With more than double the anticipated number of responses, the Artists’ Livelihoods survey into how visual artists in England live and work forms part of the most comprehensive study of its kind in over a decade. Stephen Palmer reports.


A total of 2,007 visual artists who live and work in England have responded to the recent Artists’ Livelihoods survey. Hosted by lead partner a-n, the survey forms part of a research study that will inform how Arts Council England (ACE) supports artists in the future.

The survey – which closed on Thursday 31 March 2016 – looked at the challenges and barriers faced by visual artists in England, and how these barriers prevent them from realising their aims and developing a sustainable practice.

ACE commissioned the research in order to understand more about the context in which visual artists work, and about the economic, social and cultural factors that affect them. It will also help policy-makers, funders, commissioners and local authorities to understand more about the day-to-day realities of practising as a visual artist.

Shaped by a broad coalition of partners from across the visual arts, the research is being led by research consultancy TBR and a-n, working with freelance researcher James Doeser.

Focus on artists

Alongside the survey, the Artists’ Livelihoods partners have also held a series of focus groups around the country during March and April.

Taking place in Bristol, Cambridge, Birmingham, London and Newcastle upon Tyne, the team met with 40 artists to explore in depth some of the themes emerging from the survey. Participants were strategically selected to give a diverse sampling of demographics, geographic location, primary art-form practiced and level of education.

Findings from the focus groups will inform a series of thematic case studies which will tell artists’ stories and experiences in more depth.

Thanking all the artists who took part in the survey and focus groups, a-n’s director Jeanie Scott said: “This has been a hugely motivating and thought-provoking piece of work thanks largely to the 2,000+ artists who have invested their time and experience to give us such rich data to work with.

“The survey is giving us a vital snapshot of the working lives of real artists – but this research must only be the start. Our recommendations will highlight how we hope it can start to make a difference.”

We’ll be publishing findings from the Artists’ Livelihoods study soon – use #ArtistsLivelihoods on social media to follow future updates

The Artists’ Livelihoods partners include: Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual ArtAIRArtists’ Union EnglandArtquestAxiswebCrafts Council,Contemporary Visual Arts NetworkThe Design and Artists Copyright Society,engageEast Street ArtsLive Art Development AgencyNational Federation of Artists’ Studios ProvidersThe National Society for Education in Art & Design,Space and Voluntary Arts Network.

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This article was originally published on a-n.co.uk