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Comprehensive survey of New Zealand artists

Creative New Zealand publishes first comprehensive survey of New Zealand artists

“The arts help to affirm and celebrate who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re going to.” - New Zealand artist

Creative New Zealand has published findings from the first comprehensive survey of artists in New Zealand in Portrait of the Artist/Te whakaahua ô te Tangata pûkenga. The 86-page report is based on a survey of 1010 professional practising artists in New Zealand, drawn from a database of more than 9,000 artists. Research for this major survey began in 1999 when Creative New Zealand recognised the lack of detailed information available about the living and working conditions of professional artists in New Zealand.

The report includes three main sections that cover: how artists became artists and the influence of family, schools and mentors artists’ employment arrangements, how artists spend their time and how much they earn business-related topics, including obtaining and promoting work, and running a business.

The 1010 artists were surveyed about a wide range of topics, including: early interest in the arts, career paths, education and training, business skills, professional development, international experience, marketing and promotion of their work, income and expenditure. Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says the data has been invaluable.

“In undertaking this research, Creative New Zealand’s priority was to use these findings in our strategic planning and advocacy work. This research also has significant ongoing value and will provide baseline data for future studies that arts organisations, tertiary institutions and government agencies might undertake.”

The findings of the survey paint a picture of New Zealand artists in a changing world as they deal with the challenges of self-employment, entrepreneurism and the impact of new technologies. Of the artists surveyed, 70% were either self-employed or freelance, compared to 13% of the New Zealand labour force at the time of the survey (Statistics New Zealand). For the artists who completed the income and expenditure survey the median income was $20,700 compared to a median income of $27,934 for all New Zealanders in paid employment in the year ended June 1999 (Statistics New Zealand). Artists also tended to spend only 50% of their week working on their creative work in their principal artistic occupation while 78% of them wanted to spend more time working on their principal artistic occupation.

“It is sobering to note that many artists earn less than the average New Zealand wage, are only able to spend a limited time on their creative work and are reliant on other types of work to earn a living,” says Miss Kerr.

The survey indicates the huge importance of early art experiences along with family, school and mentor support. In the survey, 76% of those surveyed attended live concerts or performances when they were growing up, 72% visited museums and galleries, and 70% were involved in school-based arts activities.

The survey also points out that many artists are keen to develop their business skills. Section three of the report, which considers business-related topics, indicates that 50% of those interviewed wanted more training in marketing, 35% in copyright and 30% in contracts.

When asked why they chose a career in the arts, most artists said they were motivated by love and passion for their work as well as personal and professional satisfaction. Many also believed they played a role in creating a unique national cultural identity.

The findings have been a source of information to help guide Creative New Zealand’s 2001 – 2004 strategic plan as well as a number of its initiatives such as the publication of Smart arts: Toi huatau, a practical guide to marketing the arts in New Zealand and The Touring Manual, which supports artists and arts organisations wanting to tour their work in New Zealand and overseas.

Survey findings informed Creative New Zealand’s arts employment strategy, where the organisation has been providing advice to the Ministry of Social Development to support the establishment and ongoing implementation of the PACE (Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment) programme, and supporting the development of The Big Idea website to expand work and income opportunities for creative workers.

The findings also contributed to increased support of the literary, craft/object art and contemporary dance sectors, including the creation of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement, the Creative New Zealand Writers’ Fellowship, the Creative New Zealand Craft /Object Art Fellowship and the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship and residency for contemporary dance.

Portrait of the Artist/Te whakaahua ô te Tangata provides a portrait of the artist in New Zealand at the end of the Twentieth century. Miss Kerr says that since the research was undertaken a much more supportive environment for the arts has emerged.

“With increased government support for the arts and creative industries, Creative New Zealand has been able to establish a range of initiatives,” she says. “I believe that New Zealand is becoming a country that acknowledges and celebrates the arts and their pivotal role within a creative, innovative society.”

Portrait of the Artist / Te whakaahua ô te Tangata pûkenga

Key Findings

There were at least 9000 professional practising artists in New Zealand in 1990/99. 1010 were interviewed in the survey:

48% female 52% male

93% non-Mâori. 7% Mâori


70% of artists can be described as self-employed or freelance. (page 44)

10% of artists provide paid part-time employment for other people in long-term or permanent positions. (p.44)

Artists spend only half the week working on creative activity in their principal artistic occupation. (p. 46)

Mâori artists are more likely than non-Mâori artists to be prevented from spending more time on their creative work in their principal artistic occupation because of lack of access to materials, equipment or workspace. (17% cf 6%). (p. 47)

Early arts experiences that may have influenced artists to pursue an arts career

76% attended live concerts or performances; 72% visited museums and galleries 70% were involved in school-based activities.

Further training

81% want to take part in further skill development training or experiences. (p.30)

68% of artists cite lack of financial return as the main factor inhibiting their professional development. (p. 20)

35% believe there are inadequate professional training opportunities in New Zealand. (p. 28).

Business advice

The most common types of business advice sought by artists are tax (58%), marketing/promotion (42%) and finance (37%). (p. 71) Accountants are the main providers of business advice to artists (p. 68)

74% of artists want further business training or advice. (p. 72)

50% of artists wanted more training in marketing; 35% wanted more training in copyright; 30% wanted more training about contracts (p. 72).

Only 25% of artists reported that they don’t have any difficulties understanding their tax obligations.

Overseas experience

60% of artists have had experience overseas as professional practising artists (p. 34).

Creative New Zealand grants

38% of artists had received a Creative New Zealand grant at some stage in their career.

Similar proportions of Maori and non-Maori artists had received a grant (42% and 38%).

Similar proportions of female and male artists had received a grant (39% and 37%).

Income Information

393 artists completed the income survey, data applies to the year ended March 1999 The median gross annual income from all sources for these artists was $20,700. (p.50).

The median income from their principal artistic occupation was $3,700. (p. 50)

The median income from all arts-related work was $7,700. (p.50)

Male artists’ median income from all sources was more than twice than of female artists. ($31,000 cf $15,000)

Male artists’ median income from their principal artistic occupation was more than three times than of female artists. ($6,800 cf $2,100).

Writers had the lowest median income from work in their principal artistic occupation. (p. 51).

32% of artists had experienced one or more periods without paid work at some time during the two year period ending March 1999 and 21% had experienced such periods in both years. (p.54)

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