Artist’s pledge: No to fee-based ‘opportunities’

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Garrett Lynch IRL
Garrett Lynch IRL signed this petition

We the undersigned pledge to not apply for any artist’s ‘opportunities’ including, calls for works for exhibitions, festivals, competitions, publications and calls for artist’s residencies, that charge the artist a fee of any description and yet are communicated and judged competitively as an award or accolade for the duration of 2020 (#NoArtistFees).

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In recent years the arts industry has grown at an unprecedented rate. A significant part of this growth, however, is dependent on organisations that have adopted an artist-as-customer economic model by acquiring income directly from artists in order to sustain themselves. While these organisations continue to position themselves as authorities, critics and effectively gatekeepers of art through selective processes based on the quality of an artist's work or their proposals, which in turn is presented as supportive of artists and contributing to the ecosystem of art, they are in actuality treating artists as their customers.

We believe that the artist-as-customer economic model employed by organisations within the arts is problematic on two fundamental levels. Firstly, it does not support artists who have been selected. It fails to deliver on the promise that selection implies; that by being selected you have achieved something of a quality surpassing others and as a consequence will be awarded in some form that enables continuation or advancement. By employing an artist-as-customer economic model the opposite is often the case as artists are subjected to an additional financial burden. Secondly, an artist-as-customer economic model employed by organisations does not support the ecosystem of art in any discernible way. Income is invariably kept within the organisation, often employed in maintaining its infrastructural necessities such as salaries, rent and amenities, and does not feed directly into the creation, exhibition or critical discussion of art within the organisation or more broadly. Arts organisations, therefore, must be grounded in a basis of care and investment for artists and the wider ecosystem of art. With competitiveness in the arts industry currently being questioned by artists (Judgment day, Art Review, https://bit.ly/2MLeUJP; 2017 Preis der Nationalgalerie Finalists Speak Out Against Award’s Practices, Artnews, https://bit.ly/2Fcs7Hf), we demand that if it insists on continuing, it must do so in a manner where an organisation’s gain is outweighed by their contribution to art.

Who are we targeting?

Our pledge is targeted at two categories of arts organisations:

  1. Organisations that create artist’s ‘opportunities’ and employ the artist-as-customer economic model to directly source their income from artists;
  2. Organisations that act as hubs, networks, promoters and standards bodies of arts organisations and/or their artist’s ‘opportunities’.

We appreciate that many of the organisations employing the artist-as-customer economic model are small grassroots local organisations who may address cutting-edge subjects or forms and as such should in principle be encouraged. Our pledge is not intended to directly target any specific organisation within this category but instead to make artists concerns clearly visible through an act of non-participation as a symbolic gesture. Our aim is to encourage these organisations to think about and question their method of operation.

More directly, we appeal to organisations that function as hubs or networks of arts organisations. These tend to be larger organisations that frequently operate internationally and in effect promote or advocate the artist’s ‘opportunities’ created by smaller or local arts organisations. Some examples of organisations in this category include Res Artis (https://resartis.org/), TransArtists (https://www.transartists.org/), Artquest (https://www.artquest.org.uk/) and the numerous calls lists that exist on social media sites. Our aim is to place pressure on organisations such as these to be more vigilant about who is advertising through their network by implementing standards for making calls. We demand that, through a top-down approach, they educate organisations who are making calls by the provision of resources and advice that explain alternatives to the artist-as-customer economic model. These include details of local arts funding, sponsorship, mobility grants, collaborations with higher education, workshops run by the artist etc. These will provide a more supportive environment for artists and a sustainable way for arts organisations to exist.

Who are we?

We are Professional Standards Regulation Network for Artists (https://www.facebook.com/groups/artistsstandardsnetwork/), an artist's network to inform of unfair practices within the arts. 

Help us spread this pledge! Use the hashtag #NoArtistFees on social media and add the page label to your website.

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