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Did you know that engagement with the arts makes you happier or that the main source of income to the arts per annum is consumer spending?

The Australia Council for the Arts recently released Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts 2015. It puts forward a set of national indicators to increase understanding of the Australian arts industry and encourage national dialogue about arts and culture now and in the future. The big messages are not new for anyone who works in this area:

  • The arts are a big part of everyday life for Australians with high engagement levels and mostly positive attitudes to the arts and its impacts and benefits.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures are a rich and unique part of Australian life and are increasingly understood, valued and lauded on the world stage.
  • The cultural economy is big business contributing significantly to the Australian economy.

Overall Art Nation is a very valuable resource for anyone working in the arts sector or with an interest in the arts, providing data at a national level in a form that is easily understood and quotable. It is also a work in progress, which is acknowledged and looks forward to what future reports might cover.

There are some fantastic new facts that we want to highlight that have come out of new research.

Engagement with the arts make you happier – Rachel Smithies’ and Daniel Fujiwara’s analysis on subjective wellbeing suggests that engagement with the arts correlates with higher life satisfaction – the amount of money required to produce an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to arts engagement is $4,349 per person per annum. Across the Australian population this is equivalent to $66 billion a year.

Lower attendance 20km out of Brisbane – Living in a regional location limits engagement with the arts less than might be expected. Though it turns out that if you look at attendance in capital cities, people who live within a 20km radius from the city centre (inner urban) have higher arts attendance than those who live outside this area (peri-urban) (74% vs 69%) nationally. The largest differences in attendance between inner urban and peri-urban areas are observed in Brisbane (75% vs 54%) and Sydney (76% vs 69%).

People with disability and people with low incomes are now just as likely to create art as Australians overall  – Over the last four years there has been a big increase in creative participation in the arts by people with disability and people with low incomes. They are now just as likely to create art as Australians overall.

Women artists – Females accounted for less than a third of nominees for a selection of 21 major Australian arts awards open to both genders over the last three years and female artists earn half the median creative income of male artists, despite spending similar amounts of their time on creative practice (50% for males and 44% for females).

International arts tourism on the rise – Over the last four years, the number of international tourists to Australia has grown by 13 percent while the number of international arts tourists has increased 19 percent to 2.4 million in 2013–14. One in four international tourists visited a museum or art gallery in 2013–14 making it the most popular arts tourism activity. This level of engagement is similar to the UK and the USA (26% for Australia, 27% for the UK, 24% for the USA).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote areas have higher participation in arts and cultural activities. Those who do participate have markedly better physical and mental health and self-reported happiness and are more likely to complete secondary school and be employed.

Art production is the main source of commercial income for many remote communities with art centres. Between 2008 and 2012, remote Indigenous art centres generated around $53 million in art sales, with $30 million paid to artists. Nearly two thirds of artists who have received resale royalties are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The royalties generated by these Indigenous artists is close to $2.6 million which is almost half of the total royalties generated since 2010.

Cultural economy – A conservative estimate of the economic contribution of the arts is that the performing arts, music recording and publishing and arts education together contribute $4.2 billion (0.3% of GDP). This does not include the value of volunteer services which are estimated to be worth an additional $0.8 billion across arts and heritage organisations.

The main source of income to the arts is consumer spending. Australians spend almost $20 billion on cultural activities annually, which is four percent of their average weekly household expenditure. Most private support for the arts is from private donations, which continue to grow faster than corporate sponsorship and amount raised by artists through crowdfunding has more than quadrupled since 2011-12 to 2013-14 ($1.1m to $4.8m).

For more detail see Australia Council for the Arts, Art Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts 2015.

If you found this useful, you might like to have a look at Queensland’s Arts in Daily Life data or see how funding outcome report data links to the bigger picture data collected by Australia Council and others in The rings of value.

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