Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by a-n The Artists Information Company (arts 194)

We welcome this opportunity to submit evidence and our opinions to the committee’s deliberations on the future funding of the arts, and would equally welcome an invitation to expand on this in person to committee members in due course .

1 About a-n

1.1 a-n The Artists Information Company is a not-for-profit limited company concerned with stimulating and supporting the value of visual artists in society through a portfolio of publishing, advocacy and networking activities 1 . Over the past thirty years we have charted, commented on and assimilated the changing ecology of the arts funding system and its impact on the visual arts .

1.2 Our own sustainability as an "arts enterprise" in which public funding forms around 25% of turnover 2 has been achieved through embracing innovative practices, collaborations and research partnerships and through fostering an active and committed community of members . We do not , however, underestimate the value that public investment through the Arts Council has played in ensuring the company’s sustainability , relevance ensured by research, and thus its critical ‘edge’.

1.3 Artists are our core community and we serve their professional needs and artistic aspirations by operating at the intersection between art education, arts employment and artistic practice. We regularly speak to over 32,000 arts professionals, creating and foster conversations amongst art students and artists, amongst tutors and career advisers, and between employers, commissioners and artists. We are the major recruitment agency for visual arts practitioners and pre-recession, were promoting over £26m of work opportunities annually 3 .

1.4 Our submission is from the perspective of the visual arts and offers examples of how our approach and those of our partners might info rm and contribute to a reshaping of the arts funding landscape.

1.5 Our responses to this inquiry’s questions, that we have confined to the areas in which we have the greatest knowledge, are designed to explore some strategic, broadly-based solutions to reduced public funding whilst indicating the long-term benefits from investment in creative people and in practice-led infrastructures.

1.5 In overview, we propose that our existing arts funding infrastructure is outmoded because it retains much of the 20 th century model of patronage . To thrive, the arts need a 21 st century model that embraces the widest interpretation of ‘ enterprise ’, and that is capable of nurturing future working practices and investing in sustainable arts infrastructures and frameworks , supporting the well-being of wider society and of the very many professionals that the sector employs.

2 . What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level;

2 .1 The challenge will be to ensure that quality and reach can be maintained in a difficult operating environment through pooling of knowledge expertise and resources. The implications of spending cuts raise two major issues:

(a) Saving costs in terms of administration of funding to ensure that the maximum amount of spend can go to direct delivery of high-quality projects;

(b) Ensuring that both strategic thinking and accountability remain as core principles when funding is distributed whatever routes are selected .

2 .2 New strategies for arts funding should be info rmed by the role and reach of the networks that exist in the arts. In the visual arts, t hese range from the self-generated network of umbrella bodies Visual Arts UK 4 to the strategic ALIAS5 network of artist-led organisations in South West England and the Live Art Network of London-based performance and interdisciplinary organisations Arts Admin, Live Art Development Agency and NewWorkNetwork. Location-specific networks include the groups and individuals who come together to create the annual Deptford X festival in London and Sideshow, the British Art Show artist-led ‘fringe’ in Nottingham.

2 .3 We would propose that serious consideration is given to increasing the percentage of funding as devolved funds through such umbrella agencies and networks of smaller-scale organisations. These are well-placed to pinpoint and assess quality and distribute funding across their communities. Such networks are lighter-touch, and because they are closer to delivery and kno w their communities of interest, can ensure that diverse activities can be effectively enabled .

2 .4 The Arts Council and others reasonably argue that ‘artists are at the centre’ of the arts. They are the powerhouse, driving the social impact of arts institutions and the markets for art. We would hope that the Inquiry would consider how best to sustain individuals within the arts – those who are driving innovation and social enterprise forward, charged by strong values, social beliefs and self-determination.

2 .5 We hope that this Inquiry to recognise the impact of a high level 6 of self- employment that results in an arts constituency that is time poo r but ideas rich. In our view, t he funding mechanisms to support this sector’s contribution need to be weighted towards supporting their essential R&D whilst valuing the judgement and expertise and inherent integrity in locating new audiences for their practice

2 . 6 There are many examples of successful devolved grant schemes to artists that could provide alternative s to the centrally-held Grant for the Arts scheme in respect of submissions by artists. These include bursaries through the Networking Artist s’ Networks Initiative 7 , Artsadmin , Artquest and artists’ studio groups, where accountability is ensured by a holding organisation. Such approaches play an important role in supporting grassroots activities that sustain artists as micro businesses in the wider arts economy and play a significant role in building audiences for and enthusiasm for the ar tists amongst communities.

