Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the perception that artists are of value. Art is seen as valuable, but somehow the process of creation, the energy and time of an individual are not.
Today, more than ever, we see artists being asked to provide their work and their services for free. This is not the usual cry of “woe is the impoverished artist” but rather a reminder that to ask someone to produce something for you for free is rude.
How can we begin to state the value of artists when the very people who love art, and want it to be a part of their lives either don’t even consider, or simply refuse to find money to support it?
For the avoidance of any doubt, the vast majority artists are freelance (not on a salaried wage). This means that when you ask for them to for their time and energy, they should be paid for it.
John Maynard Keynes, the first chair of the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1946, obtained government funds to promote music and the arts. As an economist he saw the value in encouraging cultural activities. We have a rich heritage of the value of our creative industries in the UK, and quite why artists are perceived in a different class we cannot understand.
You pay electricians to give you light, printers to print flyers, caterers to provide you drink, production and marketing companies to produce events. If you are paying for these professional services, why would you not pay the artists too? They are professional, working people.
Please do not put artists in the position of having to tell you that they cannot work for free. It is embarrassing. Your assumption that this is acceptable (for the glory! for the honor! for the exposure!), is not only wrong, but insulting, and you should stop perpetuating this. It is wrong.
To artists reading this – please think carefully about engaging in non-paid work. You are perpetuating the belief that artists are happy to work for free, and the message it sends out is that you view your skills as having very little value. The actions of one affect us all.
Please share this letter far and wide. Add this link to your email footer, to correspondence, to conversations, whenever this situation arises. bit.ly/fairart
We hope this disrespectful situation, and this tired discussion, will fade.
Market Project, for and on behalf of every artist that has been asked to work without recompense.
What are artists really worth? Funding, friction and the future of art. As artists find themselves at the end of the cultural food chain, Susan Jones suggests a new activism to reaffirm their status (Guardian)