Deborah Stone | Arts Hub |  Wednesday 4 March 2015

Audiences are growing, the arts are better appreciated but it’s still tough to be an artist, especially for women, Australia Council reports.

Good for the arts, not so good for artists

Arts Nation 2015 has positive news about audiences, diversity and even – mostly – the creative economy.

The Australia Council report, released today, paints a picture of a thriving arts sector with more Australians appreciating the value of the arts, strong audience development and high levels of participation.

But when it comes to artists making a living, the news is dismal, especially for women.

Being an artist

Artists are better educated than the average Australian, with two in three artists holding a tertiary qualification and a third undertaking continuing education throughout their career.

But their total median income was $35,900, compared to $43,300 for all employees, $61,700 for professionals and $77,500 for managers.

These figures include income from all sources, not just arts income. The median income from creative work is just $7,000.

Only 17% of professional artists work full time on their creative practice and those who do earn a median income of $22,500 – just above the poverty line.

Female artists earn half the median creative income of male artists, despite spending similar amounts of their time on creative practice.

Women are also less likely to be nominated for arts awards: although they make up 51% of practicing artists they are just 30% of award nominees.

In terms of ethnic diversity, the professional artists population is less diverse than the rest of the Australian population with only 8% of people from a non-English-speaking background compared to 16% of the general population. But the 2.1% of artists from Indigenous backgrounds is close to the proportion in the general population and Indigenous artists are disproportionately likely to win awards and to appear in international events.

The proportion of people with a disability is close to the proportion in the population – 8% compared to 10% of the general population.

There continues to be strong demand for tertiary creative arts studies but growth has slowed from an average
of 4.4% per year from 2008 to 2012 to 2.1% from 2012 to 2013 (107,000 to 109,000).