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By: Emily Speed
Advocating better working conditions for artists. Following on from where 'Getting Paid' left off.
# 24 [20 April 2012]
So the WAGE survey results are out and I'm looking forward to seeing the details. As a stop gap - a blog post about it, taster below: "The fact is that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) devotes less than 2% of its meager budget to direct grants to individual artists. State arts agencies spend only 3% of their grant dollars on individual artists. The bulk of philanthropy in the arts goes to only 2% of the nationís arts institutions, who are among those with the largest budgets. And we know that many of those institutions donít pay the artists whose work they show. Everybody keeps shifting the responsibility of sustaining artists (the real lifeblood of the arts) to some other group; meanwhile, the money keeps finding its way into the coffers of the few who hold the most power and the purse strings." http://t.co/1M3hZhpG
# 23 [16 April 2012]
I also can't let this link get away as it has made me laugh so much today.
A blog post in which we see the amazing press pictures of Documenta's curator - her ego perhaps getting a little large....
# 22 [16 April 2012]
I am alive, but with some ill health, moving house and being without internet at home for 3 weeks now, I have been a bit AWOL to say the least. Sorry about that.
Gonna start the blogging lightly and use other people's materials today :D
First up - a great blog post by Alistair Gentry on Market Project about real residencies versus art holidays parading themselves as residencies. This has been worrying me for some time and when I saw this opportunity the other week I was astonished - a whole new breed of these it seems.
The blog post:
Second - W.A.G.E. are presenting the results of their huge 2010 survey of artists in New York this week. Promises to be a very revealing and interesting document. I wish I WISH I could go to New York for the open forum on Friday!
A taster quote for now:
"58% of artists who exhibited at a New York non-profit organization between 2005 and 2010 received no form of payment, compensation or reimbursement – including the coverage of any expenses."
2010 W.A.G.E. Artists Survey
# 21 [18 February 2012]
Additionally; a depressing fact I scrawled down at SotA (I think from David Edgar) about the hugely over-budget Olympic opening cermony. The excess cost could have provided funding twice over for all the organisations that were cut from RFO funding last year.
What would you rather have? Extra fireworks or some real long-term investment in the arts. Priorities ALL WRONG.
Lastly, I sat next to a poet during the middle part of the day. He wondered if the logo had been designed to indicate the State of the Arts - peeling and crusty with old layers of paint.
# 20 [18 February 2012]
State of the Arts
I attended the conference and pre-conf artists briefing this week on one of the bursaries for artists. I have been wanting to write up my thoughts for a few days, but a mix of no time to write or digest has delayed me somewhat!
So, firstly, I was incredibly pleased to get a bursary, and I was incredibly pleased that the Arts Council spent £15k on artists having a presence at the event. The theme 'Artists Shaping the World' was a good one - putting artists at the centre of the discussion. Other good things included the pre-conference events, Robert Wilson's talk in particular - that was astonishing and has left a huge mark on me.
It was all very fancy though (or perhaps I am usually extremely basic) - first off I tried to check into the Premier Inn rather than the Holiday Inn. This might serve as a good metaphor for the expectations of artists/arts organisers: I expected a basic room with no breakfast, but found myself in a plush room with mini-bar and room service facilities and a cooked beakfast included. Lovely for a change, but a bit worrying when you stop to think about expenditure and where funding goes.
It was good to have a chance to meet other bursary holders before the event, but once we had dispursed, I actually found it quite hard to find those people again.
Going back to the theme, although the intention was to put artists in the centre, the event was still very much a top-down exercise and the feeling between most bursary holders was that next time artists should programme the event entirely and set the agenda for discussion. Improving on last year's 2 artists in attendance (!) the 50 artists bursaries as well as numerous artists speakers went a long way to redressing the balance. But it can go further. I'm not saying that it should all be artists either - the mix of organisers and funders with artists is important and those crossover conversations (AS EQUALS) should be happening more often anyway.
I don't know if I felt like a token gesture being there as an artist, especially as I am aware I often feel intimidated or self conscious in this kind of situation. However, I do know that I didn't feel able to contribute in my breakout groups. I got close to it in the afternoon, probably because Neville Gabie was one of the speakers, but other artists were there and spoke well so I didn't. Often artists were bringing up issues like the fact that artists may be the only unpaid person at a meeting. This is great (and true), but any surprise around that fact shows just how little many arts organisers may consider things from the artists point of view. I was expecting to be discussing ways to change that and not just pointing out things that exist across the sector. Maybe it will get on to that by next year?
Ultimately, I felt the conference was about politics and institutional perspective, not actually about art per se. Ed Vaizey's presence and slimy avoidance of difficult questions is the best example of how the conference was geared towards a polite and PR-smooth event. Kirsty Wark was a great host and she did try to give him a hard time, but he answered with long, dull answers that meant absolutely nothing. There was not enough challenging discussion and I felt like people were tip toeing around. Sally Lai (of Manchester's Chinese Art Centre) was a tonic. Short, succinct points about small artist led spaces and how vital they are to the ecology of the arts. As she pointed out, they invest and take risks in artists early-career and feed into the larger art world. If that stops, it's going to be an incredibly dull place. I felt that points like Sally was making should have been the starting point for discussions, not just brief moments that caused the audience to applaud - that alone is evidence that people feel strongly about these issues.
