The average artist working in Northern Ireland earns just £7,500 a year. And 50% of artists here earned just £4,191 or less.
The findings, based on earnings from the 2008/2009 period, were revealed in a report carried out for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
The organisation said it is now “prioritising development opportunities for professional artists” following the insight into socio-economic context in which artists operate, as well as drawing together the findings of other similar international studies.
It also found that in comparison with other occupation groups, earnings of an average Northern Ireland worker for 2008/09 were more than 1.5 times those of the average artist, despite over two-thirds of artists having attained a university degree.
Rosemary Kelly OBE, Chairman of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Sustaining artists' careers must be a priority and the arts sector must be encouraged to offer opportunities which will ensure that talented artists choose and are able to live and work here.”
Nick Livingston, Director of Strategic Development at the Arts Council, said: “This report reveals the hidden value of the arts to the Northern Ireland economy and shows that investing in our creative talent is the key to our future economic success.”
As a result of the Living and Working Conditions of Artists report, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has already introduced a new funding programme designed to help artists fulfil their career potential.
Fifteen artists have so far benefited from the Artists’ Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) — a £5,000 bursary.