Monday, March 20, 2006

"Making their Mark" - an audit of visual artists

Having a blog called "Making a Mark" means that you tend to find out about all the other things with a similar name - one of which is an audit of visual artists in Scotland which was commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council and published in 2003.

When I set up this blog I decided that due to the reality that few artists make a living from selling their art, one of its purposes should be to share information and comment on influences on the development of art careers. So I thought it might be a good idea to highlight some of the main findings. So having duly got my written permission to quote from the survey from the Scottish Art Council - here goes!

Bit of background - the Audit was commissioned to provide evidence of the characteristics of the visual arts sector in Scotland and the contribution made by visual artists to the economy. I suspect there was probably some rationale behind it which related to the Council's own funding agreement with the government.

Making their markAn audit of visual artists in Scotland 
- Summary Report
Published by the Scottish Arts Council
"Making their Mark" - the summary report is an interesting read. It tells us about what sort of aspirations artists had in Scotland in 2003, what sort of challenges and difficulties they faced, and what opportunities artists identified and what their views were on their needs for continuing development. Although the findings are specific to Scotland, it's unlikely that the themes are very different from those experienced elsewhere in the world judging by comments I've seen being made in various art forums on the internet.

I personally found the extent of the level of professionalism in terms of initial art education/training and gallery/agent representation both in Scotland and elsewhere to be most encouraging. However, the levels of income being achieved and the level of attention to and spend on marketing and further professional development are rather more negative.

I've summarised the summary(!) of the main findings below. They cover a variety of topics:

  • Media: 60% of all respondents working in the visual arts are engaged with the disciplines of drawing and painting - but there is fair degree of cross-over between different media and new technology is having an impact
  • Exhibiting: 94% of respondents had had work exhibited in the previous 2 years. One third had exhibited internationally and a similar percentage has undertaken an overseas residency
  • Professionalism: 27% had agent or gallery representation; 19% were represented by an overseas gallery or agent; Respondents were highly trained - 45% are graduates and 37% hold postgraduate art degrees
Working conditions and artists' resources
  • nearly 40% of artists have access to a dedicated studio at home;
  • older artists are more likely to have a studio at home; younger artists are more likely to rent a studio
  • 18% are tenants of a publicly subsidised studio (28% of urban-based and 3% of rural based)
  • 63% of those who don't have a studio said cost was the main bar to having one
  • of those who have a studio, their main concerns are heat and lighting costs, security of tenure and working conditions
  • the report suggests home based studios might have a negative impact on effective communication and networking with peers and wider networks - which can affect professional practice
  • the survey identified a clear need to signpost funding schemes and creative opportunities more effectively
  • a variety of sources are used to obtain information - the majority use the Scottish Arts Councils; 66% use a-n The Artists Information Company; 41% use the Internet and 15% get their information from other artists
Income and tax
  • 38% of visual artists are self-employed with most of them earning their main income from art - although only 7% are registered for VAT (on their gross turnover)
  • The report concludes that the levels of income being earned challenges the viability of artists' practice. Levels of income are low compared to the national average and levels of professional qualification;
  • Although over 80% of visual artists regard art as their profession,
    • 82% are earning less than £10k gross from their art
    • 10% earn between £10-20k and
    • only 7% earn in excess of £20k from their art.
  • 40% of under-35s are making art with no income attached and 44% of younger artists rely on grants and awards for income; by way of contrast some 49% had received no support at all from public or private funds
  • earnings other than derived from their artwork come from a variety of sources:
    • 66% derive income from other arts related practice (teaching art 37% and arts related occupations 27%)
    • 24% earn income outside art
    • 25% derive income from benefits and other financial support (while 53% receive no form of state support)
  • average spend on practice (by those who responded) was £5k
  • average spend: materials 30%; then around 10% spent on each of premises, equipment, assistants/assistance; travel and framing
  • only 2% was spent on each of research and professional development/training
  • around two thirds of artists identified a significant untapped opportunity to develop sales of contemporary art in Scotland. This opportunity might be better exploited by raising awareness of opportunities to buy contemporary work, more effective use of art fairs and developing buyers confidence
  • artists were very clear about their continuing professional development needs - identifying prime needs as being
    • improved marketing and promotion skills (60%)
    • fundraising skills (40%)
    • IT skills (40%)
  • Artists believe their contribution to culture, society and the economy is not fully recognised (57%) - this offers the opportunity to highlight the role artists can play in communities. Interestingly those located in rural communities felt very much more valued than those living and working in urban settings
  • Individual practice suffers from the need to generate income from other work (60%) with under 35s feeling this particularly strongly
  • Artists want to invest more of their time in:
    • research and development of their work (60%)
    • production of their work (60%)
  • Artists suffer from poor or localised structures only for promoting their work. Main promotion vehicles are:
    • informal, rather than formal, networks. Almost 50% of the respondents indicate this as being the primary way they promote their work
    • private galleries (44%)
    • their own (modest) publications (42%) [I wonder if this included their own websites?]
    • broadcast media (9%)
  • Marketing and promotion were identified as a key professional development need by artists. Nearly 40% of artists feel the need to invest more time in promoting their own activity
    • only 20% of artists believe galleries are the most important for promotion
    • only 10% consider informal networks and public galleries to be the most important for promotion (despite the fact that almost half use informal networks and 36% use public galleries for this purpose)
  • Three-quarters of women felt they were unable to develop their practice to its full potential compared to 55% of men - with the inability to afford childcare being a barrier to 40% of artists who are the primary carers of their children.
  • The collective voice of artists is difficult to hear. Membership of artists organisations is very unevenly spread. While 55% are members of one of five organisations, 43% of respondents not a member of any sort of organisation.
  • Only 13% of respondents felt that "bias" or a "closed shop" mentality was an issue or barrier to them.
This is the link to the full report for those who'd like to know more.

    Can I just highlight [read "very small boast" hence very small letters] how, during the course of writing this post, I learned to do nested lists in html as part of my continuing drive to improve my IT skills! [big grin!]

    1 comment:

    1. hello Katherine,
      it seems that the economic patterns are more or less the same everywhere in Europe. Figures on the situation of German artists are almost the same. However I experience that the "infrastructure" in Germany is much thinner than for example in the U.K.. Artists to great deal are left alone with their struggle to survive. The intentions of associations and galleries seem to be more concentrated on keeping the market access open for their members/clients and keep all others outside.
      Maybe the following link might be of interest too UK Art market


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