Fieldwork were commissioned to undertake research with the following brief:
To establish baseline data and to evaluate the current approach of the Arts Council of Wales to supporting creative professionals in Wales
Here we publish their report together with the findings of our first annual tracking survey. We have designed this with Fieldwork’s participation, and have administered and analysed it through our Research Team here at Arts Council of Wales.
The work in the Council has been steered by a project team developing future approaches for the support of creative professionals following our commitments in Inspire. Council has discussed the initial findings and will return to questions of support to the creative capital represented by our artists and creative professionals, as policy and practice develops.
In publishing Fieldwork’s research we are also setting out here some initial response to some key themes in the research.
Looking at the Report and our Survey work
The report contains one of the most detailed analyses yet completed of individual professionals working in the arts in Wales. It offers a wealth of data and some qualitative opinion that we will want to study carefully.
We outlined our commitment to Creative Professionals in Inspire… our strategy for Creativity and the Arts in Wales. We are clear in this document that to realise our ambitions for a creative Wales, Creative Professionals are a bedrock:
"The foundations of that creativity lie in the very stuff of imagination, human achievement and human possibility. It’s what we look to our artists to create. And it’s what enjoying and taking part in the arts does for us – this revealing of human potential, and the creation of what we might call human ‘capital’".
We also stated there our commitment to:
"looking at what artists need, in order for them to create and have sustainable careers in Wales, careers that can be well linked internationally".
The commissioning of this research has helped us develop a baseline from which we can monitor our performance against our ambitions going forward.
It outlines many areas of artistic life that we will want over time to continue to address. Much of what is said is perhaps not new to us.
We understand that being a Creative Professional is not a straightforward, easy task that yields generous income streams or linear patterns of working. We recognise that choosing this path is often a vocation rather than a career decision and applaud the integrity and commitment of the sector as a whole.
Creative Professional or Individual Arist?
Many will criticise us for using the term Creative Professional instead of Individual Artist. For us however, this broadens the reach of the sector to reflect producers, curators, artistic directors etc. without weakening our understanding of what the artist as an artist, in whatever artform, commits themselves to.
We feel we need to commit to the broader ambitions of individual practitioners that perhaps do not see themselves as artists. Critically for us it allows us to be clear too that we are supporting a range of professionals to achieve ambitions who by definition should be paid appropriately for what they do.
Artists make work for many reasons
Artists are compelled to make work for many reasons. All good artists will be driven by their vision and their commitment to produce the very best piece of work that they can.
This in itself is often its own goal and its own reward. However, for many artists, especially those who receive public funding to support their work, the public context within which work is created and experienced is as important as the work itself.
We want to foster an environment for our artists and arts organisations so they can create their best work for the widest audience. Because we believe that the public experience and appreciation of art only happens, indeed art only happens - when that chord is struck – when what is made, connects.
Wider benefits of the arts
If we see art as part of our day‑to-day cultural experiences, we see the wider benefits it brings. The arts illuminate and give life to the wide range of strategies that underpin civic life.
From arts and health to cultural tourism, public art to town centre and community regeneration, arts and culture bring meaning, authenticity and joy to our everyday lives. They offer critique and reflection. They prompt change. They create and sustain jobs, enrich education services, bring people together, enhance communities’ well‑being, and improve our quality of life.
There is no obligation for artists to work in these ways, but when they do they are making an important contribution to the wider creative industries in Wales.
Feedback and Focus Groups
The feedback from Focus Groups offers deeper and more finely grained outcomes. These are no less welcome. These smaller groups could not claim to be representative of the full range of arts across Wales. But what they have done has been to examine certain issues in more pinpointed detail and experiences.
Some issues have been given greater prominence than others. Some conclusions we find surprising, and are inclined to question. However, the report’s overall aim is to help us in identifying new ways in which we might develop or improve aspects of our work. We welcome the report in this spirit.
A targeted survey
Since the work on the basis of the report we have distributed and got back some targeted survey work. Replies to this survey give us a representative sampling of artists who have been supported through grant programmes in the last three financial years of our operation.
