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Creative livelihoods: The economic survival of visual artists in the north of England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susan Baines, Emeritus Professor Jane Wheelock


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Drawing on in-depth interviews with visual artists in the North of England we overview the complexity of their income sources and emphasise (as have other writers) artists’ commitment to art in the face of low and precarious financial rewards. That commitment must be understood in the contexts in which artistic work is produced: public institutions; market institutions; informal collaborations or networks, and the household. We argue that artists’ work shares a number of features in common with caring. Both activities can be seen as rewarded by love; both have an ambiguous and contested identity as ‘work’. In common with carers, artists represent the antithesis of the ‘economic worker’ who considers work simply in terms of opportunity costs and leisure forgone. Neither art nor caring is likely to be produced at socially optimal levels by the market alone.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Baines S, Wheelock J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Northern Economic Review

Year: 2003

Volume: 33/34

Pages: 118–133