Hardening insurance market pricing out artists and arts workers

It is crucial that policymakers and insurance providers take necessary steps to ensure insurance is widely available and accessible to all.

Affordable and accessible insurance is an essential part of sustaining professional practice, providing protection for artists and arts workers against a range of risks. However, in recent years, many insurance providers have removed products and reduced coverage while increasing the cost of premiums. These changes will continue to have a significant impact on the work, practices and incomes of artists and arts workers across the entire sector.

The hardening insurance market for artists reflects a broader trend among insurance providers to be more risk-averse. This trend is driven by a combination of factors, including rising claims and costs associated with Covid-19 and extreme weather events such as floods and bushfires, low interest rates, and falling investment returns. Many insurance providers have responded by reducing the range of insurance coverage and products to cover their costs and maintain profitability. 

Visual artists, craft practitioners and designers are often required to have their own insurance in order to participate in a wide range of activities, such as exhibiting, creating works in public spaces, presenting workshops, renting a studio, occupying an open studio, and presenting or selling work at market stalls. Similarly, arts workers (curators, installers, registrars, conservators, arts administrators etc.) are often required to source their own insurance as independent contractors.

While this trend has consequences that affect a wide range of professions and industries, the impacts are particularly acute for independent artists and arts workers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Census, the median income for visual artists and craft professionals was $25,840 – well below the median income for all occupations in Australia of $52,988. Many will struggle to afford the higher premiums or find it difficult to obtain appropriate coverage, which can lead to income loss and emotional and financial hardship. Some may opt to take on greater risk in order to reduce their insurance costs, resulting in greater exposure to litigation and legal costs. Others may abandon their work and practices altogether.

NAVA is currently working with several other arts service organisations across Australia to contest recent changes to a shared discounted insurance package provided by QBE Insurance and brokered by Local Community Insurance Services (LCIS). The new restrictions in coverage and products has prevented many artists and arts workers from obtaining or renewing insurance coverage, while also increasing the cost of premiums for arts service organisations.

The changes rule out artists who use kilns (as an in person activity) and tools or equipment that produce an open flame, as well as those who sell or present work at market stalls and art fairs – cutting out entire practices from accessing the insurance package. Professional Indemnity coverage has also been removed from the policy offering. 

Reducing the coverage of selling or presenting work at market stalls will be significantly felt by a large number of independent First Nations artists who display and sell works at Aboriginal art fairs held every week across the country, such as the Tarnanthi Art Fair in South Australia and the Blak Markets in Sydney. Many will have to source alternative, more expensive insurance options, while others may be priced out of participating entirely.

Similarly, the decision by insurance providers to strip out coverage for kiln use and arts activities requiring an open flame, will have a profound impact on the booming ceramics industry. Ceramists, like most artists, require insurance to work in a studio, undertake a residency, present workshops, and display their work at markets or art fairs. This can limit their ability to create, showcase and sell their work, ultimately reducing their income and stifling their artistic practices. Many ceramicists are now being forced to seek out markedly more expensive business insurance.

The scaling back of coverage also has the potential to affect jewellers, glass practitioners, silversmiths, blacksmiths, sculptors, as well as those with multi-disciplinary practices and anyone who seeks to experiment with mediums. The lack of affordable insurance options will have a ripple effect on the entire visual arts and craft industry, stifling its growth and potential, and may also discourage new artists from entering the industry.

Discounted insurance is critical to sustaining the work and practices of visual artists and arts workers. Without adequate insurance coverage, these risks can cause significant financial and emotional stress, and may even prevent artists and arts workers from continuing their work and practices. Moreover, insurance can provide a sense of security that allows artists to focus on their artistic practices, creative experimentation and the development of their careers. It is crucial that policymakers and insurance providers recognise this and take necessary steps to ensure insurance is widely available and accessible to all.

Are you impacted by the changes to NAVA insurance? We need your help

NAVA is working with arts service organisations across Australia that hold the same group policy to contest the new guidelines because we know how important discounted insurance is for artists and our sector.

Can you please share how these changes will impact your work and practice as an independent artist, group or organisation? Sharing why this policy is critical for your work will help NAVA contest the changes.

NAVA is also looking for artists who are willing to share their experiences with the media. Your stories will help raise visibility of the issue and may help to resolve it.

While we all work on turning this issue around, we understand that you may have individual concerns and questions. Please email nava@visualarts.net.au or call us during the following office hours (AEST): 9.00-10.00am and 2.00-4.00pm Mondays to Thursdays. 

Image: Andrey Zhorov.
[ID: Photo of a craft practitioner putting a raw clay pot into a kiln for firing. She is wearing a navy tank top and a grey apron.]

An important message regarding changes to NAVA insurance

Changes are being made to NAVA’s Premium Plus insurance policy we hold with Local Community Insurance Services (LCIS) and QBE Insurance.