Others on SotA:
Alice Bradshaw: http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/sing...
Claire Smith: http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/sing...
Dany Louise: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/cultural-capital/2012/02/arts-council-ace-conference
# 19 [11 February 2012]
I've just got back from the AIR forum and wanted to say a little bit about it before I go home in the morning and get sucked into the next thing and forget - State of The Arts on Monday...
First, it was a great day and although I didn't meet all the virtual friends I hoped, it was really good to have some face to face contact with people.
After presenting at a conference yesterday, it was incredible to feel the change in the environment today - rather than an intimidating academic environment, it felt like hierarchy was irrelevant and that people were really listening to each other on an equal footing.
The speakers were all amazing - some truly inspiring stuff happening - not all art, some hacking, some social, some local government, some lobbying. I'm pretty sure the talks were recorded so I shan't try and do them justice here.
What I really took from all the presentation was action over whining (the description of policy as largely based on deferment seemed apt) and just starting - doing something - ANYTHING. It was also clear that small actions can build to make a big difference, especially using the Internet. The projects we were shown were also about using what you have and what you know you can do and just beginning there.
Following the presentations, we split into groups. It became clear at this point that several people were a bit confused about the purpose of the day - they knew it was supposed to be effecting change, but they didn't know how they, as an AIR member, fit into that. A couple of people mentioned that the amazingness of the speakers actually made them feel more helpless, because they could never imagine instigating such radical projects. I feel a bit similar in that way - but I also feel confident that I will do other things in my own way; not everyone can be radical by definition right?
For me, as an AIR Council member, I saw the event as a chance to get AIR members together and hear from them what they felt strongly about and wanted to change or implement. All these views collected will play a large part in informing what the AIR council do to represent the members.
SO much came out during our discussion group and I discovered during the plenary that several themes appeared across all discussions. It was also, importantly, a very engaged and thoughtful crowd - artists who are seeing the bigger picture rather than being egocentric about what they want to improve. Some points were (from memory, not notes, so I may have to add to this):
Improving or changing art education and how art is taught in schools in order to help people value art.
Artists getting paid for the work that they do, as any other profession does. One sign from the presentation of projects in Holland stated clearly 'ARTISTS DO NOT ENJOY BEING POOR' True.
An artistic economy i.e. artists trading skills, resources, space. Looking at what we have available and doing something with that rather than needing to ask for external help.
Working locally - having spaces where artists can engage in dialogue/exchange. Perhaps a similar kind of event as today, but on a local scale.
Local was also contentious as the often derogatory use of 'local artists' was making many frustrated.
Working across the two tiers of the arts is important - so looking to get artists on the boards (and paid for being so) of large decision making bodies and organisations e.g. Turning Point steering committees. Also helping to facilitate and support smaller grass-roots or community projects that need funding. Basically AIR needs to influence the big stuff and facilitate the small stuff.
We can't all do the same or give the same amount of time, but with a membership as big as 17,000, it seems like there's a lot of action and influence waiting to happen.
# 18 [11 February 2012]
In case you haven;t seen this doing the rounds on twitter et al - Glasgow City Council is planning to impose a tax on all exhibition activity: "from April 1 – yes, April Fool's Day – exhibitions and public shows will require a licence, even if they are completely free. Even a temporary licence for a non-commercial event will cost £124. If the work is for sale, the cheapest licence will be nearly £600. "
You can sign a petition aginst this here:
# 17 [21 January 2012]
There's been a glut of articles about artists in the North thriving because of the recession of late.
Working out of Liverpool,it doesn’t feel as it things have changed too much. I realise Liverpool is at a strange point since the recent closure of A Foundation, CUC and departure of Ceri Hand. Sheffield is the place of choice, and this all sitting on the shoulders of Haroon Mirza (soon to be canonised or somesuch). I can’t help wondering how he feels being cited repeatedly in this way; as proof that the North can still produce good artists. Here’s the thing with Haroon– and I really like his work, for the record - he works out of Sheffield at S1 (still haven’t been to the new place – shame on me–looks gorgeous) but he is represented by Lisson, the daddy of London galleries and most recently showed at Camden, London and currently at Spike Island in Bristol. Artists may have space to develop and produce in the regional cities, but they don’t necessarily have support structures once they start really developing.
Cities like Sheffield and Liverpool have had empty properties and cheap rents since things really went wrong in the Thatcher years. That hasn’t changed has it? Maybe artists can be closer to the centre and are getting better at professionalising those spaces, being more visible etc, but it still feels like a slightly random time to start talking about it.
