New report shows that the impact of cuts is falling heavily on artists
The ongoing period of arts austerity is dealing a devastating blow to visual artists, according to new research conducted by a-n, The Artists Information Company. In 2008 the total value of openly offered work to artists fell by almost two-thirds. Although there was some recovery in 2009, in 2010 the value of work on offer to visual artists was a third down on 2009 figures and only 12% better than the 2008 low point.
The new a-n report, ‘Changing face of artists’ employment’, reveals that commissions, which in 2009 provided 29% of the value of all work and had an average value of over £60,000, fell to 18% and £21,000 respectively last year: the total value of commissions was six times smaller than in pre-recession 2007. Paid work offered through arts organisations including galleries and studios also fell by 13%. In 2010 over half of all work openly offered to visual and applied artists came from the public sector arts and higher or further education, all areas set to shrink. New graduates are the most vulnerable in the face of falling opportunities.
a-n points to funding cuts and the complete withdrawal of funding to specialist agencies for public art, artist-run galleries and other artist support organisations across the UK as potentially placing artists’ livelihoods at risk. From 2012, Arts Council England’s (ACE) National Portfolio Organisations will no longer include public art agencies such as Artpoint, Commissions East and Beam through which artists can apply for openly advertised commission or residency opportunities.
The report states: “Whilst ACE says the increase in funding and the introduction of new organisations to a national portfolio will entail detailed discussions with each of the key galleries and organisations to explore how they can support emerging artists and professional development, it is as yet unknown the extent to which this will compensate for the range of paid for or unpaid opportunity… due to be cut,” and former ACE director Mark Robinson has described individual artists’ interests as having “…been hit disproportionately”. Similarly, funding rationalisation in Wales saw public art commissioning agency Safle and other artist service providers axed, though the Arts Council of Wales still delivers support for individual artists and crafts makers, including £220,000 for ‘Creative Wales’ awards to 10 visual artists and crafts makers. It is currently planning a new programme of public art residencies for individual artists. In Scotland, a major artist residency initiative, Creative Futures, has been announced by Creative Scotland, but some long-standing artists’ resources such as Edinburgh’s Print and Sculpture Studios will receive cuts as Creative Scotland dispenses with the ‘Flexibly Funded’ organisations portfolio to create funds for its own commissioning.
Susan Jones, Director of Programmes and Publisher at a-n, is campaigning to draw attention to the plight of many artists. She told AP: “Artists have suffered badly over the three years of this economic climate. We are urging all arts organisation that rely on the creativity of artists to realise their ambitions for audiences for the arts to take every opportunity to support artists both financially and artistically.”