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The longitudinal study of early career artists

A three year tracking study of early career artists looking at the key factors that influence the development of their careers

February 25, 201525 February 2015

Situation of artists / Arts education

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In 2012, the Australia Council surveyed 310 artists who were within the first five years of their careers in order to examine key elements of their career development as well as differences between grant recipients and non-recipients. It is not clear whether the 310 respondents were randomly sampled and whether respondents could be considered representative of all Australian early career artists.

In terms of their early career experiences, the average rating provided by artists regarding their artistic fulfilment to date was moderate (6.4 out of 10), as was their rating of their confidence in their careers (6.7 out of 10). More specifically, 12% of respondents indicated that, over the past year, their career had exceeded their expectations. Another 43% indicated that their career had met their expectations. On the other hand, 29% felt that their career had fallen below their expectations, while the remaining 17% indicated that they pursued a change in direction over the past year. On all of these scales, grant recipients’ self-assessments were more favourable than those of non-recipients.

In 2012, 77% of early career Australian artists had a career plan in place. As part of their networking efforts, more than one-half of the early career artists undertook five activities in 2012:

  • 70% “connected with someone well respected in their field”.
  • 74% “collaborated creatively with other artists”.
  • 63% “attended a conference or seminar”.
  • 55% were “involved in interstate work”.
  • 53% were “involved with new companies or venues”.

Regarding artists’ creative practices and incomes, the survey found that early career artists “were spending almost half of their time on their creative practice (45 percent), but only earning 36 percent of their income from their creative practice”. Non-arts-related work took up 24% of the artists’ time but earned them 44% of their income.  Arts-related activities (“such as studying related to artistic practice, volunteer or paid work in the arts outside their core creative practice”) represented 30% of artists’ time and 20% of their income.

“Making financial sacrifices and taking financial risks” were seen as key factors that could allow artists to spend more time on their creative practice. Along the same lines, “low income generated through creative activities … and the need to supplement this income with non-arts related activities” was identified as a key barrier to receiving income from creative practice. As might be expected, receiving an arts grants was seen as a key enabler to receiving more income from creative practice.

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