While you’re here… help us stay here.

Are you enjoying open access to policy and research published by a broad range of organisations? Please donate today so that we can continue to provide this service.


Based on a survey conducted in 2016, the data in this study reveals that the small-to-medium (S2M) visual arts sector employs over 2,000 people, puts $100 million into the economy and produces 26,000 new art works each year - with a budget worth just 0.03% of Federal Government revenue. However, there has been a 17.5% decline in per capita federal arts spending since 2008.

Key points

1 // Art shapes the preferences and views of the community, influencing patterns of consumption and production, and therefore has an important economic role.

2 // ‘Art literacy’ has similar public benefit to that of text literacy and numeracy in providing the value that comes from having an educated public.

3 // The arts function like an ecosystem with diverse types of interdependent organisations. Australia’s small-to-medium (S2M) visual arts sector (which itself consists of different types of organisations that perform a variety of functions) is an essential element in supporting the production, distribution and appreciation of contemporary Australian art.

4 // The S2M sector is producing more art, supporting more artists and engaging with wider and more diverse audiences than ever before.

5 // The S2M sector facilitates the production of four times as many new works as the major galleries commission and acquire, but operates on little more than a quarter of their budgets.

6 // Arts funding for the S2M sector has not kept pace with inflation and population growth, let alone the increased outputs of the sector and the demands placed upon it.

7 // These increased pressures have seen declining numbers of full time arts professionals and the casualisation of the sector’s workforce. Arts professionals are paid a fraction of average earnings, generally well below recommended industry rates.

8 // These trends predate recent federal government funding cuts and will be exacerbated by them. Federal funding cuts affect a number of well-known organisations that are the link between communities, artist-run initiatives and major national and international galleries and art events (including biennales and art fairs).

9 // Cuts to federal funding of these organisations:

  • +  Reduce their ability to support and promote Australia’s most talented artists
  • +  Exacerbate already intense competition for state and local government funding and other revenue
  • +  Impact adversely on the organisations that promote early stage artists and also on the major arts organisations
  • +  Diminish the public’s access to Australian art.

10 // Arts funding policy needs to be developed in a coordinated way between the three levels of government and other funders and informed by close consultation with the arts sector. Policy makers need to understand the different roles, outputs and support structures of different S2M arts organisations.

11 // This report provides extensive quantitative data to assist in this policy development process.

Publication Details
Access Rights Type: