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Taxpayer-funded arts bodies should pay workers fair rates

By Masquara - 18 December 2016 10

Arts

The ACT tax and rate-payers provide the money that is allocated by Arts-ACT to arts organisations, and those organisations’ applications for funding should reflect the need to pay staff properly.

A Canberra arts organisation recently advertised two contracted positions for which they propose to pay an average of between $40 and $80 A DAY. The positions are formal engagements, with superannuation paid at 9.5 per cent.

It is a reality that a lot of volunteer energy goes into arts activities of all kinds. But creating a sort of twilight zone, neither actually paid nor volunteer, for employment where what is on offer is “between $1,500 and $3,000 plus super total” for what is listed as “two days a week for six weeks, then ramped up (by an unspecified number of days) for a further several weeks, then more-than-full-time for a week, followed by reporting and wrap-up activities” – at least 300 hours – seems exploitative.

If the ACT Government regards a festival or arts activity as being worthy of public funding, that funding should cover fair payment for the arts workers.

Over to you. What do you think?

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10 Responses to
Taxpayer-funded arts bodies should pay workers fair rates
1
Melissa Carrington 10:56 am
19 Dec 16
#

I’m certainly no expert but isn’t there such a thing as minimum wage? What is the current min wage $$? Why does that not apply in this situation?

2
Masquara 1:09 pm
19 Dec 16
#

Melissa Carrington said :

I’m certainly no expert but isn’t there such a thing as minimum wage? What is the current min wage $$? Why does that not apply in this situation?

I believe the minimum wage is close to $18 an hour …

3
Southerly_views 12:52 am
20 Dec 16
#

The biggest offenders underpaying artists or breaching artistic copyright are the government agencies themselves, along with their sub-contracted PR agencies and organisers. Time and again artists are engaged to undertake projects for significant events and festivals at paupers rates. Sometimes an artist will be able to negotiate a higher hourly rate but mostly artists are asked to participate with their artistic input for a fixed fee that often includes the cost of art materials. When time and labour are added to those material costs the hourly rate usually ends up being very low.

The National Association for Visual Arts (NAVA) regularly publishes and updates their Code of Practise which recommends that rates for artists be based on their experience and technical capabilities.

One high profile underpayment occured in 2013 when the ACT Government engaged sculptor Patricia Piccinini for $8,800 to create the the Skywhale. Regardless of what you personally think about the balloon, the artist herself admitted that she was paid much less than would typically be paid for a $170,000 project with a final cost of $350,000. The artist agreed to a reduced fee due to the unique opportunity.

Local artists were also engaged for a number of Centenary events by sub-contracted organising agencies. All costs were to be borne by the artist until they could claim for reimbursement after project completion, which was often many months after starting. This led to some artists completing their work for less than Code of Practice rates while others walked away from the project work part way through as the costs and time worked escalated beyond reason. The agencies and the organisers, meanwhile, were always awarded full and substantial funding for their part in working on the event.

Another major injustice for artists is repeated every year at Sculpture by the Sea (SBTS). Participating artists from all over Australia pay out on average about $6000 to $7000 each in materials, fabrication and haulage costs. They are paid an artists fee of $2000 by Arts NSW but up to fifty percent of artworks are not sold. When artworks do sell then 30% commission is payable to Sculptures by the Sea. Another 10% commission is paid to the artist’s representative gallery owner even though they never actively participate. Outgoings increase to 50% on sales when the additional GST is taken into account. Artists cannot endure year after year as the ephemeral mists of a high-profile golden opportunity dissipate over several years when there is little recompense . Remember the SBTS is a community event reliant on artist participation and attended by the public at no cost.

In 2010 gallery owners openly encouraged sculptors to boycott the annual seaside exhibition after the organisers reduced private gallery commissions from 20% to 10%, while increasing the GBTS organisers commission from that year onwards by 10% to 20%. It is also worth noting that most private galleries charge a 40% to 60% commission rate on artworks sold either from the gallery or privately by the artist, even if the art is never displayed on the gallery walls.

There is no doubt that artists are exploited by many organisations under the cloaked guise of a value-adding experience, community participation, promotional opportunities or an undefined future benefit for the artist. These below-par offers should be boycotted by artists but that is difficult when you feel you must seize the limited opportunies available or otherwise miss out to possibly even greater detriment.

