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While many arts organisations claim to have the best interests of artists at heart, the actual percentage of direct spend on them is tiny in comparison to their administrative costs.
Unusually for a visual arts organisation, a-n earns most of its income; with grant aid from Arts Council England at around 27%. And it's artists themselves - whose very livelihoods are under threat - who contribute the largest amount (£442k in 2010/11) and thus whom a-n puts first, giving them back £257k in paid work and fees in that same year.
This is something of which New Chair Jayne Knight is acutely aware: As Suffolk County Council's Arts Development Manager, Arts Development UK Trustee and Chair of Home Live Art, Jayne brings to her new role senior-level experience of how to forecast, navigate and manage political and social change: "These are challenging times - twenty-five per cent of artists are earning less than £9,000 a year from their practice - a-n is working across the arts community to generate change; to build an environment in which artists can thrive - I am delighted to be chairing the board through this period of development."
New Vice Chair is artist Dr Mitra Memarzia, founder member of the AIR Council. Based in London and pursuing an interdisciplinary practice, she brings her in-depth knowledge of artists' careers and professional practice within higher education into our thinking. As she wrote in a-n Magazine (September issue): "Unlike other disciplines, visual arts careers aren't linear but a winding road with many underpasses and overflows."
a-n Director Susan Jones is now Chair of Turning Point's Knowledge sharing group, thus charged with identifying and championing mechanisms for people in the visual arts to grow stronger through better use, management and sharing of sectoral intelligence. "Specialist knowledge is one of the visual arts sector's greatest assets - evidencing and quantifying the value of artists and impacts of audience engagement. Knowledge sharing systems and use of social networking tools are often wrongly conflated: the former relies largely on formalised peer-to-peer asset trading whilst the latter usually more to do with putting out information. Whilst public sector funds are tight, we will need to collaborate and exchange our assets wisely."
The Big Artists Survey has given both a-n and AIR huge insights into what artists and the visual arts sector needs next - faster information flow, more face-to-face interaction for peer advice, supported by platforms that enable self-determining collaborations and relationships to flourish.
First published: a-n.co.uk January 2012
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