil­dren to help sup­port them in infir­mi­ty and old age.

Review of 30 years of data con­firms artists’ con­sis­tent­ly poor eco­nom­ic cir­cum­stances. Shaw and Allen (1996) gave aver­age artists’ earn­ings equiv­a­lent to 44% of a man­u­al worker’s wage. TBR (2018) con­clud­ed aver­age annu­al income as £16,150 (58% of aver­age salaries), with £6000 from art sources and 7% of artists earn­ing more than £20,000 pa. The medi­an per­ma­nent full-time arts salary is £34,000 (Arts Pro­fes­sion­al 2022).

At 77%, self-employ­ment is high­er amongst visu­al artists than in the cre­ative indus­tries over­all where it is 35% (CCS 2022). As with gen­er­al employ­ment pat­terns, female visu­al artists earn less than males and income lev­els are low­er for indi­vid­u­als from glob­al major­i­ty and low­er social class back­grounds. An artist’s typ­i­cal mixed income’ com­pris­es from 33% sales, 29% teach­ing, 16% cul­tur­al free­lanc­ing, 13% non-art, 5% in grants and 4% from cul­tur­al employ­ment (Acme 2020). 

This extract comes from a brief­ing that’s offered as a sec­toral pre­sen­ta­tion, aca­d­e­m­ic sem­i­nar or lec­ture and also as a pdf resource. Con­tact susan­jone­sarts [at] gmail​.com to access it.


[1] Artists’ data cal­cu­la­tion from Jones, S (2019) Artists’ liveli­hoods: the artists in arts pol­i­cy conun­drum https://e‑ p266

Acme (2020) Sub­mis­sion to the DCMS Inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on its sectors

Arts Pro­fes­sion­al (2022) Arts Pay Sur­vey 2022: pre­lim­i­nary find­ings https://​www​.art​spro​fes​sion​al​.co​.uk/​n​e​w​s​/​a​r​t​s​p​a​y​-​s​u​r​v​e​y​-​2022​-​p​r​e​l​i​m​i​n​a​r​y​-​f​i​n​dings

CCS (2022) Work­ing with the self-employed: A Best Prac­tice Guide for Busi­ness­es https://​ccskills​.org​.uk/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2022​/​01​/​W​o​r​k​i​n​g​-​w​i​t​h​-​t​h​e​-​S​e​l​f​-​E​m​p​l​o​y​e​d.pdf

Jowlett, P (2021) Neu­ro­di­ver­gence man­i­festo a call for change’’, Arts Pro­fes­sion­al https://​www​.art​spro​fes​sion​al​.co​.uk/​n​e​w​s​/​n​e​u​r​o​d​i​v​e​r​g​e​n​c​e​-​m​a​n​i​f​e​s​t​o​-​c​a​l​l​-​c​hange?

Shaw, P and Allen, K (1996) Artists’ Rights Pro­gramme: A review of artists’ earn­ings for exhi­bi­tions and com­mis­sions: Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry. Lon­don: Nation­al Artists Association.

TBR. (2018) Liveli­hoods of Visu­al Artists: Sum­ma­ry Report. Lon­don: Arts Coun­cil Eng­land (3 reports).