Sat amongst some 100 arts organisations at a recent Arts Council England briefing for ‘The North’, I was hoping for insights both into how the changing habits and behaviours of people would be visible within future policies for the arts and a sense of what support will be available to practitioners.

The emphasis of Arts Council England’s updated strategic framework seems to be to maintain – albeit with less public funding – as much of the physical infrastructure as possible, while bolstering audiences and ‘engaging the least engaged’ through feats of digital daring.

So how will organisations like a-n – those working with and for practitioners – feature? Great Art and Culture for Everyone states that ‘artists are central to our sector’. Although workforce development – which encompasses artists’ professional development, a key aspect of a-n’s work – is retained as one of ACE’s priorities, it’s now become more of a ‘backup’ to the main menu items.

ACE’s key policy aims, then, are: Excellence thriving and celebrated in galleries and museums; Everyone has an opportunity to experience and be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries; Every child and young person has an opportunity to experience the richness of arts, museums and galleries.

Right to fair payment

Is there any glimmer of hope for artists in this ‘difficult financial context’ for the publicly-funded arts? Although there is an acknowledgment of the need for wider and more diverse arts constituencies and calls for talent development mechanisms, Great Art and Culture for Everyone doesn’t touch on artists’ right to fair payment when working with ACE’s funded organisations. True, it states that ‘low pay levels are recognised as barriers to entering the workforce’, but rather than artists, it’s the conditions for interns that have been singled out as worthy of protection by ACE’s guidance.

It’s good news that membership organisations and professional networks such as a-n ‘may be eligible’ to apply for National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding. While ACE’s contribution to a-n’s overall financial model is relatively small – between 20-24% of turnover – it provides an essential £12 per member subsidy and contributes to intelligence gathering on artists’ livelihoods and career strategies, and independent research such as for the Paying artists campaign.

Arts Council Chief Executive Alan Davey will be holding a live web chat on Tuesday 26 November at 1pm, when you can can add your views on Great Art and Culture for Everyone. It’s also a chance to ask Davey questions about the strategy ahead and how it supports artists. Send your questions ahead of the day to [email protected] or tweet via @ace_national

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