AIR: Artists Interaction and Representation watched with dismay as Arts Council England unveiled the new landscape for visual arts funding on 30 March 2011 in which visual artists have been hit the hardest. 24.8% of the current RFOs cut were visual arts organisations, compared to only 8.3% in dance and 18.4% in theatre.

The number of visual arts organisations supported in the new National Portfolio has been reduced by 22% (45 organisations). “A balanced portfolio” has largely been interpreted as “supporting lottery-funded galleries and institutions” at the expense of support for grassroots artist-led initiatives.

Amongst those facing a total cut are artist-run organisations such as Castlefield (Manchester), Isis Arts (Newcastle), Artsway (Hampshire), PVA (Dorset), Storey Gallery (Lancaster), Shisha (Manchester) and Vivid (Birmingham). Specialist membership bodies including London Printworks, Contemporary Glass Society and NewWorkNetwork have also been axed.

The relatively small sum of £1.3m has been saved. Artsway’s total budget for 2010/11 is a mere £121,042, whilst Castlefield Gallery’s only £98,617. Such small artist-run centres provide essential opportunities to make, test and discuss new work, often bringing in small grant and professional development funds.

Castlefield director Kwong Lee said: “Since 1984, Castlefield Gallery is proud to have provided literally thousands of artists with exhibiting opportunities at pivotal stages in their career who have received national and international acclaim and invaluable professional development support. It is recognised as contributing significantly to the visual arts infrastructure and the region’s art ecology.”

AIR Council member Katriona Beales commented: “The development layer that supports the transition from emerging to established artists has been seriously damaged.” AIR Co Chair Paul Scott said: “Artist-run organisations have a record of working with a range of contemporary artists and creating new opportunities for those artists as a key aspect of developing careers.”

AIR believes that artists should be supported and remunerated for their contribution to the visual arts ecology and is concerned that large-scale galleries and institutions – many of whom have been awarded increases – will not move in to plug this gap in support for artists at early and mid-career.

It calls for funded galleries to budget for fees at professional rates to artists for undertaking commissions and exhibitions and other arts employment. AIR also urges arts institutions to play a greater role in supporting the critical mass of artists by actively offering professional development opportunities and critique to more artists in their regions.

This kind of collaboration is imperative in a time of austerity. Such support of the critical mass of artists will guarantee that quality visual arts will emerge in the future, for the benefit of all. For without artists, there would be no contemporary visual art.


AIR Communications: [email protected]

AIR Secretariat: [email protected] 


Download the full list of existing visual arts RFOs not being taken on by Arts Council England as National Portfolio Organisations.

View the full list of visual arts organisations who have been selected as National Portfolio Organisations here.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the tag #artsfunding. April 2011