The Arts Council today launched their new policy Paying the Artist. This sets out a vision and plan to create change over the period 2020–2022. We, in Visual Artists Ireland, welcome this firm show of support for individual artists, and recognise it as part of the on-going support that the Arts Council has given our work in this area, particularly since our 2011 campaign Ask! Has the Artists Been Paid! which led to the concrete changes that have been building over the years, and impacting all art forms. We want to thank all of the supporters that we have had over the years on this campaign, especially those who worked with us on developing our approach that is aimed to benefit all artists. We are also very grateful to our sister representative organisations, all of whom bring the experiences and realities of their own artists and organisations. Listening to them and learning from them has been truly an amazing experience. We want to thank the Arts Council for their open ear, and thank them for the acknowledgement of our reports such as The Social, Economic & Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland, which formed the basis for our campaign, and the role that we and other representative and resource organisations have played during the consultation process and will play into the future roll out and support of this policy area.
The policy is the culmination of a lot of hours of engagement. So, its delivery is both a milestone and a beginning. There is much work to be done to allow artists, organisations, festivals, events, and other opportunities to further develop mutually respectful and equitable structures through which we can engage. We can see that implementation to date has been somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory and we are working with sister organisations as well as other key strategically funded organisations on campaigns that remedy some of the issues that have arisen. We are also delighted to hear of current changes in Departmental policies, which we have contributed to with the advocacy work that continues in a consistent structured manner in the background.
There is a very detailed policy docuement available on the Arts Council website (artscouncil.ie/…/Paying-The-Artist/) In this document are the key commitments to ensure that artists can make work of ambition and quality, and be remunerated appropriately. The document clearly shows: the Policy, Expectations, Best-practice Principles, The Role of Representative and Resource Organisations, and importantly an Implementation Plan with Deliverables and Timeline.
The Arts Council are committing to:
- The Arts Council values artists: we value the work that artists create, and the way in which they represent and contribute to the cultural life of the nation. This value must be better reflected in how we pay artists.
- We aspire to the position that best practice, not minimum standards, should apply to remuneration and contracting of artists across all artforms and disciplines.
- An artist’s ability to sustain a viable career within their chosen discipline is an essential feature of a healthy arts ecology. Improving standards in what artists are paid and how they are engaged is critical to this and, in particular, to ensuring a diversity of voices is represented within the arts.
- The underpaid or unpaid contributions of artists represent a hidden subsidy to the cultural life of Ireland; we recognise that this is unfair and unsustainable.
- We submit that where public funding is involved, fair and equitable remuneration is a matter of policy and prioritisation and, accordingly, should be factored into the budgeting process rather than being budget-dependent.
What does this all mean?
Amongst many other things, “Recipients of Arts Council funding are expected to pay artists fairly and engage them appropriately. The Arts Council requires arts organisations to provide clear statements on fair pay and to clearly identify payments to artists within their budgets.
An organisation’s policy and approach to artists’ remuneration forms part of the assessment criteria under all relevant funding programmes. In particular, we expect strategically funded organisations to show leadership and set an example within the sector.
Organisations and individuals engaging with artists have a duty of care towards them. Open, fair and transparent dialogue should underpin the terms of an artist’s engagement. The Arts Council will expect organisations to aspire to the best-practice principles set out in this policy. Artists’ remuneration forms part of the ongoing monitoring and reporting required through our grant programmes.” (Page 5, Scope of Policy, Paying The Artist)
From a VAI point of view, we know that there needs to be more change, we can see the potential for success, and we will maintain a strong voice that increases the ability of artists and organisations to build, to experiment, and to develop supports that are equitably available to all artists. Ask! Has the Artist Been Paid! will be an on-going call for VAI, and we will add to it with our call #EqualOpportunitiesForAllArtists! as we seek to ensure that all public funding for the arts is equitably available to all artists!