Our Wellbeing and GDP At Threat – Support to Real Artists and Real Art

In yet another interesting edition of Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts, 2015 Ed., prepared by the Australian Council for the Arts, great insight was presented as to the current state of the industry and the direction forward. The proceeding discusses the results and implications of the current situation from the Australian Council for the Arts findings.Firstly to note, in what was extremely pleasing to read, was that nearly every Australian engaged in some form of arts culture at least once in 2013. Whether this be in the form of live events, art galleries or reading of literature; 94% is something to be proud of for our great country. Compare this to America where Artnet News notes a steady decline in American attendance in their benchmark arts activities (jazz events, classical music performances, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, ballet, and art museums or galleries) since 1992. In that year 41% of Americans attended at least one form of these benchmark art activities, however fast forward to 2012 and this rate has dropped to 33.4% [2].This is an alarming trend based on the evidence from internationally recognised subjective wellbeing analysis techniques which consider emotional, social and cognitive factors. These techniques help calculate the value of intangibles and has backing from people such as the Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman [3] saying that economists can, and should measure individual and social wellbeing directly to understand the true value of people’s activities.85% of Australians are in consensus that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life, and nearly all Australians engage in at least one form the arts each year. Hence it would be feasible to deduce that with an increasing arts interaction in which Australia has an already admirable position, a higher life satisfaction is likely outcome with all other factors being equal. This situation is directed in a vastly different direction for America with their declining arts interaction at ratios around one third that of Australia’s.Given the position Australia is in with regards to the arts interaction and the obvious benefits to the public, it is little wonder that the Australian government continues to contribute approximately $7 billion dollars per year between culture and the core arts. This sector generates around $50 billion dollars to Australia’s GDP each year. A GDP share that is comparable to that of America.Contributing to this GDP value is the number of tourist coming to Australia and also engaging in our culture and arts. A figure which is trending upward by 20% over the last three years and now at 2.4 million tourists / visitors who undertake Australian arts activities whilst visiting. This represents 38% of visitors who come to Australia, who engage in our arts. Needless to say this shows a great deal of insight into the quality of the artists in Australia. Further substantiated by the strong representation of Australian artists nominated for international awards. From a selection of 16 major international arts events, the artists shortlisted for international arts award was made up by 1.6% Australians. Very admirable and proof of the quality of Australian arts based on the Australian population only making up around 0.33% of the world population.These talented artists, though achieving great things nationally and internationally are still scarce in number and on a plateau. In addition to the 109,000 students currently undertaking creative arts qualifications at a tertiary level, there is around 44,000 professional artists in Australia. Of these 44,000 professional artists only around 17% are working full time on their creative practice. A mear 7,500 professional artists working on their own works. A country which derives $50 billion in GDP from culture and the arts and has a $7 billion dollar a year contribution from the government. An industry that is recognised to improve our quality and fulfilment of our lives. So it brings wonder as to why this is, and it is so very clear in the Australian Council for the Arts report. It is here it is noted that the average income for these professional artists who commit their full work time to their own creative practice is $22,500 per year. This represents nearly a quarter of the annual Australian wage of $81,000 [4] for the twelve months to June 2013.Even with $7 billion dollars contributed annually by the Australian government in addition to the $221 million raised from the private sector by arts organisations, the professional artists are in need of support. Real artists needing support to keep being able to create work for an industry which nearly every Australian interacts with each year. An industry that aids our life satisfaction and general happiness.With no question to the benefits of constant technological advances in basically all facets of our modern lives, there exists businesses focused on taking away such purpose from the before discussed artists. The printing of canvas paintings for example, creating mass produced and commercialised images in minutes. Taking away from any uniqueness and honesty of the artwork because a machine has executed the file. This also discards the skill set and talent that an artist creates with a handmade piece of art. Then as the domino effect goes, leaves less artists able to focus full time on their own creative works. Eventually a trend of this nature will leave real artists as an endangered species. With the 44,000 professional artists plateau since 2001, the occupation share that the artist profession has, thus must be declining at the same rate as the Australian population growth. Around 29% since 2001 (18,607,584) [5] to the time of writing this article (23,946,356) based upon the Australian Bureau of Statistics historical population data and Australian population projection clock [6]. A sad and worrying trend for an industry so important to our country in both economical and social terms.It has already been stated that the vast majority of Australians (85%) agree that arts make for a richer and more meaningful life. So it needs to be recognised that in order to retain and continue to benefit from that which the arts giveth, we must continue to support real artists doing real work, or the benefits will be taketh from us all.Please support real art and real artists.References[1] Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts, 2015 Ed., prepared by the Australian Council for the Arts[2] Alexander Forbes – Artnet News, 2015[3] Layard R 2005, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. Stiglitz J A, Sen A and Fitoussi JP 2009, Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. O’Donnell G, Deaton A, Durand M, Halpern D and Layard R 2014 Wellbeing and Policy[4] SEEK’s Annual Salary Review, 2013[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, 3105.0.65.001 – Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2014, Table 1.2[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015

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