The other points in the Guardian article are largely about the provision of new galleries and the increase in traffic to these institutions. While this is great and I'm very happy to have such fantastic international art on the doorstep, It's not the same as the local arts scene. Much of this work is imported and things like MIF (Machester International Festival) aren't generally connected with artist-led spaces. I’m not saying they should be either; it just never seems to be clarified.
Simplifying things down to this level just doesn’t seem helpful to me. Why not highlight areas where change/ improvement is possible? I think the crux of my problem is the viewpoint that we should be trying to bring the North up to the same standard as London. I’d like to see an art scene in my city that creates its own terms; one that is not reliant on huge buildings or so much public funding and one that is adaptable and can reinvent itself as needed. Castlefield Gallery spending time creating a whole new approach to their programme strikes me as a more meaningful development than a multi million pound building for example.
In this article by Rob Allen
Ceri Hand is cited: “Institutions in Glasgow, for example, buy and sell Scottish artists. In the North West there is a desire to support local artists, but they usually have to be internationally recognised before they are shown. I think there needs to be an adjustment in how people sail those big ships. There are some really good artists here and museums can’t afford to be buying these huge, international biennial stars anymore. They should be looking at local talent and buy more quickly. It’s about having curatorial collecting vision.”
Mark Doyle of the Contemporary Art Society says“Public institutions should be encouraged to look at emerging talent and want to acquire it for their collections...(If) They think that if it’s good enough for a public collection then it’s good enough for them and the ecology develops from there.”
The first purchase CAS made for their new Sculpture Fund in 2011 (to be shared by collections of various Northern institutions) was Haroon Mirza, A Sleek Dry Yell, 2008. A shame this particular purchase couldn’t have been made earlier, after his 2009 solo show at A Foundation perhaps, before he was fully ‘emerged’. But let’s see how it develops, they are a good bridge between artists and institutions, their Starting Point scheme looks promising for Leeds in 2012.
# 16 [17 January 2012]
Anyone else feel like they dropped the ball over Christmas? I seem to have had various viruses/colds and probably should have made more effort to take some time off. Think I am back on top of correspondance etc now - various bits of writing to finish and then it is back to the studio.
January is a full month - lots of workshops and exhibitions, I also started my work as associate lecturer at MMU and of course, I'm now on the AIR Council!
First council meeting was last week - through a slightly green/ill haze unfortunately - but fantastic to get cracking and meet everyone properly. There's a lot to take on board, read and absorb but basically it feels like a great time to join as various things are being put into place. I'm on the Campaigns sub-comittee, so looking at campaigning and lobbying for artists on various issues - add a comment if you think there's anything especially pertinent please.
Next up is OpenAIR: effecting change forum on Saturday 11th February at Firstsite in Colchester. schedule here:
"OpenAIR will provide a platform for artists' dialogue and debate, empowered and enabled through a range of speakers drawn from very different disciplines and fields of work but all committed to campaigning for effective change."
It will be great to meet some people I have only known virtually so far but it's a real chance to get involved in shaping things for ourselves as artists. If you're interested in getting involved there are some places left, you can book by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org with OpenAIR in the title and you will be sent more information.
Hopefully see you there....
# 15 [30 December 2011]
Happy New Year everyone.
With fresh starts and a big shake up of things in mind - I wanted to flag up this link:
posted by @Anamariacida on twitter last week. It looks at ways in which (non-visual) artists are reclaiming their autonomy and control over their work, sales and income. This ranges from self-published ebooks, videos of concerts available to download for $5 and musicians using soundcloud to share music and topspin to sell tickets for concerts.
"No doubt, the vast majority of economic wealth is still distributed through large corporate media, but as new technologies enable artists to reach consumers directly through push-button creation and distribution, there is a movement afoot. Expect this movement to expand in 2012 as more artists take control of their own economic destinies and become part of the artist-entrepreneur generation."
No examples from the visual arts, so why not? I think there's some crossover with crowdfunding here and why visual arts doesn't have to most success compared to other art forms.
Warning - simplified arguments coming up....
Firstly, the visual arts has historically been predicated on unique works and largely still is. Some people do sell multiples and large editions, but I know that some would class this as selling out. Because of this unique touch of the artist thing being desirable, contemporary art doesn't have such a populist audience and the majority of people would not expect to be able to afford original art.
Secondly, the value of art is set by the 'art world' - complex system of galleries, dealers, art fairs etc etc. People seem to need this validation to know whether art is 'good (read - likely to be worth lots in the future) or not. Hiring galleries is still looked upon as being a bit of a naff; something that an artist who is unable to get shown elsewhere might do. Artist-led shows that are successful and receive press are often organised by well-known names, or they might operate in a way that apes a commercial gallery, or they look for art world people to come and see it and validate that way. It's all still measured by the same art world-shaped stick in the end.
So, what are some ways in which artists can take more control over their income and sales? I'm thinking about it.... suggestions welcome.