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The arts in regional Australia: A research summary

November 29, 2017

The arts in regional Australia: A research summary

November 29, 2017

Overview

The stories of Australia’s regional and remote communities are integral to the fabric of a culturally ambitious nation, and the artistic excellence among regional artists is critical to a vibrant arts sector that reflects Australia’s depth and diversity. Engagement with the arts enriches the lives of regional Australians and creates stronger, healthier and more cohesive communities.

This webpage brings together findings from a number of the Australia Council’s research publications to build the evidence base about regional arts and artists, and engagement with the arts in regional Australia.

Key stories

Click on key stories below or scroll down to read more.

Impacts, attitudes and giving to the arts

From Australia Council 2017, Connecting Australians: Results of the National Arts Participation Survey unless otherwise stated

People living in regional Australia increasingly recognise the positive impacts of the arts on their daily lives and communities.

Impacts of the arts

  • The vast majority of people living in regional Australia recognise positive impacts of the arts in their lives (84%).
  • People in regional Australia are a little less inclined to acknowledge the positive impacts of the arts (84%) than those in metropolitan areas (86%), in line with their slightly lower attendance.

Impacts of the arts for regional Australians

Click here to explore by gender, age and location. Click here to explore by state/territory and region.

In 2016:

  • 7 in 10 people in regional Australia believed the arts had a ‘big’ or ‘very big’ impact on stimulating their minds (68%)
  • almost 7 in 10 believed the arts impact their ability to express themselves (67%), up from 6 in 10 in 2013 (60%)
  • 65% believed the arts impact their ability to think creatively and develop new ideas, up from 57% in 2013
  • 64% believed the arts had a ‘big’ or ‘very big’ impact on child development
  • 62% believed the arts help us understand other people and cultures
  • 57% believed the arts impact our sense of wellbeing and happiness, up from 52% in 2013
  • 57% believed the arts shape and express Australian identity, up from 44% in 2013
  • 42% believed the arts bring customers to local businesses.

Regional Australians’ attitudes to the arts

  • The vast majority of regional Australians have positive attitudes about the value of the arts. They believe the arts reflect and contribute to society, to cultural identity, and to Australia’s international reputation. The arts help give life meaning and regional Australians are proud of our artists.

Around three quarters of regional Australians:

  • agree that Indigenous arts are an important part of Australia’s culture (78%)
  • feel proud when Australian artists do well overseas (76%)
  • agree that artists make an important contribution to Australian society (76%)
  • agree that the arts in Australia reflect Australia’s cultural diversity (74%).

Around 7 in 10 regional Australians:

  • agree that the arts should be part of the education of every Australian (72%)
  • agree that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life (71%)
  • agree that the arts are an important way to get different perspectives (71%)
  • agree that it is exciting to see new styles of art (68%)
  • agree that artists should have total freedom of expression (68%).

Click here to explore by gender, age and location. Click here to explore by state/territory and region.

Giving to the arts

  • The high value that regional Australians place on the arts is reflected in the time and money they give to support artists, arts organisations and arts projects.
  • 1 in 4 regional Australians gave their time or money to the arts in 2016 (27%), on par with metropolitan Australians.

Regional Australians’ giving to the arts

 

Arts engagement in regional Australia

From Australia Council 2017, Connecting Australians: Results of the National Arts Participation Survey unless otherwise stated

Creativity is strong in the regions – residents of regional Australia are as likely to creatively participate in the arts as residents of metropolitan Australia, and living in a regional area does not substantially affect overall arts attendance.

Arts attendance

  • Living in a regional area does not substantially affect arts attendance, with around seven in ten people attending the arts in regional Australia (69%) compared to metropolitan Australia (73%).
  • Australians in regional areas are less likely to attend live music (51%) than those in metropolitan Australia (56%), and are also less likely to attend theatre (33% vs 44%).
  • Australians in regional areas are less likely to attend festivals (38%) than those in metropolitan areas (48%). While this may reflect that festivals in cities are more accessible to more Australians, festivals in regional Australia are drivers for regional tourism, including intrastate overnight trips.[1]

[1] Tourism Research Australia 2014, Events: Drivers of Regional Tourism. Australian Government: Austrade, Canberra.

Regional Australians’ arts attendance

Regional Australians’ festival attendance – 2016 only

Attendance at First Nations arts

  • 1 in 3 people in regional Australia attend First Nations arts – the same proportion as in metropolitan Australia.
  • Attendance at First Nations arts in regional Australia has almost doubled since 2009, from 19% to 34%. There have been significant increases in regional Australians attendance at First Nations dance and visual arts and craft.

Regional Australians’ attendance at First Nations arts

National mapping of the programs of 135 Australian presenters[2] found that although more than half of First Nations programming takes place in major cities (59%), this work comprised only 2% of the total works presented in major cities in 2015. First Nations work made up 3% of all programming in regional Australia; and 7% of programming in remote Australia.

