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Artists’ liveli­hoods in freefall

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.

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Support for artists’ liveli­hoods in a Covid-19 world

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. 

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Treating the rash or investing in a cure: the future of artists’ livelihoods

We cannot be content to go back to what was before, as if all is normal… there needs to be a resur­rection of our common life.” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Easter sermon – opined from the Archbishop’s kitchen and dissem­i­nated via social media to some 18,000 people – provided the cue for a discussion on how to ensure artists’ survival in an arts and cultural environment poleaxed by Covid-19

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From myths to motility: doing better by artists

This is a moment fraught with possi­bility.” Isabelle Tracy, Parallel State: State of the Nation podcast 27 March 2020

This text in the Covid19 portfolio is on the future of artists’ liveli­hoods. It starts by evidencing the impact of external trends on visual artists’ liveli­hoods. It then identifies some of the policy misas­sump­tions and struc­tural barriers that limit artists’ livelihood prospects before demon­strating that visual artists as a special case’ within the arts workforce are deserving of individ­u­alised attention within arts policies. It concludes by outlining the core qualities for pursuit of liveli­hoods through art practices that enable many artists to contribute to society over a life-cycle as a point of reference for policy-making during the Covid19 emergency and into the uncertain decade ahead. 

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An excep­tional case: visual artists and self-employment

Although 77% of visual artists are regis­tered as self-employed (CCS, 2012), this bald statistic belies the nuance of how liveli­hoods are made up. This short text in the Covid19 portfolio contex­tu­alises artists’ income sources and concludes with a call for arts funders, arts organ­i­sa­tions and the Higher Education sector to advocate strongly to ensure visual artists receive the support they deserve during the Covid19 emergency and in future. 

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Do it all, for artists’ sake, now

After an intro­duction to the specific economic circum­stances of visual artists and, mindful of the wide and extensive impacts of the pandemic on their work prospects and liveli­hoods, this text in the Covid-19 portfolio includes a four-point hopeful proposal’ that sets out how to ensure artists survive the fall out, and can bring their multiple values to benefit the arts and society in the decade ahead. 

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