We are grateful to those respondents who took time and trouble to allow us to build up a baseline picture. There is material here which will help us advocate, work on the standing of the artist and creative professional, position the value of the work, and track materially changing circumstances for artist and creatives in helping with our core mission of "Making the arts central to the life and well-being of the nation".
Findings and results
The results largely corroborate with what we have learned from the Fieldwork report. Those responding to the survey agree that Wales is a good place to live and work and are committed to developing their practice here.
Our findings suggest that repeat grants are not normal practice; lottery funding seems to be an investment at a key point to help develop or enhance career. This is positive as over reliance on our funding cannot lead to sustainable practice. We need to consider how we use this information to support our decisions going forward.
In order to encourage transformational work we need to be in a better position to anchor early career creative professionals as well as centre those at mid-career points – supporting the professionalisation of the sector as a whole. These are things we will consider as we review our available funding to creative professionals.
Paying Creative Professionals
Where our concerns lie are in the appropriate payment of creative professionals. Although people are indicating to us that they are satisfied with their income, many are still living on an annual income below the national average, and in some instances, below living wage recommendations.
This, allied with Fieldwork’s report, suggests that creative professionals are paid appropriately when they are working but that this is not consistent across the year - leading to a less than satisfactory annual income levels.
We are committed to repeating this survey every year to build a more consistent picture of life as a creative professional in Wales. Pressures on lottery will of course shift the statistical context as we move forward.
Download the research survey and report
Here is a link to the report of findings, prepared by Fieldwork.
Here is a link to the detail of the survey of creative professionals.
Our way forward
Based on our discussions with the consultants, our Council and internal project groups we are committed to the following actions currently and beyond
- A review of our funding processes for Creative Professionals (to include consideration of our thresholds and deadlines)
- Consideration of how we present our expectation that Creative Professionals be paid appropriately for the work that they do – and how we implement this in practice. This will involve further discussions with a-n around the Paying Artists Campaign.
- Work with partners to exploit opportunities for creative professionals in Wales to engage in UK wide initiatives, recognising that this will have financial implications in most instances, and prioritising our support accordingly.
- Work closely with Welsh Government as it evolves ideas around the creative economy and workforce development.
Infrastructure and networks:
- Develop a Creative Wales alumni network
- Develop a regional Sgwrs event for Creative Professionals
- Develop the Creative Conversations event as a networking / learning opportunity
- Share best practice with regards to creative spaces and their use
- Work with Creative Professionals as needed to develop relationships with Local Government, Welsh Government and Arts Portfolio Wales organisations
- Consider how we best engage with Higher Education establishments / courses to better support emerging artists
- Continue to develop outcomes for young people in their education and consideration of possibilities in creative careers.
- A review of how we advocate for the projects that we fund to raise awareness among the people of Wales about the value of the work of creative professionals
- Consideration of how we further support and refine international working
- Maintain emphasising the importance of officer knowledge and expertise during internal appraisal and work planning meetings.
This will not mean an ability to see everything we fund or the work of all potential applicants but encouraging officers to continue to see work and attend relevant conferences / fora both in their specialist field and outside of it. Consideration will be given as to how we promote this in the sector to inspire confidence that our officers have the necessary expertise to advise and offer critical analysis.
We recognise that we are not alone in this journey. While committed to supporting creative professionals in the best way possible, we do not have unlimited capacity and are not always the best people to drive forward an idea.
Part of our thinking will involve consideration of the best placed people to carry forward ambitions. Sometimes this will mean creative professionals themselves needing to mobilise. At other points it will be us facilitating conversations or nurturing relationships to enable things to happen.
Regardless of how the better future happens, the important thing is that it does and that we move forward together to create a more resilient, higher performing Creative Professional base in Wales.
We would like to conclude by thanking Fieldwork and their partners, Cardiff Business School and WISERD, Cardiff University, for this report, and commit ourselves to utilising the findings to inform our future planning and work.