The slightly higher representation in regional areas is in spite of interviewees’ views that the challenges of racial differences are more significant in regional areas:

In the cities… people are excited about seeing it. But I think in the regional areas there’s still a little bit of reservation about going to see an Indigenous work. Are you going to be preached at and made to feel guilty? There’s still a lot of racism about that you’re fighting.

The research found that presenters who are motivated to challenge and build their audiences are more likely to program First Nations works. Opportunities for increased audiences lie in ‘potential audiences’ and the ‘schools market’. Regional presenters could tour popular artists, while investing in long-term community engagement, and works with a local angle.

[2] Australia Council 2016, Showcasing Creativity: Programming and presenting First Nations performing arts.

Creative arts participation

  • Creativity is strong in the regions – residents of regional Australia are as likely to creatively participate in the arts (48%) as residents of metropolitan Australia (46%).
  • Regional Australians are more likely to create visual arts and craft (33%) compared to metropolitan residents (29%).

Regional Australians’ creative arts participation

Online arts engagement

  • Online engagement with the arts is booming – in the digital age the arts are more accessible than ever. Online engagement is reaching new audiences rather than replacing existing ones.
  • Regional Australians are less likely to engage with the arts online (77%) than metropolitan Australians (82%), but the difference is not substantial given that access to high speed internet is more challenging in regional Australia.[3]

[3] Schirmer, J, Yabsley, B, Mylek, M. and Peel, D. 2016, Wellbeing, resilience and liveability in regional Australia: The 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey. University of Canberra, Canberra.

Regional Australians’ online arts engagement, 2016

Regional artists

From Throsby, D & Petetskaya, K 2017, Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia unless otherwise stated

1 in 6 professional Australian artists live in regional cities or towns, and around 1 in 10 live in rural, remote or very remote areas. Craft practitioners, visual artists and community arts and cultural development (CACD) artists are the most likely to live outside capital cities.

Location of professional artists

  • There continues to be a concentration of artists in urban areas. Three quarters (74%) live in cities, compared to two thirds of the Australian population. This urban concentration is greater for some areas of practice, such as performing arts, and may in part be related to concentration of cultural infrastructure in cities.
  • 1 in 6 Australian artists live in regional cities or towns (16%) and around 1 in 10 live in rural, remote or very remote areas (11%).

Location of professional artists (%), 2016-17

  • The highest proportions of artists living outside capital cities are among visual artists, craft practitioners, writers, musicians and CACD artists.
    • 1 in 4 visual artists live in regional cities or towns (24%) and 12% live in rural or remote areas
    • 1 in 4 craft practitioners live in regional cities or towns (27%) and 1 in 5 live in rural or remote areas (20%)
    • almost 1 in 5 writers live in regional cities or towns (18%) and 14% live in rural or remote areas
    • almost 1 in 5 musicians live in regional cities or towns (18%) and 8% live in rural areas
    • across all art forms, the proportion of artists who live in rural areas is greatest among CACD artists (27%). Only 56% of CACD artists live in capital cities – the rest live in regional cities or towns (14%) or remote areas (3%).
  • A relatively small proportion of actors/directors, dancers/choreographers, and composers live outside capital cities (16% of actors, 18% of dancers/choreographers and 17% of composers).

Demographics of regional artists

  • In regional, rural and remote areas the majority of artists are female.
  • Artists who live outside capital cities tend to be older on average.
  • Artists in regional areas are more likely to be married or living with a partner but with no dependent children.

Demographic characteristics of artists from different locations (%), 2016-17

Regionally based artist have increasingly negative perceptions about the impact of their location on their practice. Artists living in the regions earn almost a third less than their city counterparts for creative work. These are trends to watch to understand the degree to which artists can maintain practice in regional Australia.

Effect of regional location on artistic practice

  • Regional artists are critical to a vibrant arts sector that reflects Australia’s depth and diversity. Since the last survey, negative perceptions about the impact of being a regional artist have increased: 42% of artists in regional locations say their location has a more negative than positive impact on their practice, up from 25% in 2009. There may be a range of factors influencing these perceptions, making this a trend to watch in order to understand the degree to which artists can maintain practice in regional Australia.
  • 1 in 5 non-capital city artists indicated that their location had no effect on their work (21%).

Effects of living outside a capital city on creative practice, 2016-17 (% of those living outside capital cities)

  • Craft practitioners are the most likely to report positive effects (60%). Half of dancers/choreographers and composers also reported positive effects, but only a small proportion of these artists live outside capital cities.
  • Actors/directors and visual artists were the most likely to report negative effects (53% and 51% respectively).

