Article categories: Issue 72
November 27th, 2009

We have a problem.  Artists consistently average annual salaries that place them in the low income bracket (Throsby & Hollister 2003).ANAT-Logo_Yellow2Red Despite decades of development through funding and the gradual professionalisation of artist support organisations, like the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), we have seen little improvement in financial outcomes for artist. This is a huge failing of our current way of conceiving of the arts. We see the arts as creative endeavours isolated from the world, both commercial and social, where strong individual voices within a critical art-world dialogue are more important than cultural or economic outcomes (Brooks 2008).

The arts, however, are crucial to navigating this current period of history, not only for the capacity for self expression, but to ask how do emerging ideas, technologies and sciences impact on society, culture and the individual?  This capacity to place the focus back on the citizen will be crucial in dealing with “wicked problems” (H. Rittel and M. Webber, 1973) such as climate change and sustainability.  We are transitioning from a global free market model where citizens have taken a back seat to the freedom of the market, to one where the citizen looks to create their own future and use the market as a tool (Ralston Saul 2006).  The current stalemate between citizens wanting to see movement on climate change and governments inability to act highlight how this change is deep and difficult.  The arts though are already facilitating this transition through interdisciplinary practice. ANAT’s Art Science residencies have been an interdisciplinary success story, showing how significant interdisciplinary inquiry benefits not only the economy (the market), but culture and the community and gives hope to resolving wicked problems.  This capacity to make interdisciplinary collaborations has impacted on scientific research practice, shortened development times in applying scientific inventions and has given the community an access point to the most emerging of scientific and technical concepts.  This is the way to overcome wicked problems, the way to empower citizens in a technological age, the way to make artistic creativity a part of our daily lives and not something we partake of as an isolated, removed experience.

If we have such a transformational creative core in our society, why are these most valuable of citizens low income earners?

Edwards Deming would identify the current low income situation for artists as a system in control; A system that, with in statistical parameters, does not vary (Deming 1996). Occasionally we will have non-systemic variances to this process. The individual commentator, activist or artist that creates change, but this will not impact on the system as a whole. Deming would suggest that the only way to improve the situation is to look at the system where the activity occurs and modify that encompassing system. Creative Industries is one such approach.

I like to think of the Creative Industries as a spectrum, with activities like architecture at one end, right through to the fine arts at the other. While the Creative Industries as a concept can easily house architecture, it often has difficulty coming terms with the fine arts end of the spectrum, but it is willing to work toward a resolution.  For artists this opens an opportunity to define their place in the Creative Industries.   This opportunity though is seldom taken up because there is a belief that artists cannot align their practice with this policy movement. In reality there needs to be a greater breadth in describing artistic practice that includes not only cultural positioning, but also the arts community and economic position. The creative industries open up opportunities to think more holistically about creative practise, such as how the arts contribute to innovation and the economy (Cutler 2008).  We can test out broader application of intellectual Property generated from the arts by looking at Ancillary IPs (Artz 2008); we can take into consideration the “digital folk artist” (Artz 2009) who melds creative employment with artistic practice; we can use it as a framework to aid in transdisciplinary development and we can improve economic outcomes for artists.

Artists however need to participate, to develop the models and language for working with the arts in this context and to remember that it is not the only context in which they function. For society though it is pressing to get this right. While it is important for artists to develop sustainable incomes, it is much more important to culture, community and the economy for artists to develop sustainable incomes.

Gavin Artz
Gavin Artz, ANAT CEO has extensive experience in business management, governance and finance from multinational organisations to not for profits entities.

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Artz, G. “Artistic practice and unexpected intellectual property: Defining Ancillary IPs.” 2008. CHASS. . 20 April 2009.

Artz, G. “Digital Folk Art: A whole new world of art that is not art.” 2009. Collections Australia Network. 17.11.09

Brooks, D. 2008, “The awful truth about what art is”. Artlink Australia, 2008. viii, p.138.

Cutler. T. 2008, “Creativity, the arts and innovation.”  A Currency House Conversation.…/The_creative_arts_and_innovation.pd

Deming, E.W. 1996, “Out of the Crisis”, MIT Press, Massachusetts.

Ralston Saul, J. 2005, “The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World”, Penguin Australia, Sydney.

Rittel, H. and Webber, M. “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”. Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, 1973, pp 155-169.

Throsby, C.D. & Hollister, V. 2003, “Don’t give up your day job: an economic study of professional artists in Australia.”  Australia Council for the Arts, Sydney.

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