The number of a-n’s artist members hit an all-time high in March, with over 18,000 UK artists now signed up. The figure represents a 66% growth since 2006 and reflects a groundswell of support for a-n as an advocate for artists and contemporary visual arts practice.
a-n’s membership is self-authenticated – there’s no application or selection process. All artists who demonstrate a professional status through exhibitions, residencies, reviews or arts qualification are equally valued and made welcome in the artists’ community.
Artist members stretch across the UK, with 33% located in London and the South East. With 2,400 members, South West England is the next largest area and almost 500 artists from the region have benefited directly from a-n’s professional development and networking events in recent years.
“This is a real milestone for a-n and indicative of the increasingly professional and well-networked artist workforce and a resilient arts ecology,” says Gillian Nicol, a-n’s Head of Programmes. “On the cusp of our brand new website, it bodes well for the future.”
Portfolio of activities
Artist members can choose from a wide portfolio of a-n activities. These include: Public liability insurance to cover freelance work, Jobs and opportunities, contributing to consultations in the Paying artists research and campaign, being active in peer networks through online blogs and professional development opportunities, and mining the thousands of visual arts critical texts, articles and images on www.a-n.co.uk.
Kate McLean, who joined in March following a recommendation from fellow RCA PhD students, is currently working on a Smell Map project of Amsterdam. “We’re planning to work together soon, to formulate a regeneration project within the North West, so we need professional insurance to enable us to work with the community there.”
Peterborough-based glass artist Vanessa Glockling is also newly-joined. Impressed with the “community feel”, she’s looking forward to accessing a-n’s online advice to support her developing creative business and commissions. “You make me feel that I’m on the right track to becoming a working artist,” she says.
London-based Monica Petzel describes being a member as a “remarkable and valuable resource”. An artist and curator, she joined in March to take advantage of the “excellent insurance” for her forthcoming exhibitions and installations in the UK and mainland Europe.
Networks, bursaries, campaigns
a-n’s professional networking opportunities are a big attraction for many artists. For Jean McEwan, a-n’s blog platform is “a very generous reciprocal space which I am finding increasingly valuable the more I get to ‘know’ other artists and their practices… Having comments and interactions from other artists is the reason I’m blogging here. I want my research to be as much a conversation between artists as a fact-finding mission.”
London-based Simon Fell – who joined seven years ago – has found that his a-n blog is more than a conversational tool: “Something has started to happen. I am getting more and more small signs that my writing is being read, that my name is getting around: I’ve got an offer.”
For others, the bursaries awarded exclusively to members are particularly important. Karl England’s Go and see bursary in February – “the first bit of actual funding Sluice Art Fair’s ever received” – will enable visits to artists’ organisations in Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. For North West-based Clare Weetman, a Re:view bursary financed crucial professional advice, encouraging her to “ask for help and make plans not hopes” as she prepared for her installation at Bluecoat Gallery.
The campaigning role to improve the economic status of artists is also seen as important. As Christine Gray of Corridor Arts confirms: “a-n’s a brilliant advocate for artists getting suitably paid.” Joanne Lee agrees: “a-n has fought tirelessly for artists to receive a fair deal in pay and pension, equality of opportunity, insurance, etc. Frankly, it’s why I pay my subscription – I consider it like paying into a union – sticking together makes us strong.”
With many artists finding it harder to make a living from their practice, there is a growing need for the tools and advocacy arguments readily available from a-n, that enable them to negotiate professional terms and conditions.
With the Paying artists campaign due to launch soon, a new interactive online platform almost completed and an improved bursaries and professional development programme imminent, there’s probably never been a better time for artists – wherever they’re located or whatever their practice and interest area – to become a member.
Join a-n as an artist or arts organiser at Join