4
Maryann Mussared 11:02 am
20 Dec 16
#

I saw the two jobs you refer to advertised on social media. I am not sure the Festival in question is actually funded for 2017 by artsACT. http://www.arts.act.gov.au/funding/current-funding-recipients. “Noted” is which might be running concurrently, and ‘Design Canberra’ and ‘Art Not Apart’ are funded separately. The sort of money being offered for these two positions could cutely be described as ‘honorariums’, It is true the people who take up these positions could probably earn more at McDonalds, but if they are straight out of an art or drama school and looking to develop their arts administration skills, then this is the sort of job that looks great on a developing CV.

5
Masquara 4:32 pm
20 Dec 16
#

Maryann Mussared said :

I saw the two jobs you refer to advertised on social media. I am not sure the Festival in question is actually funded for 2017 by artsACT.

http://www.arts.act.gov.au/funding/current-funding-recipients. “Noted” is which might be running concurrently, and ‘Design Canberra’ and ‘Art Not Apart’ are funded separately. The sort of money being offered for these two positions could cutely be described as ‘honorariums’, It is true the people who take up these positions could probably earn more at McDonalds, but if they are straight out of an art or drama school and looking to develop their arts administration skills, then this is the sort of job that looks great on a developing CV.

Exploiting “interns” has long been frowned on though. Are you saying this isn’t exploitation, when the more permanent members of the cultural outfit/institution are paid properly?

6
Masquara 4:44 pm
20 Dec 16
#

Maryann Mussared said :

I saw the two jobs you refer to advertised on social media. I am not sure the Festival in question is actually funded for 2017 by artsACT.

.

They do list ArtsACT as funding partners on their website …

7
DragonRyda 4:44 pm
20 Dec 16
#

As an artist, asking for remuneration is often frowned upon. You are supposed to do it for the “experience”. I think we’ve all experienced being shafted enough. If you paint houses, you get paid for it. If you paint paintings of houses, then suddenly you’re not, even though it arguably takes a great deal more skill and expertise.

8
Maryann Mussared 5:49 pm
20 Dec 16
#

Masquara said :

Maryann Mussared said :

I saw the two jobs you refer to advertised on social media. I am not sure the Festival in question is actually funded for 2017 by artsACT.

They do list ArtsACT as funding partners on their website …

Must have been for last year’s Festival because the list just published doesn’t include them. They may have been ‘defunded’ or whatever

9
Maryann Mussared 5:54 pm
20 Dec 16
#

You may have more inside information than me, and I was a paid arts worker from 1997 to 2009, but there is no parity in pay levels for arts workers. One organisation doing similar work to another may have a completely different pay structure, and very few positions are fully funded by artsACT. This means organisations with sparse funding are paying capable people well below a reasonable rate. Attrition levels have always been high, which further impacts on poorly funded organisations. The arts relies on volunteers extensively, as Board members, gallery assistants, general help and special projects such as writing grants, and there is no remuneration. I have done all the aforementioned.

Masquara said :

Maryann Mussared said :

I saw the two jobs you refer to advertised on social media. I am not sure the Festival in question is actually funded for 2017 by artsACT.

http://www.arts.act.gov.au/funding/current-funding-recipients. “Noted” is which might be running concurrently, and ‘Design Canberra’ and ‘Art Not Apart’ are funded separately. The sort of money being offered for these two positions could cutely be described as ‘honorariums’, It is true the people who take up these positions could probably earn more at McDonalds, but if they are straight out of an art or drama school and looking to develop their arts administration skills, then this is the sort of job that looks great on a developing CV.

Exploiting “interns” has long been frowned on though. Are you saying this isn’t exploitation, when the more permanent members of the cultural outfit/institution are paid properly?

10
Masquara 7:17 pm
20 Dec 16
#

DragonRyda said :

As an artist, asking for remuneration is often frowned upon. You are supposed to do it for the “experience”. I think we’ve all experienced being shafted enough. If you paint houses, you get paid for it. If you paint paintings of houses, then suddenly you’re not, even though it arguably takes a great deal more skill and expertise.

Indeed. There was a brou-ha ha not long ago when professional photographers arced up about being asked to provide professional photos in exchange for “exposure” (boom tish!). Various celebrities have been caned for having unpaid volunteers working on million-dollar productions, “for the cv” as Maryanne refers. Why do we accept unpaid labour in the arts? The creative industries are a huge economic driver, and the arts managers are of course paid. It’s Dickensian! As a community I don’t think Canberrans should accept this as part of our economy.

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