Regional artists are lowest paid

Hard yakka: Lennox Head artist Craig Gent-Diver is struggling to make a living from his art and supplements his income by working in various trades.
Hard yakka: Lennox Head artist Craig Gent-Diver is struggling to make a living from his art and supplements his income by working in various trades. Cathy Adams

WHEN people ask Craig Gent-Diver what he does for a living, he tends to mumble into his shoes.

The truth is he’s a painter with a degree in Visual Arts from Southern Cross University in Lismore.

But, these days, you’re more likely to find the Lennox Head resident up a scaffolding, painting someone’s house.

A new research project by the Australia Council has found artists, particularly those in regional areas, are among the lowest paid in our society.

In fact they have a median income from their creative work of only $5500, compared to $8000 for those in the city.

“Making a buck as an artist is tough,” said Mr Gent-Diver, 47.

“Many times I’ve thought about giving up, especially when the reality of paying bills kicks in. For the last two years I’ve taken regular work house painting.”

It won’t come as a surprise that most Australian artists still can’t live off the income they earn from their art, said Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts.

“We know that the arts in regional Australia face challenges that are distinct from those in the city, particularly around infrastructure, access, and proximity to markets,” she said.

On the plus side, 61 per cent of artists viewed living outside capital cities as having a positive effect on their creative practice.

Arts Northern Rivers chief executive officer Tony Duke said it was important for artists to develop a business framework that enabled them to compete on the national and international market.

“We teach people how to fish; we don’t give them a fish,” he said of the peak body for the arts and cultural sector in the Northern Rivers region, which runs regular workshops.

Mark Waller, of Lennox Head, is one of the lucky few who does make a living solely as an artist.

“I sell paintings through dealers on the Gold Coast and Canberra,” said Mr Waller, 47.

“I also make recycled furniture, which I sell by word of mouth.

“There can be times when it is very difficult to manage a mortgage with an erratic income. But I am just indescribably pig-headed and I am not afraid to sell myself.”

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