I’ve previously noted an air of default entitlement among the UK’s arts practitioners and commentariat, but for those in need of further illustration here’s the Guardian’s Laura Barnett, alerting us to another crushing injustice.
Right now, the economic climate for artists in this country looks particularly bleak... Unlike some European and Scandinavian countries, the British government makes no specific social provision for artists,
Oh, say it isn’t so.
unless through the publicly funded regional arts councils.
Ah. So the government does in fact make special provision for artists. To the tune of almost half a billion a year. And as we know, arts councils can be counted on to spend your money wisely for the betterment of mankind.
In Denmark, for instance, 275 artists are granted an annual stipend of between 15,000 and 149,000 Danish krone (£1,750 to £17,000) every year for the rest of their lives.
Readers will no doubt recall the Danish artist Bettina Camilla Vestergaard, whose benefactors include the Danish Arts Council, the Arts Grants Committee Sweden, the Danish Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Council of Aarhus. Ms Vestergaard used her government stipend to spend six months in Los Angeles pondering “identity and gender” and working on an “intervention in public space”:
My first three months primarily consisted of passing time in residential Hollywood, sitting alone in my car, shopping and getting fuel.
The results of Ms Vestergaard’s lengthy, publicly subsidised musings can be appreciated more fully here.
But in this country, for artists without a lucky early break, rich parents or benefactors, a day job is often the only way to survive. [...] What a day job inevitably means, of course, is spending the majority of your waking hours not doing the thing you love: making art.
It’s an outrage, I tell you. Thankfully, some businesses are sensitive to the arts community and its special needs.
For the last four years, [actor, Lainy] Scott has been working at RSVP, a call centre in east London that employs only artists, taking calls for Which? magazine and WeightWatchers. Shifts are available in the day, evening, or at weekends, allowing artists to plan their work around shows, rehearsals or auditions.
Some comfort, then. However,
“There are people who get very bogged down by having to do non-acting stuff,” Scott says.
Update: An artistic Guardianista adds,
When I left college in the early 80s after finishing my Fine Art degree, I went and lived in Holland for 6 months as some artist friends of ours had been allowed to live in an old disused warehouse by Leiden council. They had electricity paid and were allowed to claim the equivalent of the dole to just be artists. We put on experimental theatre, lived and worked in the same place... This was an investment in the economy... Why have artists take up jobs that people rely on in a time of recession. Why not allow them to claim benefit but not have to job search?
“Just to be artists.” Oh, I like that. And don’t dismiss all that experimental theatre, which is after all an investment in the economy. Taxpayers can’t get enough experimental theatre.