Essay analysing flaws and impacts on artists of the UK’s extreme neo-liberal arts economy with suggestions for challenging and redressing the inequities caused.
Delivering ‘human thriving’ in and through the arts, including fair pay for artists, in a pandemic world calls for substantial shifts in how arts policies are made and where they are realised.
Government and Arts Council England were praised in the Covid19 emergency for fast implementation of ad hoc strategies for financial support for arts and cultural institutions and job retention schemes for salaried staff. Despite the equality and diversity rhetorics of the funded arts, analysis of responses to the DCMS Inquiry into the Impact of Covid-19 reveal that individual freelance visual artists will suffer worst unless additional remedial actions are taken.
This submission was made in June 2020 to the DCMS Committee considering the impact of Covid-19 on any sectors under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s remit. It contextualises artists’ livelihood frameworks and sectoral artistic and economic opportunity, highlighting key challenges and barriers faced by this particular sub-section of the creative industries. It evidences the distinctive limitations of short-term emergency measures from Government and the Arts Council to alleviate immediate Covid19 circumstances. Although arts policy marginalised support for artists’ livelihoods after the 2008 recession, the examples of artists’ individualised resilience strategies illustrate the scope and value of supportive interventions by policy relevant to forecasting new strategies for ameliorating the medium and longer-term effects of the pandemic on this vital, distinctive creative industries sub-section. The rationale for structural changes in implementation of arts policy and funding is to remove known barriers and better in future capture and amplify the assets that artists create for their own resilience and bring to social well-being over a life-cycle.
“We must see the cultural ecosystem in which every person, every organisation, every cultural expression, has a legitimate place.” Francois Matarasso, Let’s use this breathing space wisely, 25 March 2020
Strategic arts policy funding interventions premised on equality and co-operation are key to sustaining visual artists’ livelihoods over a life-cycle. This text in the Covid19 portfolio combines secondary data analysis with cross-references to prior and new research to offer six reference points for the economic value of artists’ practices within the arts and creative industries including indication of their income sources in broad terms. It concludes with an argument for vital new structural arts policy and advocacy measures to ensure that many visual artists – not just a few — survive through the immediate period of the Covid19 emergency and during what is likely to be a sustained period of economic recession beyond.
A provocation around the role and value of and expectations for artists within cultural and social change. Rather than expecting others to articulate artists’ value on their behalf, I am proposing that artists take responsibility themselves for this and for advocating for and translating their value to others.