Up to £3,700 to help artists from under-represented backgrounds find work assisting more established artists
Assist is a pilot project that will connect artist-assistants from backgrounds under-represented in the arts with more experienced artists who need support at a key moment in their practice. Artquest will majority-fund assistant fees and support artists to employ people to help them work.
The arts workforce, particularly in London, fails to reflect the capital’s social and cultural diversity. The 2018 report, Panic! It’s an Arts Emergency, highlighted that only 4.8% of the music, performing and visual arts workforce were from minority ethnic backgrounds (who make up 40% of the London population) and 18.2% were from working class backgrounds (around 22% of the UK population). A lack of defined, paid roles and alternative routes into the sector contributes to this situation.
Artists who work as an artist-assistant can earn an income while learning more about how the art world operates and build new networks. Research commissioned by Artquest in 2017-18 found hardly any guidance on working as, or employing, an assistant, and that such appointments tend to be from an artist’s immediate social network. There is no single definition of what an artist-assistant does, and wide variation in pay and conditions. Artists report needing extra help at a transformative stage in their career, such as receiving a major commission, a first solo exhibition at a publicly-funded gallery, or another large-scale project outside their previous experience. Assistants are often recruited through word-of-mouth, compounding the lack of sector diversity and development opportunities for a broader workforce; artists struggle to understand how to employ people legally, ethically and responsibly, perpetuating poor practices.
To address this, the Assist programme will:
- Help artists at a potentially pivotal moment in their careers to find an assistant, and advise them on how to employ people
- Help less-established artists from backgrounds under-represented in the arts to earn money, build networks, and understand how the art world works at a more senior level
- Test the viability of continuing the programme in future and report on our findings
We are now inviting applications from potential artist-employers (with a practice over 10 years) and artists-assistants (from working class and minority ethnic backgrounds) to participate in Assist. The programme will match three artist-employers with three artists-assistants, pay at least 70% of assistant fees via a bursary to the artist-employer, and support artists and assistants through this first main experience of employment.
Artquest will fund the first £3,700 of fees for up to three artist-assistants each, who will work up to 48 days over a period of six months. There are two rates of pay depending on the type of work the artist-assistant will be doing, and artist-employers will be expected to contribute to this fee.
Key dates in 2019
- Deadline for online expressions of interest: 10am Monday 3 June
- Shortlisted artists selected: week of 3 June
- Matching event: Wednesday 19 June 7pm – 9pm
- Selection of artist-employers and artists-assistants: by Monday 8 July
This project is intended to support artist-assistants from working class and / or minority ethnic backgrounds to sustain a career in the arts, and to support artists with a minimum of ten years’ practice at a potentially transformative moment in their practice.
To be involved in the Assist project:
- Have been practicing professionally as an artist for at least 10 years
- Have a contemporary arts practice
- Be experiencing a potentially transformative step-change in their career
- Currently live and work in London
- Not have worked with an artist-assistant for more than one day a week, continuously, for more than 4 months
- Expect to contribute to their artist-assistant fees
- Have been practicing as an artist for at least three years, or have graduated from a visual arts degree at least three years ago and wish to pursue a career in the arts. We assume that artist-assistants will have experienced significant financial pressure and may not have an active arts practice at the moment they apply, but will be looking to get back into working as an artist
- Live and work in London
- Not have worked as an artist assistant for more than one day a week, continuously, for more than 4 months