Discussion paper: Making Sense of Incomes in the Australian Visual Arts and Craft Sector
In Australia, incomes in the visual arts and craft sectors are not only lower than average across the population, but they are also lower than those in many other artforms (ABS Census Data, Australia Council 2017). This is demonstrably true using available income measures, but to fully understand the economic situation of visual artists, craft practitioners, and arts workers, let alone formulate policy and practice interventions, a complete picture of the make-up of their earnings at any one time and across their life cycle is needed.
The purpose of this paper is to review existing datasets that relate to the incomes of visual artists, craft practitioners, and arts workers in the visual arts and craft sector, and identify important gaps in our knowledge of the work practices in the sector. Our focus is on Australian studies over the past two decades, and we seek to identify consistent themes reported within this research. It sets the scene for our comprehensive survey of incomes in the visual arts and craft sector which launched in the first part of 2022. It is readily apparent from existing surveys that the definition of visual artists and craft practitioners has a significant impact on the data that is collected and the nature of arts practices that are studied and portrayed in research findings. In our survey, and in the broader research project, we leave it to respondents to self-identify as visual artists, craft practitioners and arts workers, and thereby capture the broadest possible range of practices and careers.