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Immediately after the ACE NPO funding announcements at the end of March, Susan Jones, the publisher and Director of a-n The Artists Information Company, commissioned me to do some research into 15 visual arts organisations that will lose their core funding in April 2012.

She wanted to gain some baseline information about how much activity these organisations deliver to early-career and emerging artists, and how they contribute to the visual arts infrastructure in their locality and region.

My brief was to analyse and interpret this information for potential medium-term impact on the visual arts in this country.  Importantly, I was asked to recommend ways in which the worst effects could be prevented or mitigated – even within the context of around £150m per annum of public money being cut from the arts funding system.

The report, Ladders of Development, was published on Wednesday 25th May, and is available to read here.

The Guardian featured it here –  there are some interesting and sensible comments following that are worth reading.

If you don’t want to read the whole report, the Press Release below summarises the key information:

PRESS RELEASE

Commissioned by a-n The Artists Information Company from Dany Louise, Ladders for development exposes, quantifies and discusses the likely impact of the visual arts of Arts Council England’s decisions on fifteen previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) visual arts organisations that were unsuccessful in their NPO application.

 It shows that a disproportionate number of artists’ membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations lost core funding, despite ACE’s aim of creating a “balanced portfolio”. Many of these organisations are ambitious, punch above their weight and play a crucial strategic development role within the visual arts ecology.

Each of the organisations that include galleries Artsway and Castlefield, production companies s Folly, Isis Arts and PVA and membership organisations NewWorkNetwork and Contemporary Glass Society have developed bespoke professional practice activity and expertise over a number of years across diverse visual arts practices, and provide significant, quantifiable opportunities for artists at early and mid-career.  Consequently, they feed strategically into the work of bigger organisations that have neither capacity nor remit to undertake this depth of specific artist-centred development work. 

Organisations studied collectively create 19 full-time and 46 part-time jobs, contracted work for 287 freelancers, 133 internship opportunities and 43 artists’ mentoring opportunities annually. Overall, they directly or indirectly support almost 6,700 visual artists pursuing professional careers at a time when artists’ livelihoods are under threat.  Other quantitative data suggests education work will be badly affected. Taken together with the impact of increased tuition fees, this layer of visual arts cuts has the potential to lead to an unwelcome stagnant and mono-cultural arts environment, in which only an elite group of people with leisure, money, social and cultural capital can gain access to the arts.

The report urges ACE to recognise the vital role of smaller practice-led organisations within the future sustainability and quality of the contemporary visual arts. Amongst recommendations is that ACE should within NPO agreements require larger-scale galleries, institutions and visual arts organisations to take greater responsibility for wide-ranging artist professional development activity. If they were to outsource the artists’ professional development roles to practice-led organisations that have the expertise, networks, local reach and experience to deliver it, they will not only achieve more for the artists’ concerned, but also support the “ladders of development” needed to foster future significant artists.

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