Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Hardly a baby bonus!

letter sent to state and territory arts ministers - 24.08.2004 

Dear Arts Minister, 

You may be aware of a nation-wide SIT-IN that occurred in publicly funded art galleries in all State and Territories on Saturday 14.08.2004. This SIT-IN was in support of THE STARVING VISUAL ARTST put the cliché PETITION that is to be presented in Federal Parliament on Monday, 30.08.2004. 

Before its presentation, however, we are writing to each State and Territory Minister for the Arts to ascertain their position on the petition, and to ask that they make this position known through a public statement. 

As stated by the petition - visual artists' income over the past 15 years has decreased, in real terms, while the income of other occupations has increased.* In 2000-01 the median income for visual artists was $18,500 (before tax, minus expenses), with poverty drawn at $14,750 (after tax).** Female visual artists - making up 60% of all visual artists - earned only 64% of that earned by male visual artists, an income well below the poverty line. (See attached petition for more detail.) 

In response to the Myer Report (published 2002) the federal government has increased its funding to the visual arts and crafts sector by $6 million (matched by States and Territories), however reneged on the remaining three of the $9 million the report recommended. While much needed funds have flown into arts infrastructure from this funding boost, visual artists' dire situation that instigated the Myer Report has been little redressed - if at all. Why? Yes - some extra grants have been released by the Australia Council in this last round, however when one divides this amount by the extremely conservative number of practitioners said to make up the sector (based on 1997 statistics), our plight has been relieved by less than $100 each - hardly a baby bonus! 

The ramifications of this are truly concerning, for the Myer Report was our one and only chance to have our sorry plight properly remedied. This, however, has not in any way occurred - yet the federal government claims to have done so. Our one chance, therefore, has not only failed, but its failure is masked by the federal government's self-professed claims of achievement. This now leaves us more hopeless than before the Myer Report was commissioned, for at least then our sector was known to be in need of urgent attention. Things have gone drastically wrong and we cannot afford to let the federal government persist in this mistake. 

We ask that the remaining $3 million of the Myer Report's recommended $9 million be spent on directly addressing visual artists' needs, not infrastructure. Visual artists ask for a mandatory artists' fee to be re-instated (ceased in 1997), to be received when their work is exhibited in a publicly funded gallery. In proper acknowledgement of their work - our petition asks that this mandatory fee be no less than $2,000 for a solo exhibition. 

Re-instating a mandatory fee should have been the first issue addressed by the increased funding - rather than not being addressed at all. 

VISUAL ARTISTS say NO TO NOTHING but YES TO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. It is unjust for Australians to continue to enjoy the benefits of visual artists' labour at the expense of visual artists' livelihoods. Proper acknowledgement is more than due. 

Our campaign is soon to draw to a close, but before it does we hope to have this issue addressed by all Ministers for the Arts, and ask each Minister to release a public statement on their position before the petition is presented in Federal Parliament. 

A copy of the petition is here attached. We think you will recognise its reasonableness. 

For more information go to our blog http://sydneyartseen.blog-city.com or contact us at sydneyartseen@yahoo.com.au . 

Yours sincerely, 
Gail Hastings and Lisa Kelly 
for the Sydney Art Seen Society 
Organiser of the VISUAL ARTISTS say NO TO NOTHING but  YES TO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT National Campaign 

posted Tuesday, 24 August 2004