Tap ‘public liability + artists’ into your web search and a-n’s free public and products liabilty insurance scheme for artists is prominent. Six years since it was introduced, this benefit has played a major role in professionalising artists’ practice and improving their employment prospects.

When a-n commissioned research into the insurance needs of artists back in 2007, it revealed that many were losing out on opportunities and commissions because of the high costs of public liability insurance. “Artists were expected to pay as much as £350 for annual cover,” confirmed Nicholas Sharp, the solicitor who advised on a-n’s artists’ membership scheme.

Such figures simply weren’t affordable for most artists, meaning that the majority had no cover at all – a serious omission if they wanted to compete in an increasingly competitive job market.

The outcome of the research was the introduction of a comprehensive public and products liability (PPL) insurance scheme, organised through specialist arts brokers Hencilla and included as a free benefit for all UK a-n Artist + AIR members. Simon Zimmerman, then Artists Insights Coordinator at Arts Council England, said at the time: “This is a breakthrough in insurance for visual artists in the UK.”

Protection from legal claims

Public liability insurance protects an artist from legal claims if someone is injured as a result of their professional activities. The a-n Artist + AIR PPL cover deals with visual and applied arts and includes everything from running a public workshop to inviting someone into an artist’s studio.

The variety of activities currently undertaken by artists is vast and can include making, teaching, installation, exhibition and public display of visual art and craft, interactive arts, live art and physical performances. All of these areas are covered by the scheme, which states that it ‘includes but is not limited to painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, design, digital, moving image, time-based media, sculpture, ceramics, community arts, glassmaking, textiles, jewellery, mixed media, interactive arts, crafts, live art and physical performances.’

PPL insurance cover gives artists real peace of mind when their practice comes into contact with the public. While most claims for PPL are small, the a-n Artist + AIR cover’s benefits really come to the fore when a more substantial incident occurs. One such claim involved payment of £60,000 for accidental injury to a member of the public who was visiting an artist-run community project. Commenting on this, Hencilla Director Mike McCormack said: “The artist would have found the situation extremely stressful had they not had PPL insurance in place for protection.”

£5million cover essential

Local authorities and many other organisations employing freelance artists – such as the House 2014 commission and the photography commission with Maidstone United, both promoted through a-n’s Jobs and Opps – require all contractors including artists to have public liability cover, usually for up to £5million. This means that an artist delivering even a one-off workshop in a library will be required to have the same level and type of insurance cover as a building contractor, even though the risks involved are very different.

In terms of art in a public space, commissioners can have little control over how people might interact with the work. This may present problems in terms of the potential for injury or damage if a large piece of sculpture or a glass-fronted picture is not properly installed, or a child climbs on a work and falls. These are just the kinds of risks that PPL insurance can cover.

In the past, a lack of awareness within the insurance world of the nature of visual arts practice has contributed to the difficulties faced by artists when it comes to getting appropriate cover. As well as providing insurance for a-n Artist + AIR members in the UK, a-n has widened artists’ understanding of insurance and how they can minimise risks by having a specialist from Hencilla on hand at the free artists’ Airtime events that take place around the country every month. At these, artists can ask questions about PPL cover and also find out about Hencilla’s affordable One-off exhibition policy and the Artists’ insurance policy available to members to cover their shows, studios, equipment, finished works and work in progress.

It’s not just newcomers to the visual arts who need PPL insurance, though. As former Turner Prize nominees Langlands & Bell confirm: “This insurance is a brilliantly practical initiative which cleverly surmounts a recurring obstacle for many artists working in the public domain and also gives valuable peace of mind in the studio.”

More on a-n.co.uk:

To check out all the benefits attached to a-n’s Artist + AIR membership, including free £5million PPL cover, and to get alerts to Airtime and other professional development events, go to Join

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