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New Report Shows that Visual Artists incomes continue to decline despite tales of economic growth.
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Monday March 21, 2016 22:23 by Noel Kelly - Visual Artists Ireland Visual Artists Ireland, Central Hotel Chamber, 7/9 Dame Court, Dublin 2 (01) 6729488
New Visual Artists Ireland survey shows that although 98% of visual artists work in their main area of practice, only 32% have the ability to make this a full time job. 76% of visual artists live unde
Since 2008, during one of the worst financial crises to hit the state, government funding of the arts sector was significantly reduced as the overall Departmental budget has seen an increase. Department of the Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht reports show that central funding increased from 245,000,000 Euro in 2008 to 310,000,000 Euro in 2016. During this same period Arts Council reports show a fall in their funding from 81,620,000 Euro to 59,100,000 Euro. This has resulted in a fall in supports to the individual artist who the sector rely on to maintain Ireland as a place that is known for its living culture and the arts.
Artists have expressed simple aspirations. They wish to make work, have the work seen in Ireland and abroad, to be able to put bread on the table, and feel as if Ireland values them for their creativity. In direct conflict with these aspirations, VAI’s 2016 report clearly shows that time, funds, and opportunities continue to be the main issues.
In 2008, the first year of the survey, 67% of visual artists in Ireland earned less than 10,000 Euro from their creative income. With the successive cuts which have resulted in the reduction of opportunities for visual artists, this figure is now at 80%. This rose to a high of 83% in 2013.
In the intervening years the Arts Council and Visual Artists Ireland have placed high emphasis on ensuring that visual artists are paid in an equitable manner for work that they undertake. This has resulted in an increase in the area of payments for Education & Outreach and other forms of work. However the continued decline in exhibition opportunities around the country means that earnings have fallen in this key area. In 2013 the midpoint earnings for exhibition making was 200 Euro, with an overall average of 1,045 Euro. In 2016’s report, this has fallen to a midpoint of 2 Euro with an average of 831 Euro. This is clear evidence of venues and spaces trying to make ends meet and struggling still to pay artists for their work.
There has also been a severe decline in overall earnings. Artists undertake two or three other jobs to ensure that they can maintain their lives and their creative practice. These have traditionally been in academia and the hospitality industry… A bit like LA with ‘resting actors’, you may have had a visual artist serving you your coffee or cleaning your table! In 2008, we reported that 33% of visual artists earned less than 10,000 Euro from their creative and non-creative work combined. This figure now sits at 76% which reflects a collapse in the available job market.
The disparities between female and male artists continue to raise concerns. It appears from our results that in terms of income from creative work the median is equal for both sexes at €3,000. We can see the difference arise at the upper income levels when the income is an average of €6,867 for female artists and €8,327 for male artists.
One of the most surprising results from this year’s survey has been the income levels based on the number of years spent as a professional artist. Support structures are mainly aimed at ‘younger generation’ artists and it is known that the number of opportunities diminish as artists get older. As graduates out of college, it takes 20 - 30 years of experience for visual artists to peak at 27% who earn more than 10,000 Euro. With the decline in opportunities for visual artists who may be late in their career, we can see that the figure for those with over 30 years experience falls to 9%.
The overall context for this is simple. Artists are living under the poverty line. Although 98% of visual artists work in their main area of practice, only 32% have the ability to make this a full time job. Taking the 2014 definition of the poverty threshold of €10,926, we see that 76% of visual artists fall under that amount.
Noel Kelly, CEO of Visual Artists Ireland said “The reality is that support for the visual arts is in severe decline. The Arts Council continue to work strongly in providing as wide a support as possible. But, there is much work still to be done and one of the key elements is for the new government, as it is forming, to appoint an experienced expert as Minister for the Arts. A formally constituted advisory group of the mandated representative bodies is a matter of urgency so that the new minister is fully aware of the depth of the needs of visual artists and can become a bridge with all of the other government departments who may not normally consider artists as part of their remit but who play a key role in the on-going support of the individual artist in Ireland.”
The 2016 Survey The Social, Economic, and Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland will be formally published next week and made available to the government, local authorities, and the Arts Council.