What are the challenges and barriers faced by visual artists in England? How do these barriers prevent artists from realising their aims and developing a sustainable practice? What issues affect artists in different regions, from different backgrounds or across different areas of practice?

Commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE), a-n is working with research consultancy TBR and freelance researcher James Doeser to launch the Artists’ Livelihoods survey, a comprehensive study of how visual artists in England live and work.

Alongside the survey, the study will also draw on existing research, a number of focus groups, interviews and case studies. The findings of the project will help inform how ACE supports artists in the future, enabling them to ensure a more resilient and diverse visual arts sector.

The Artists’ Livelihoods survey is significantly different to most sector surveys in that it has brought together a broad coalition of partners from across the visual arts to shape and support it.

These partners include: Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art, AIR, Artists’ Union England, Artquest, Axisweb, Crafts Council, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, The Design and Artists Copyright Society, engage, East Street Arts, Live Art Development Agency, National Federation of Artists’ Studios Providers, The National Society for Education in Art & Design, Space and Voluntary Arts Network.

The input and reach of this grouping, combined with that of a-n, should result in the most comprehensive picture of visual artists’ livelihoods in England for many years.

Informing the future

ACE says it needs to understand more about the context in which visual artists work, and about the economic, social and cultural factors that affect them. The research will also help policy-makers, funders, commissioners and local authorities to understand more about the day-to-day realities of practising as a visual artist.

Peter Heslip, Director of Visual Arts at ACE, said: “A lot has changed in this country since our last study into the working and living conditions for artists over a decade ago.

“This research will not only help the Arts Council to develop a better understanding of the visual arts landscape, but will also provide valuable insights to other policy makers, funders and stakeholders in the visual arts sector, and ultimately the artists themselves.”

a-n Director Jeanie Scott said: “What’s important about this research project is that, in collaborating with our sister organisations who also bring a wealth of expertise and their own networks, we can significantly extend the data and evidence available to address the common realities we all face. Ultimately, this will help us better support artists to sustain themselves.

“a-n is acknowledged for its insights into the changing visual arts ecology and playing an influential role in informing cultural policy. Our strong research base, and the regular input of our 19,000 artist members, has allowed us to drive change in campaigns such as a-n/AIR’s Paying Artists campaign.”

The outcomes of the ACE Livelihoods research will be reported to ACE in late spring 2016 and will be available to all in the sector.

Take part in the Artists’ Livelihoods survey – it should take around 20 minutes to complete. www.a-n.co.uk/artists-livelihoods

Deadline extended: add your views before Friday 31 March 2016

Share the survey on social media using #ArtistsLivelihoods