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Doc­tor­al research 2015 – 19 that gath­ered qual­i­ta­tive evi­dence from artists in North West Eng­land to define con­ducive con­di­tions for pur­su­ing art prac­tices and liveli­hoods over time. Includes cri­tique of arts poli­cies in Eng­land 1985 – 2015 intend­ed to be sup­port­ive of artists and new insights into bar­ri­ers to sus­tain­ing artists’ liveli­hoods in future.

This doc­tor­al the­sis exam­ines the posi­tion­ing of visu­al arts with­in the cre­ative indus­tries through an in-depth, empir­i­cal study of the artis­tic and per­son­al lives of a dis­crete cohort of artists in North West Eng­land. It argues that the pol­i­cy eli­sion of visu­al arts with the cre­ative indus­tries has result­ed in lack of in-depth knowl­edge of the wealth of dif­fer­ences’ in motives, inten­tions, atti­tudes and per­son­al cir­cum­stances of artists as they evolve and pur­sue liveli­hoods through art prac­tices over a life-cycle. 

Although cer­tain Arts Coun­cil Eng­land poli­cies dur­ing 1985 – 2015 intend­ed to aid artists’ liveli­hoods direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, analy­sis con­firms that no real change was effect­ed. Over that peri­od, visu­al artists have tend­ed to be at an eco­nom­ic dis­ad­van­tage with low incomes and lack of acces­si­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty under­min­ing their abil­i­ty to ampli­fy cre­ative process­es and sus­tain liveli­hoods in the longer-term. 

This research which draws togeth­er pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary sources demon­strates that the art prac­tices of artists are char­ac­terised by con­tin­u­ous prac­tice-led research and devel­op­ment’ fired by deeply-held beliefs and intrin­si­cal­ly-framed val­ues and punc­tu­at­ed by cre­ative inter­ac­tions with­in and beyond their imme­di­ate artis­tic dis­ci­pli­nary con­text and geo­graph­i­cal location.

Frame­works sup­port­ive of artists usu­al­ly remain close to where they reside, encom­pass­ing the artis­tic encour­age­ment and emo­tion­al com­fort pro­vid­ed by fam­i­lies and indi­vid­u­al­ly-framed devel­op­ment and pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ships. The fine-grain analy­sis and tri­an­gu­la­tion with cross-ref­er­ence to rel­e­vant evi­dence devel­oped with­in this research has gen­er­at­ed new the­o­ry on the inter­re­lat­ed con­di­tions con­ducive for, and sup­port­ive of, artists’ prac­tices and liveli­hoods includ­ing a def­i­n­i­tion of their char­ac­ter­is­tics and the parameters. 

The the­sis con­cludes by set­ting out two bold propo­si­tions for enabling and facil­i­tat­ing these opti­mum con­di­tions involv­ing rad­i­cal adjust­ments to fram­ing and apply­ing arts poli­cies in future. 

Read the abstract (pdf)

Artists’ liveli­hoods: the artists in arts pol­i­cy conun­drum, 2019 is avail­able at http://e‑