Two arts organisations focused on art in public spaces, Beam, a northern-based cultural development organisation and ixia the national public art thinktank for England, have released new reports and research. 

Research underlines major issues and development potential within the visual arts and public art sectors for: under-represented artists and producers; emerging artists and producers working in the sector; and the provision of up to date sector support and guidance.

ixia’s research is rooted in their 2022 national survey of the public art sector completed by 220 respondents, and a series of forums with invited artists and producers from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. The research identifies ongoing structural issues within the sector and reflects the huge impact of the Covid pandemic.

ixia say:

Our research makes it clear that the sector urgently needs to evolve to support and create accessible opportunities for emerging producers and artists to deliver high quality contemporary art in public spaces. There is an ongoing demand for learning and independent guidance on best practice for commissioners, funders and local authorities, as well as creatives. In the past ixia has been funded to offer this support and advice nationally, but currently there is a real skills gap in many areas where there is funding for public art.

Beam’s research project, Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Public Art Sector, was researched and written by Nottingham-based independent creative engagement manager and consultant, Boseda Olawoye, in close consultation with freelance practitioners and organisations. It explores the barriers underrepresented artists are facing and how we can make the sector more fair and equitable.

Boseda said

‘It was a real privilege to spend time actively listening to the experiences of diverse artists and producers from across the UK about their experiences of working in the public realm. For me it was really important to create a safe space for everyone, but particularly under-represented artists to be able to give their honest feedback and insights about what a diverse and inclusive sector could be. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next stage of work will be, developed in response to the report.’

At a key moment when our public spaces are more important to us than ever, this research is an urgent call for change – to diversify and redefine the sector, to upskill commissioners, to make paid artist learning and mentoring the norm, to redefine commissioning parameters, placing communities at the core, to increase connectivity and access, to demystify processes, identify and remove barriers.

Beam say:

We fully recognise that this research is a snapshot and there is still much more to be done, but it does highlight some of the key challenges artists working in the public realm are facing. We are committed to using this research as a stimulus for change, both within our own processes and by engaging more artists and organisations in a wider conversation to explore how together we can foster a more diverse and inclusive sector.’

An online discussion forum ‘Diversity & Inclusion in the Public Art Sector’ will be taking place on 2 October 2023. Find out more and book your place.

Image credit Lee Goater

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