The findings from public art think tank ixia’s second public art survey, conducted during the autumn of 2012, show a significant fall in the size and value of the public art sector in England. In addition, the report demonstrates that the sector experienced a reduction in younger workers, including younger artists, as well as officers within local authorities.

Comparing the results with the survey from 2011, various trends have been identified and examined, revealing a sector that is fragmented.

Public art encompasses a variety of disciplines and organisations including arts, planning, local authorities, development, regeneration, health and education,’ the report notes. Consequently, there are a vast array of work contexts that include: self-employed, which make up the majority and comprise both artists and public art consultants; full-time and part-time employees; voluntary workers; and students.

Key observations and estimates

The report’s key observations and estimates include the following:

– During 2012 there was an active and core public art sector of at least 1,000 people (20% less than in 2011) working within a market with a value of at least £53m (6% less than in 2011). The fall in market value was less than the sector was anticipating, with the Cultural Olympiad contributing up to £11m to ameliorate the impact of the recession.

– The main driver for the public art sector continued to be private sector money aligned to public sector policy, although ixia estimate that funding for public art via the planning system and capital projects undertaken by local authorities fell from £33m during 2011 to £22m during 2012.

– Art and architecture, and socially engaged practice remained the most typical forms of public art projects, with events-based activities becoming more common within local authorities and arts organisations.

– The most important role for public art was shaping local, regional and national identity. This was followed by improving the design of the environment and performing an important social function.

– Commercial and retail developers valued public art as something good to do that improved the design of the environment and performed an important social role.

– Some housing developers believed that public art improved ‘kerb appeal’ and enhanced the impact and quality of their developments. However, the main reason they commissioned public art was because planners within local authorities requested its provision.

– Consultants and artists were more optimistic about the future than in 2011, but those workers closer to funding sources remained more pessimistic.

– In the longer term, recovery in the construction industry should eventually drive growth in public art. However, changes in planning policy guidance and a loss of officers within local authorities mean that new approaches to commissioning and delivery will need to evolve.

– The survey continued to show a predominantly female workforce: 62% female vs. 38% male, with the female age profile being distinctly younger than the male age profile. Compared with the 2011 survey, there was a 5% increase in the percentage of male workers.

– 94% of workers were white and 3% of workers were disabled. These percentages were consistent with those for 2011.

For the full report click here.