Pessimism and job insecurity are rife in the public art sector, suggests survey
Over fifty percent of local authority workers responsible for public art are either unsure about, or are expecting to lose, their jobs, the ixia’s Public Art Survey 2011 has found. The public art sector is driven predominantly by funding that can be linked to the policies of local authorities; however, it is within local authorities that the future of public art looks bleakest. Workers close to funding sources reported an estimated 40% decrease in the overall size of the public art market over the last year and the downward trend is expected to continue.
As the first research of its kind, the survey provides a never-before-seen picture of England’s fractured public art sector, its workforce and its markets. The findings suggest that the sector provides employment for at least 1,250 public art practitioners and is worth over £56m a year, with the average cost of a public art project commissioned by a local authority, or other public sector body, being £73,000. However, approaches to the commissioning of public art projects are inconsistent across the regions. The Midlands and the South of England commission many projects with small budgets, whilst the North and the East undertake fewer projects, with larger budgets.
Opinion in the sector is that the recessionary trend in funding will continue in 2012/13. In terms of long-term recovery, ixia predicts that growth in public art could be driven by a revival in the development and regeneration sectors. And in the short term, some relief is expected to be delivered by public art projects linked to the Olympics. However, it warns that the benefits and success of the eventual reinvestment of public funds in art will depend on there still being staff in place to implement the planning policy structures for public art.