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REGIONAL ARTISTS EARN LESS BUT LOVE THE LIFE

Australians are showing an unprecedented love of the arts, but our artists remain amongst the lowest paid in our society – especially in regional Australia.

This was the message of Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, to one of the country’s largest gathering of artists, art workers, volunteers and policy makers now meeting in Launceston to re-imagine the future of the arts in Australia.

Presenting a keynote address at the opening of Junction 2010, the Regional Arts Australia National Conference, Kathy reflected on Artist careers, two research projects released this month by the Australia Council which paint a comprehensive picture of the working lives of Australia’s 44,000 professional artists.

“It won’t come as a surprise that most Australian artists still can’t live off the income they earn from their art,” said Kathy. “In the city, the median income an artist earns for their creative work is $8,000; in regional Australia the figure is $5,000.”

While artists living in capital cities earn around 30 percent more than those in regional cities, this income gap has closed over the past eight years – but only due to increased earnings by regional artists from non arts activity.

“We know that the arts in regional Australia face challenges that are distinct from those in the city, particularly around infrastructure, access, and proximity to markets,” said Kathy. “Interestingly, lack of time was a bigger obstacle for regional artists than lack of financial return or lack of work opportunities.”

“But 61 percent of artists view living outside capital cities as having a positive effect on their creative practice. What’s more, in 2001, 27 percent of artists lived in regional, rural or remote Australia – now the figure is 31 percent.”

Forty seven per cent of Australia’s writers were living in the regions in 2009, a leap from 26 percent in 2002. Similarly, the percentage of visual artists based in the regions has increased by 15 percent.

“What the research doesn’t tell us is where these artists are coming from. Whether they are surfacing from within regional Australia; or are they moving there from the cities?”

Other Australia Council research shows that Australians are now highly engaged in the arts, but there are fewer opportunities in regional Australia to experience them.

“We have a situation, at least in regional Australia, where we are actually facing some pent up demand for arts experiences.”

Kathy Keele discussed the imperative to create time for artists to work, to generate new avenues of support, to quell the alleged competition between ‘new’ and ‘heritage’ arts, and to invest in the artist.

“Investing in artists is something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I’m the last one that has to be convinced of the importance of regional artists. It would be a tragedy if the arts agenda, the stories we tell, the culture we shape, were not informed by the mosaic of cultures, communities and landscapes that exist across this country.”

Click here to read the full speech

For interviews contact Martin Portus, 0413 090 022 or m.portus@australiacouncil.gov.au

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