Leading representative bodies have set out their concerns for visual artists, telling the Chancellor of the Exchequer why coronavirus financial support systems are failing to support them and leaving the nation’s cultural life in jeopardy.
Galleri Beck-Fischer (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Meaningful, long-term measures are needed right now to prevent the coronavirus “wiping out a generation of artists from the British cultural pipeline, through a lack of work, opportunities and income”, says a group of organisations supporting visual artists.
The 11 signatories of an appeal to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak say the measures he has put in place to protect self-employed workers do not address the specific needs of most artists. Many are “patching together various income sources” and do not qualify for self-employed support packages or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, as they balance self-employed income with zero-hours or fixed-term teaching and education work.
Their plight is compounded by insecure work spaces, so the group is calling for “eviction freezes” for artists’ studios. The letter points out: “Commercial tenants are safe from eviction until 30 June. We urge the Government to extend these measures to artists’ studios, in order to protect UK culture following the pandemic. Without access to a studio, many artists cannot create work and our art market will suffer.”
Another major problem for artists is the stage payments that are typical of project commissions, with the majority of payment being made on completion of the project. Artists incur production costs throughout, so for uncompleted projects they will have to cover these costs themselves yet also lose out on completion fees. The letter urges Government to deliver a mechanism for recouping their costs.
The group warns that failure to provide support will “increase the chances of talented artists understandably seeking more secure forms of employment, and our cultural life will suffer.
“As we recover from this crisis, the Government will focus on its ambitious trade agenda and economic recovery. The London art market, and UK cultural exports, will be a central part of this.”
Signatories to the letter are a-n The Artists Information Company; Artists’ Union England; Artquest; Axisweb; Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN); CuratorSpace; DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society); Engage; East Street Arts; FACT Liverpool (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology); Wysing Arts Centre