Equitable Treatment of Artists

Stemming from our actions concerning the right for visual artists to be paid, further work allowed us to formulate a further level of detail as we look for the Equitable Treatment of Visual Artists.

The idea of Equitable Treatment of Visual Artists goes beyond the right for payment commensurate with experience and aligned with organisation’s other forms of payments. In discussions with artists and organisations, it became clear that the feeling exists that opportunities were not being made available to all, even when considered within a limited lens of “suitability”. Comments such as “we know who will apply so we don’t advertise widely”, “you have to be good at writing applications to get funding” and “I can’t get my foot in the door and nobody seems to want to help me understand what I need to do” are common.

To address this situation, VAI has undertaken a focus on ensuring that artists can expect equitable treatment when seeking to take advantage of career opportunities.

An example given to us is that of funding or applications for exhibitions or commissions. The rise of the expectation that all artists must be fully versant in application making and the various languages and skills surrounding them has caused many to find that they either do not bother to try and get funding, or that they do not receive funding due to the quality of their application and not based on the quality of their work or stage of career.

For this reason, VAI has undertaken to deliver a series of events, advice clinics, and mentoring to assist artists with skills that they need to represent themselves in the best possible light. However, it is clear that this form of support goes only part of the way, and that commissioners and funders are required to hear the voice of artists who look for support but cannot find a way through the growing bureaucracy and complex language required.

VAI is calling on all funders and commissioners to

  • recognise that each artist and art worker has varying access to resources and privileges. And those with less access may need more support in order to take fair advantage of opportunities;
  • cultivate a safe environment that allows for open discussion and understanding, where the quiet voice is heard and respected in the same way as the more forthright opinions;
  • make calls for applications accessible. This means having transparency around language, policy and decision making, as well as providing a variety of avenues through which artists may access application materials and supports in understanding their content and formats (including non-web-based channels);
  • provide equitable access for all artists. This not only means access to resources and opportunities, but also physical spaces and materials. It is important to consider whether a meeting room is wheelchair-friendly, whether there are accurate closed-captions on a video presentation, and if office space has adequate accommodations for employees with sensory sensitivities. It is also important to understand that not all artists feel comfortable declaring a weakness or disability. Therefore, a clear and respectful environment with the ability to answer and address on the spot needs is required at all times;
  • remove the fear factor that can be caused due to the power dynamic between commissioner/funder and the artist who may feel that any actions which show weakness or proffered opinion or feedback that is critical or questioning may place future relationships in jeopardy.

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