Why cut the arts? Based on previous research, it can be estimated that the average artist achieves 15,000 direct visitors to their projects and exhibitions annually. If the reported 25% cuts are implemented, 16% of arts organisations believe they are facing closure in the next 12 months, with a further 29% anticipating the need to scale back activity.
So even if galleries are not forced to close through the proposed cuts, they will undoubtedly reduce their exhibitions and associated programmes. This means fewer opportunities for artists to show and sell their work, and for the public to enjoy or buy works of art and participate in gallery education programmes.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken repeatedly of protecting frontline services – yet the frontline he is referring to focuses on organisations – not individual artists.
AIR asserts that the proposed cuts will create a huge economic crisis for artists in particular, who are a largely self-employed sector that relies on access to multiple sources of income and finance in order to sustain their own career, business development, and community engagement.
AIR’s research has shown that 72% of artists are self-employed and as such have received no specific help during the recession. Many have portfolio careers in education, regeneration, the health service or within the voluntary sector. A 25% cut in two separate areas of public expenditure may quickly amount to a drastic reduction in paid work for a self-employed artist.
Recent data indicates that the value of employment opportunities for professional artists has already declined by 27%, when compared with pre-recession data from 2007. Add to this the hike in VAT and the cumulative total cuts could be devastating for individual practitioners.
The argument that artists will make work no matter what just doesn’t wash. Tough times lie ahead and there is a desperate need to raise the profile and widening recognition of artists, not just within the arts sector but broader society. Now is the time to take action.
AIR Podcast September