2.7 By decentralising arts funding in this way, more spend can be delivered to the "coal-face" where content is developed and delivered and less time will be spent ensuring the projects are "translated" for administration purposes.

3 . What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale;

3 .1 A range of well-established demand-led organisations exist employing business models that encompass an income mix that includes community/ visitor contribution They are knowledgeable about their audiences and the needs of their location and are networked amongst peers locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. Such networked organisations are already collaborating by pooling resources and expertise . Examples of these have been mentioned in 2.2 .

3 .2 Effective collaborative working , however, rarely arise s from top-down or centralised directives. From our experience, it thrives when it develops from a shared understanding of need and values, and when collaboration is entered into and fully- endorsed amongst likeminded people. A+ (the a-n partnership with Artquest 8 ) is such a collaboration, providing "a framework to deliver professional development for artists and those who work in the sector throughout the UK " . It has developed from longstanding arrangements, and is motivated by the desire to de-duplicate effort, whilst remaining open to experimentation and add ing value to all investment s made.

3 .3 This collaborative, networked approach to arts working is enhanced by the virtual and digital exchange enabled by web based platforms for sharing knowledge . These also strengthen opportunities for communities of interest to collaborate 9 , find one another and share expertise and resources , both face-to- face and online.

3 .4 Public i i nvestment in the physical and virtual mechanisms that enable people to identify and build their collaborators and partners across the sector is vital to support economic growth . Our AIRTIME programme , developed to assist artists at the outset of the economic downturn, demonstrates what pooling resources and working collaboratively can achieve. 10 . The Professional Practice Programme delivered through the APD (Artists Professional Development Network) 11 provided evidence of value to 15,000 graduates from across the UK who received high- quality starting out advice .

3 .5 A new structure of public funding could reasonably offer incentives for arts organisations to strategically explore their commonalities and interests. For example, addressing how joint programming of a gallery building might better serve several organisations’ aspirations to extend audiences for , and participation in , the arts. Rather than letting out space to earn revenue or sharing back office functions , this approach is premised on exploring innovative ways of thinking about the presentation and interpretation of art and the building of audiences for it. There is also the potential to use the industry endorsed recommendations from CCS Visual Arts Blueprint 12 as priorities to guide to deliver an imaginative infrastructure that involves key stakeholders in service delivery.

3 .6 Co-production, collaborative working and multiple financing options are the norm in digital media and production companies . Initiatives such as Project Canvas 13 , would seem to offer significant platform s for digit al arts content direct i nto households through the TV . Such initiatives also offer new income strands both for makers from their Intellectual property and for producing organisations , to support tailored business models and are worthy of investment . However, such investment will pay off as art is more widely accessible to broader and new audiences, contributing to the viability of organisations and individuals concerned.

3 .7 The some 300 proactive artists’ groups throughout the UK listed on www.a-n.co.uk encompass a wide spectrum of career stage and practice and with peer review , provide effective funding accountability. With IT developments and web based applications , "self de termined" learning and exchange, such groups offer a more engaged cultural life in our country . They offer a rich seam for digital content for broadcasting whilst also contributing to the imperatives of the "Big Society".

3 .8 Analysis of artists’ use of public funds shows that they tend to plough t heir funds back into their work, supporting local economies. There is scant evidence that artists are more of a risk for public funding than any other small start up enterprises , yet the level of accountability demand placed them i s disproportionate.

4 . What level of public subs idy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable;

We refer you to commentary in previous sections , where a shift in approach would subs tantially improve value for money and impact of public funding on audiences and overall economy. .

5 . Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

5 .1 The current system’s reliance on tiers within funding has created a uniformity, an inherent within centrally-delivered grants schemes that ignore peer review within their decision making.

5 . 2 We argued in an invited submission to Better Regulation Executive in October 2006 that "the [centralised] method of grants distribution is not good value for money in terms of staff and applican ts’ time (many of whom are self- employed) and does not necessarily guarantee quality".

