Policies for boosting arts demand

Demand expansion hand drawnPolicies that encourage arts demand can return balance to an oversupplied Australian arts sector and fix many of the ills of Australian cultural policy.

Policies for boosting arts demand, the second of my articles for Culture360[1], expands on my ideas for rebalancing an Australian arts sector that is showing the classic signs of oversupply.

As evidence of oversupply, I present data showing increasing levels of creative arts practice and declining relative incomes of professional artists. The policies that dominate Australia’s cultural policy system tend to work to boost supply, so they are likely to aggravate problems associated with oversupply, such as declining relative incomes. Policies aimed at boosting arts demand – ‘demand-side policies’ – can work to alleviate the problems. Continue reading

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Modelling the economic impacts of cultural policies

Supply and demand curvesIn Policies for boosting arts demand I build on my argument that Australian cultural policy needs more demand-side policies. The case is based on the observation of recent data on the Australian cultural sector and some simple economic supply and demand modelling. This post supplements these articles by explaining the modelling process and reasoning that underpin them. This is a rough draft – I welcome comments or suggestions.

Recent data suggests that the Australian arts sector is grossly ‘oversupplied’. In the first decade of the century, Australian participation in creative arts work increased dramatically – in some arts activities it more than doubled or tripled! At the same time, artists’ relative incomes have declined. The Census, for example, shows that the full time incomes of artists dropped by $4,000 relative to other professionals. The figure below puts the two trends together to illustrate how dramatic the inverse relationship has been between involvement in creative arts practice and artists’ incomes.[1]

These are classic signs of a sector straining under the weight of labour supply: increases in labour supply tend to reduce wage rates, which is likely to be reflected in declining incomes. Australia’s cultural policies predominantly work on stimulating supply, and so are likely to have made matters worse. Continue reading

Advocating Creativity

This paper, written with Taryn Bloom and published in the International Journal of Cultural Policy, volume 7, number 3, 2001, brings together three aspects of my research at the time:

  1. The links between art and creativity
  2. Arts advocacy, or more specifically arguing for government support of the arts
  3. The economics of the arts

The paper examines how the concept of creativity is used by to advocating government expenditure on the arts. It  paraphrases the main creativity argument used by arts advocates – that, through encouraging creativity, the arts encourage innovation and economic growth. It then critically examines the argument, first by clarifying what creativity is and how it relates to art, then by evaluating the argument against theory and evidence from Psychology and Economics. The argument is found to be weakened both by a lack of ‘hard’ evidence and by the way in which it is used by arts advocates. The analysis suggests ways in which arts advocates can improve the persuasiveness of their creativity arguments and provides insights into the design and delivery of arts policies.

Continue reading

Living art: artists between making art and making a living

In this paper, I helped PhD candidate Merijn Rengers with his research into the artist labour market. The paper was published in 2000 in the Australian Bulletin of Labour, volume 26 number 4, and as part of Merijn’s final thesis.

The paper builds on the work-preference model of artists’ labour supply. The model is summarised, theories of multiple job-holding are investigated and an alternative graphical representation is introduced. After some simple alterations, the model is applied to data on Australian artists. Artists are found to respond to wage rates in both the arts and non-arts labour markets. Further refinements to the model and research methodologies are discussed.

Living art: artists between making art and making a living>
With Merijn Rengers, Australian Bulletin of Labour, 26 (4), pp. 325-354, 2000