Together We Will: Pledge

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Visual Arts South West calls for all arts organisations, institutions and independent arts organisers working in South West England to join a pledge to implement new recommendations for best practice.

Join us to transform working cultures in the visual arts by committing to a new set of best practice guidelines. This pledge to commit to best practice is intended as a supportive framework for us as a region to bring tangible, long-term change to our sector by making our organisations’ governance, employment conditions, programming practices and professional development opportunities more inclusive, accessible and hospitable.

Find the best practice guidelines here to consider which recommendations are relevant to your work and outline a plan of action for your commitment.

These recommendations cover:

  • Organisational cultures
  • Employment and pay
  • Programming
  • Professional development
  • Application processes
  • Developing connections


If you would like to join the pledge, we ask you to demonstrate your commitment by:

  1. Joining VASW’s public list of signatories
  2. Share a brief statement of intent, outlining any areas of work that are urgent or relevant to your organisational or individual development, and concrete examples of changes to be made within a self-determined timeframe

To encourage proactive and long-term consideration of best practice, we will check in with you after one year since signing the pledge to enquire about any changes, improvements or investments you have made. This is also an opportunity for you to share any challenges you have faced or discoveries you have made. Any experiences you share will support VASW as the initiator of the pledge in developing helpful resources for all signatories in the process of finding the most appropriate ways to implement new practices and policies.

If you would like to join the pledge or to find out more, please email info@vasw.org.uk.

Explore the new best practice guidelines to outline a plan of action for your commitment.

Background

In 2021, Visual Arts South West invited artworkers in South West England to develop new best practice guidelines for our professional community. The visual arts sector is still in the process of managing the far-reaching impact of COVID-19, but we have already seen how the immediate economic effects of the pandemic have amplified prevailing structures of inequality and unsustainable working conditions. Alongside small organisations, freelancers and young people, primarily Black, People of Colour, disabled and neurodivergent artworkers have been disproportionately affected by precarious employment and at the highest risk of losing their income. Due to the habituality of precarious employment and low pay in our sector, the visual arts has a history of systematically favouring those with a higher socioeconomic status in accessing opportunities. At the same time, established organisations still need to address wider institutional policies and practices that allow the continuation of unfair treatment.

To address these long-standing concerns, four Artworker Advisory Groups collectively developed new recommendations for best practice to increase equal access to, and to foster more inclusive, fair and hospitable working cultures in the visual arts. The groups focused on experiences of Black and POC, disabled and neurodivergent, LGBTQIA+ and young artworkers.

Aims

This pledge is a challenge to arts organisers and organisations of all scales to rethink and fundamentally shift the ways they work. Pursuing this change is primarily an attempt to support artworkers who are in the most precarious positions in relation to institutional structures – e.g. artists, freelancers and casual workers – whilst providing all arts professionals tools and vocabularies for confidently communicating needs and boundaries to collaborators and employers. Setting clear demands for higher ethical standards in employment terms and working conditions also provides improved grounds for supporting salaried employees in more stable and resourced organisations, who are yet to establish appropriate practices of care.

These recommendations for best practice are the first step in aspiring to equal access for everyone, professionally and otherwise, to arts organisations as safe environments that have the desire, knowledge and means to consider the specific needs and experiences of the communities and publics they serve.

Support for signatories, artworkers and the wider sector

Institutions, organisations and arts organisers

In 2022, we will invite organisations to apply for governance development support which will entail tailored advice on implementing relevant recommendations as well as subsidised training. Two organisations will be selected based on expressions of interest.

In addition, we will develop further resources for signatories and the wider sector to support the successful implementation of best practice across the region.

Artists, freelancers and casual workers

We want to extend as much direct support as we can to those whose working conditions the recommendations are primarily intended to benefit. If an artworker experiences treatment that is clearly out of alignment with the recommendations in a collaboration with a signatory, we are prepared to support the artworker by contacting the signatory on their behalf. Each case will be assessed on an individual basis, but our primary role is to remind the signatory of any specific best practice recommendations relevant to the case and prompt a transparent investigation into all processes applied during the collaboration in question.

We will also compile a collection of resources, including a list of consultants and agents who may be able to support individual artworkers with conflict resolution.

If you would like further information on the Together We Will Pledge, please reach out to the VASW Team.