Jerwood Arts Blog: Inviting artists to ask for better pay conditions

Sarah Duffy, The Island, 2019 - video still. Produced with Support of Seoul Museum of Art and The British Korean Society.

We recently announced the 24 recipients of our new Jerwood Bursaries for self-defined professional development: artists, curators and producers from across art forms between six and 10 years of beginning their practice. Each applicant could apply for up to £1,250.

This was the first round of Jerwood Bursaries under our new funding programme launched in January 2019, and the first that we carried out with our newly appointed Artist Advisers. They proved invaluable throughout the process, including during our consideration of how to respond to the level of fees that artists had requested. In 62% of cases across the submission, applicants had not included a fee for their own time in their applications despite clear encouragement to do so in our guidelines, and where they did it was often significantly lower than rates recommended by sector bodies.

One of our core principles is fair pay: our minimum expectation is that all artists benefiting from our funding will be paid [at least] in line with guidelines from the Living Wage Foundation at prevailing UK rates, whether directly by us or via our funded projects. We firmly believe that funders should show a commitment to fair pay, in their guidance and by subscribing to campaigns such as the Living Wage Foundation. Of the successful 24 Jerwood Bursary recipients, 17 (71%) of successful applicants were invited to resubmit with a higher artist fee allocation, in recognition of their time and expertise. They were asked to do this within the parameters of the £1,250 maximum amount that could be applied for, which in some cases meant doing less with more, rather than more with less. Much of the feedback to applicants we have given so far has been around the project being more ambitious than the purpose of the grant and we will be reviewing eligibility and trying to be clearer about the amount of activity we expect in the next round of Jerwood Bursaries. We will also be introducing our new eligibility quiz which we are trailing with the two funds currently open, the Jerwood New Work Fund and the Development Programmes Fund.

Recent reports across the arts sector, such as Arts Council England report on Artists’ Livelihood and Arts Professional Arts Pay 2018 report have explored the issues of low artists’ pay and funding, reiterating this as a significant issue within the sector. The Paying Artists Campaign, launched in 2014, published its Exhibitions Payment Guide in 2016.

This new round of bursaries gives an insight into the nature of artists’ view of funder’s expectations, and of their own view of their artistic development and worth. We have observed that artists are not used to valuing their time or receiving fair fees for work, and that there is a widespread culture of low and no pay, especially for ‘opportunities’. It is our belief that funding and commissioning opportunities should be clear, transparent and up front about the fees they offer, what they expect from artists and other resources that are available including materials, access to professional support and room hire, that the artist should not be out of pocket for.

We see our decision to invite higher fees as one positive way that we can advocate for sectoral change in the way that artists and commissioners approach artists’ right to fair and sustainable pay. By asking artists to fully account for their time and expertise, we hope to contribute to a change in the culture around artists’ pay and funding that creates a more sustainable ecology

From music to printmaking, sculpture to dance, poetry to moving-image the recipients of this first round of Jerwood Bursaries represent a broad range of artistic practice from all over the UK: Sharon Adams, Sara Anstis, Jo Bannon, Sophie Blagden, Phoebe Davies, Emma Dove, Sarah Duffy, Ali Eisa, Jane Hayes Greenwood, Fox Irving, Roy Mcfarlane, Louise Orwin, Siôn Parkinson, Berry Patten, Derica Shields, Nastassja Simensky, Jamie Starboisky, Debris Stevenson, Dharma Taylor, Fern Thomas, Joseph Toonga, Katy Weir, Jen White, and Nicola Woodham. See the full list of artist projects here.

They were long-listed by our Artist Advisers, and the final selection was made by Emma Frankland, artist and performance maker; Heather Phillipson, artist and poet; and George Vasey, curator and writer.

We announced our first 52 Artist Advisers in March 2019 as a central element to our new funding approach, providing art form specific skills and expertise to help identify talent and support selection and decision making processes. They are part of a push for greater openness, increased national reach and a broadening of the organisation’s taste. As part of our commitment to improving conditions for artists from all background across the UK, we have pledged to continually review and refine our funding processes and we will be openly offering feedback to applicants on request for the first time.

You can read a write up  by Arts Professional on our decision to invite artists to ask for higher fees here.