Artist basic income

Take Me Somewhere has announced a new experiment in developing sustainable livelihoods for contemporary performance artists working in Scotland – a pilot Artist Basic Income scheme that will offer £213 per week for a 9 month period to two artists, as a contribution towards living costs. They write:

We believe that major, structural, financial interventions are essential in order to sustain and secure people’s livelihoods, particularly in the post-pandemic landscape and in combating societal inequality and the cost of living crisis. Although we recognise there is a wide need for this across the country, as an arts organisation our modest pilot focuses on artists/ performance makers working in the area of contemporary performance.

There will be no expectations attached to the funding in terms of artistic creation. We expect the funding to be used broadly towards living expenses.  The two artists selected will be paid additionally for their time to measure the potential impact made. 

One of the most significant parts of this scheme may be the decision to use a non-competitive lottery process in a manner intended to serve Take Me Somewhere’s ambitions of increasing the diversity of people working in performance: first, by drawing from a pool of applicants who self-identify as being part of an underrepresented group, and then from a pool of all other applicants.

Take Me Somewhere’s use of a structured lottery follows Jerwood Arts’ decision to use random selection to identify participants in its 1:1FUND scheme which awarded grants of £2,000 to pairs of artists, curators and/or producers for experimentation, research and development of new ideas without a predetermined outcome. As they’ve recently reflected, ‘while far from perfect, random selection has the potential to be a useful tool to arts organisations, funders and wider cultural sector when used appropriately’, serving to reduce barriers to applicants, enable a more inclusive application process and remove usual decision-making biases. You can watch a recent discussion of Jerwood’s experience here:

Take Me Somewhere’s pilot scheme can also be understood in relation to Ireland’s much larger scale Basic Income For The Arts programme which aims to support the arts and creative practice by giving a payment of €325 a week to 2000 artists and creative arts workers over a long period of 3 years, from 2022 to 2025. Here too, eligible artists were selected at random – and from around 9000 applicants. These and other efforts runs in parallel to the prospects of a universal basic income, as in Scottish trials of a Citizen’s Basic Income. Such schemes are based on the principle offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, an unconditional, regular payment.

Though Take Me Somewhere’s pilot is necessarily small scale, it points towards the possibilities of funding models which balance the principles of universal access to the arts with recognition of how particular artists and communities of practice may need focused support in order to redress persistent structural exclusions within the wider arts and culture sector.

The deadline for applications is 5th September 2022, and the pilot will run between October  2022  and June 2023. For further details and information on how to apply, visit Take Me Somewhere’s website.