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Artist Careers (Australia)

Do you really expect to get paid? and What’s your other job?

November 21, 201121 November 2011

Situation of artists

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Three reports from the Australia Council investigate the situation of artists in that country: a summary report (Artist careers), a survey of professional artists (Do you really expect to get paid?) and an analysis of 2006 census data (What’s your other job?). The summary report notes that, “as in many countries, the majority of Australian professional artists do not get huge financial rewards for pursuing their art practice”.

The artist survey, using a sample of 1,000 artists drawn from professional associations’ lists and other sources, found that the median total income for professional artists was $35,900 in 2007-08. The median total income was much higher for men ($40,600) than for women ($26,900). Men had median creative income of $10,300, compared with $5,000 for women. (All above figures are in Australian dollars.)

Less than one-half of surveyed artists (45%) applied for a grant in the past five years, and less than one-third (29%) received a grant during this timeframe.

In terms of time spent on different activities, Australian artists spend, on average, “more than half of their time working on creative projects, just over a quarter on arts-related work such as teaching in their artform, and one fifth of their time on non-arts work”. These “patterns of time allocation have remained remarkably stable over the last 20 years”.

The artist survey indicates that there were approximately 44,000 practicing professional artists in Australia in 2009. While there was strong growth in the number of professional artists between 1987 and 2001, there was a very small decrease between 2001 and 2009 (from 45,000 to 44,000). Over the past 20 years, artists’ incomes kept pace with inflation. This is unlike the overall workforce, where incomes rose by more than the rate of inflation.

The 2006 census data indicates that 24,000 Australians had their main job in an artist occupation. About one-half of these artists were employed in arts industries, while the other half worked in industries outside the arts. About 61,000 Australians were employed in “arts-related occupations”, including occupations such as art teachers, designers and artistic directors. About two-thirds of these workers were in industries outside the arts.

The summary report indicates that artists are highly educated: 65% hold a post-secondary qualification of some sort, compared with 25% of all Australian workers. On average, Australian artists are slightly older than the overall workforce.

The survey allowed the researchers to investigate some important issues for professional artists. Australian artists believe that the most important factors inhibiting their careers are “a lack of time to do creative work, lack of work opportunities and lack of financial return from their creative work”. Despite these challenges, many artists are optimistic: 60% “believe new technologies are likely, or very likely, to improve their income”.

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