Impact of COVID-19 on Visual Arts Workers: Survey Results

A survey was launched in April 2020 to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdown on the visual arts sector.

It was commissioned by Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) in association with Earthen Lamp as a rapid action tool. It was initiated to understand the position of the workforce dependent on freelance gig economy in the visual arts sector in the UK and investigated their response to emergency sector support measures announced by Arts Council England (ACE) and HM Treasury. The study included responses from a range of individuals that work in the visual arts sector – from artists and makers to technicians and fabricators, from curators to consultants.

Future Proof – VASW, 2019. Photo: Chelsea Cliff

Respondents were asked about the impacts they were experiencing of the pandemic and related announcements.

  • 58% are worried about their ability to get future work.
  • 44% of visual arts workers have permanently lost work since the announcement.
  • 20% feel they are not eligible for support, related to diversity in forms of employment and complex income sources of respondents.

Nevertheless, respondents discussed the unexpected impact and interaction with their community as a positive outcome. Many respondents have volunteered for the NHS or used their skills and time to benefit the communities they live in or the artistic community they belong to. This has ranged from helping the NHS as volunteers, neighbours through Mutual Aid action groups and using skills to make banners and sew scrubs.

The survey was delivered in partnership with Artists’ Union England, a-n The Artists Information Company, Artquest, AxisWeb, Curator Space, DACS, Engage, and Guild.

Future Proof – VASW, 2019. Photo: Chelsey Cliff

As key sector support organisations working to safeguard the visual arts in its broadest sense, we wanted to understand how to best to deploy our capacity and resource over the challenging weeks, months and years ahead.

CVAN would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who joined forces in creating and distributing Impact of COVID-19 on Visual Arts Workers. Through our combined efforts, we were able to generate 1,038 completed surveys across the country. This is a tremendous achievement which we should all be proud of. Well done!

Knowing more through this research has helped us coordinate our efforts, and lobby effectively for the sector. Through the findings of this survey we have built an evidence base to advocate for artists and arts professionals in a position of hardship over coming months.

susan pui san lok, work Sister O Sister 2019 (recycled cardboard, window vinyls, bowls, salt, 800cm x 500cm x 400cm) installed at Firstsite as part of her show A Coven, A Grove, A Stand

These findings were compiled by an independent agency Earthen Lamp. All findings from this research are presented in an anonymised way to the sector, policymakers and government bodies. Please note that the results will not influence decisions or support package that have already been announced by funders. If you have any questions or comments about this research, please contact info@earthenlamp.com.