Glasgow’s half of the Wewiora Projects duo, Liz Wewiora, is currently delivering some regional advocacy work for A-N’s current #PayingArtists Campaign, along with fellow Glasgow artist Janie Nicoll. Focusing on regional promotion and debate in Glasgow there will be a cultural hustings event hosted at Glasgow Sculpture Studios, The Whisky Bond Building (2 Dawson Road, Glasgow, G4 9SS) on Saturday 2nd May, 2-4pm.
The event will host individual speakers from each Political party as well as representatives from local art organisations, graduate artists and PHD researchers looking into the current conditions of how artists are actually making a living.
See https://www.facebook.com/events/550152201793547/ for more info!
From the planning stages of this event and conversations in general, new discussions have already started to emerge and here is what Liz has been discovering…
‘The Current A-N #PayingArtists Campaign is asking to focus specifically on the promotion and transparency around fair pay for exhibiting artists from publicly funded arts organisations in the UK.
This specific look into the publicly funded art sector and their approach, model and rates for exhibiting artists has already roused the interest and debate across Glasgow’s organisations to date. As organisations who are funded by essentially by the public and for the public it seemed like a sensible base to start the conversation but with public money across the arts sector as a whole in a period of cuts and restrictions the conversation around fair pay for artist has already raised a few responses of ‘what about fair pay for those in the art sector’. I think this is something which will pan out further as the campaign itself develops but something which will shift waves of healthy debate and wider fair pay for the cultural sector as a whole (which is no bad thing!).
A-N and Scottish Artist Union have already been able to implement guidelines for artists day rates around participatory / educational work and guidelines around residency programmes which have made a huge positive impact on rates of pay and safety of pay for artists working in these areas. From this however, it has become even more important for more clarity around artists exhibiting fees – both for support of the artists and art organisation alike.
There have been far too many cases of artists exhibiting for ‘expenses only’ or in some cases for nothing at all, and it seems that graduates along with ironically some of the most promising artists who have been offered exhibiting as part of a major festival or art prize are hit the hardest by all too well known argument of ‘well there isn’t an artist fee but this is a really good opportunity for you’. It is all too common that artists are lured into the offer of exhibiting your work in a gallery as a favour to the artist rather an a service, like any other in the public service, which the artist is providing for the gallery.
So it seems clear then that all artists should be paid for exhibiting, and this from the perspective of both artists and art organisations alike, in Glasgow at least, is something they all agree on.
What remains cloudy in terms of its clarity, however, is how you fairly ‘rate’ the work and fee to be paid for each artist. With exhibiting work there are a number of variables which makes it difficult to pin point a fixed wage. What if the show is a group show, what if is it the first solo of their career, what if the work has already been made, what if it is a new commission/ production, what if the work can be sold or toured to other galleries beyond the life of the initial exhibition, and so on! All of these factors can dramatically affect the argued ‘worth’ of the exhibiting work, the associated potential or lack of future finance from the work created (for both artist and art organisation alike). It seems then that any guidelines created will need to consider these variables carefully and with long-term and on-going support to both artist and art organisation to ensure that both individual and publicly funded gallery can ensure a fair approach and more over sustainable approach to paying artists.
It does have to be noted, particularly in the case of recent graduates, and I say this from first hand experience, that sometimes we are happy to showcase work for free. But why? Well – I know because I said yes to exhibiting work in a gallery (yes – it was a publicly funded one) for free, because it was a recent graduate opportunity and something which at the time seemed something of great benefit to me as an opportunity to publicly showcase my work to a new audience so quickly after graduating. A small contribution to materials and posting and packaging was however offered and from the exhibition I was able to sell two prints of my work – in fact creating some income off the back of the show after all. However let’s be clear here that this is not always going to be the case, sometimes no expense are even offered and there is never any guarantee that work will be sold after a public showcase so for artists we run a risky business in taking that chance.
As long as artists continue to say yes to exhibiting for nothing then the longer art organisations will see it as justifiable, especially for recent graduates.
Guidelines definitely need to be in place, and I for one am excited to see A-N and its supporting partners and art organisations across the UK work together to create these – for everyones benefit!
You can find out more and have your say for fair and transparent pay for artists by signing up to the campaign at http://www.payingartists.org.uk/signup/