Income

  • Artists living in the regions earn almost a third (29%) less than their city counterparts for their creative work, and 15% less overall. It is difficult to compare these trends to general workforce incomes in metropolitan and regional Australia due to the impact of high wages in some regional areas related to activities such as mining.
  • Average creative income for regional artists is $14,400, and the median is $4,100, pointing to a concentration of artists at the lower end. Average expenses related to arts practice are $9,500, and the median is $4,400 – which is higher than median creative income.
  • Average total income from all sources for regional artists (including arts-related and non-arts work) is $42,900, and the median in $36,000. This is just above what is reported by regional artists as the minimum after-tax income required to meet based needs ($35,000).

Mean and median incomes and expenses of regional and capital city artists, 2014-15 ($)

  • ‘Lack of financial return from creative practice’ is the most important factor inhibiting professional development of both regional and capital city artists, both throughout their career, and at the present time.
  • There are no differences between capital-city and non-capital city artists in their reported application and success rates for financial assistance. 53% of non-capital city artists applied for a grant, fellowship, residence, prize or funding between 2010 and 2015 and of these, 67% were successful.
  • There is no difference between capital-city and non-capital-city artists according to whether or not they have experienced unemployment in the last five years. However, the length of time that artists outside of capital cities have spent in unemployment, and their longest consecutive periods of remaining unemployed, are significantly greater.
  • Average total income from all sources for regional artists (including arts-related and non-arts work) is $42,900, and the median in $36,000. This is just above what is reported by regional artists as the minimum after-tax income required to meet based needs ($35,000).

First Nations peoples’ arts engagement in regional and remote Australia

From Australia Council 2017, Living Culture: First Nations arts participation and wellbeing, based on ABS data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (customised report), unless otherwise stated

1 in 3 First Nations people in remote Australia creatively participate in First Nations arts and almost 1 in 10 earn income from the arts. However, remote creative arts participation rates declined between 2008 and 2014–15 driven by declines in remote NT and Queensland – a concerning trend given the importance of First Nations arts to cultural and economic sustainability, and community wellbeing.

First Nations economic arts participation

  • 1 in 10 First Nations people in remote Australia earn income from arts (8.8%, compared to 2.9% in regional Australia and 2.8% in major cities).
  • In many remote communities arts and cultural production provide the only feasible pathway towards long-term economic and cultural sustainability.[4]

[4] Throsby D and Petetskaya K 2017, National Survey of Remote Indigenous Artists, Department of Economics, Macquarie University. Woodhead A and Acker T. 2014, The Art Economies Value Chain reports: Synthesis, CRC-REP Research Report CR004, Ninti One.

First Nations economic arts participation by region, 2014-15

First Nations peoples’ creative arts participation

  • 1 in 3 First Nations people in remote Australia creatively participate in First Nations arts (33%), compared to 1 in 4 in regional Australia (25%) or major cities (27%).
  • However, there were declines in First Nations creative arts participation rates in remote Australia between 2008 and 2014-15 (38% to 33%), driven by declines in remote NT (44% to 35%) and remote Queensland (39% to 30%).
  • There was a decline in participation in each art form:
    • creating First Nations arts and crafts – from 22% to 18%
    • writing or telling First Nations stories – from 21% to 18%
    • performing First Nations music, dance or theatre – from 16% to 13%.
  • There were also significant declines in creative participation among females in remote Australia (40% to 33%).
  • This is a concerning trend given the importance of First Nations arts to cultural and economic sustainability, and community wellbeing.

Click here for more on First Nations arts participation and wellbeing.

Click here to explore data on First Nations arts engagement by gender and region.

Click here to download detailed tables with breakdowns by a range of characteristics including by state/territory and remoteness areas.

First Nations remote creative arts participation trends

First Nations people living in remote areas are more likely to attend First Nations festivals than those in regional Australia or major cities. While First Nations people are a growing audience segment at cultural venues such as libraries, museums and art galleries, First Nations people living in regional and remote Australia are much less likely to attend these.

First Nations peoples’ arts and cultural attendance

  • First Nations people living in remote areas are more likely to attend First Nations festivals than those in regional Australia or major cities.
  • 1 in 3 First Nations people in remote Australia attended an Indigenous festival in 2014-15 (32%), 1 in 5 in regional Australia (20%), and 1 in 4 in major cities (23%).
  • While First Nations people are a growing audience segment at cultural venues such as libraries, museums and art galleries,[5] First Nations people living in regional and remote Australia are less likely to attend these.

In 2014-15:

  • 23% of First Nations people in remote Australia visited a library, museum or art gallery, 38% in regional Australia and 43% in major cities
  • 1 in 10 First Nations people in remote Australia attended theatre or concerts (9.4%), 1 in 5 in regional Australia (20%) and more than 1 in 4 in major cities (28%).

Click here to explore data on First Nations arts engagement by gender and region. Click here to download detailed tables with breakdowns by a range of characteristics including by state/territory and remoteness areas.

[5] This could include Indigenous or non-Indigenous venues and either Indigenous or non-Indigenous arts experiences.