5.3 We would propose that subs idiarity becomes a n   organising principle for funding decisions, namely that matters should be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority. The concept is applicable in the fields of   government most recently presented in the "Big Society".

5.4 Over the last decade, t he arts funding system has attempted to fit demand- led networks into its existing hierarchical top- down accountability structures when the infrastructure of collaboration and development has adopt ed other more inclusive, contemporary working practices.

5.5 By adopting the subs idiarity principle , decisions can be made at level proportionate with funding amount and with an appropriate level of expertise. There are numerous existing models to give light touch yet accountable bursaries/ f unding using peer led panels and experts 14 .

6 . What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations;

No comment – not an area of expertise

7 . Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed;

No comment – not an area of expertise

8 . The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s-length bodies - in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;

8 .1 We would argue that the a rm s length bodies have been superseded terms of effectiveness by the growth over the last decade years of specialist networ ks. Peer networks (amongst self-employed artists and institutions where interaction happens on a colleague to colleague level rather than as a bureaucratic process) offer a prime resource for supporting for artistic development whist ensuring that quality is heightened through its inherent critique.

8 . 2 We propose that consideration is given to devolving administration of arts and cultural industries funding schemes aimed at individual artists to specialist visual arts organisations and artists’ networks with criteria for acceptance b ased on peer review and track- record. This will serve to support the supply side of the industry for the ultimate benefit of the wider community and of clients.

9 . Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;

9 .1 A future funding structure should recognise the interface between subsidy and investment. Philanthropy can more widely defined as support for ‘social enterprise’, so that it encompasses the socially-engaged activities that artists undertake locally and regionally and that knit together people in a area. Light-touch mechanisms that genuinely enable local and regional businesses and interested individuals to financially support their arts communities and the talent of individuals within these would be welcomed.

9 .2 Our research has revealed that artists create their own economies, driven by the specificities of their practice15. It is important to acknowledge this, and to ensure that the arts can continue to be both "mirror and lens" for the UK and that not only immediately-assimilated populist work is deemed worthy of support.

10 . Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations.

We refer you to the answers above.

September 2010


[1] See http://www.a-n.co.uk/about_a-n for further info rmation.

[2] Although a-n is an ACE RFO, for every £1 of grant aid, we earn £3 from sales and services. This ratio has been held since the company’s inception in 1980.

[3] Since 1989, a-n has reported on the changing face of work and employment for visual arts practitioners.

[4] Visual Arts UK includes the following visual arts umbrella bodies based throughout the UK : Artquest, Axis, a-n The Artis ts Information Company, AIR, Engage, Contemporary Art Society, Crafts Council, DACS International Curators’ Forum, National Federation of Artists Studios Providers and VAGA.

[5] See http://www.aliasarts.org/alias_groups.html

[6] According to a 2009 AIR survey of members 72 % of visual artists are self-employed , against 41% of the creative industry as a whole.

[7] See www.a-n.co.uk/nan for resources and reports on this initiative.

[8] This provides a responsive and imaginative framework to deliver professional development for artists and those who work in the sector throughout the UK .

[9] An example is the Artists Parents Talking project developed through conversations amongst a range of artists in the UK on www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking that has now evolved into discussion forums and will undertake r esearch .

[10] Over 800 artists and final year art students and some 200 organisations and universities annually participate in AIRTIME events across England and Wales . Input from s eries partner DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society) augmented by a combination of local and regional bodies including universities, local authorities and enterprise agencies.

[11] APD (Artists Professional Development Network) – over 40 organisations throughout the UK that provide professional and business development courses specifically for artists www.apd-network.info

[12] For Blueprint Recommendations see: http://www.ccskills.org.uk/Ourindustries/Visualarts/tabid/102/Default.aspx

[13] BBC and Arts Council initiative www. projectcanvas .info

[14] These include a-n’s NAN bursaries that have been supported by Esmee Fairbairn Trust, ERDF and ACE and a-n’s own earned income. Impact reports can be viewed at www.a-n.co.uk/nan

[15] a-n’s Future forecast enquiry into the future practices and resources for visual artists http://www.a-n.co.uk/research/topic/471527