CVAN – The Year in Review: Advocacy, Engagement, and Progress


Dear Visual Arts Colleagues,

As we reflect on the past year, we can look back on a period of robust engagement, advocacy, and progress in the realm of policy and cultural development. Your support and involvement have been invaluable in shaping these efforts. Here’s a glimpse of what CVAN has been up to:

Policy, Advocacy and Engagement

The past month was marked by intense policy engagement, including meetings with MPs and members of the shadow cabinet. At the Labour Party Conference in October, CVAN took part in pivotal events alongside shadow cabinet ministers, discussing the transformation of arts education. There’s certainly a noticeable commitment to nurturing talent and supporting the arts within the political arena.

Key discussions encompassed diverse topics such as Brexit visa waivers, tax reliefs, grassroots support initiatives, cultural infrastructure, and the state of studio spaces. Our presence at No 10, Frieze Art Fair and meetings with influential figures including Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, offered the opportunity to guide policymakers on the value of the visual arts.

Influencing Cross-Departmental Initiatives

Our work on the Cultural Education Plan and the Creative Education Manifesto has made significant strides. We’ve shared crucial policy recommendations with the DCMS and the DfE cultural education plan committee, shaping a sustained cross-departmental initiative. Notably, our input has influenced manifestos, such as the Lib Dems’, signalling a potential wider impact.

We called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the Autumn Statement to provide urgent support for arts education in schools, warning that they are struggling to recruit the diverse talent they need. You can read the letter to the Chancellor here, and a related article in Arts Professional (behind a paywall).

The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Visual Arts introduced a new chair this year – MP Theo Clarke. CVAN continues to work closely with our key partners and the secretariat of DACS and a-n, to bring cross-party attention to the value of the visual arts. 

Advocacy and Support for Creative Workers

CVAN’s involvement in the DCMS Good Work Review Task and Finish Group, chaired by an executive from the BFI, underscores our commitment to advocating for the distinct needs of freelance contracted workers. Our recommendations address critical areas such as intellectual property, contract terms, and the impact of government schemes on creative workers. This aligns with our broader advocacy for fair treatment, sector support schemes and training.

Alarmingly, the number of filled roles in music, performing and visual arts fell from 311,000 to 276,000 between April 2022 and March 2023, according to government statistics as outlined in an Arts Professional article earlier this month.

In the article, Paula Orrell, CVAN’s National Director says: “Based on our research, the data unequivocally indicates that numerous challenges, including the rising cost of living, lack of professional growth opportunities, and limited public resources, make it increasingly difficult for artists and arts professionals to maintain a sustainable career.”

“Furthermore, these obstacles disproportionately impact individuals from marginalised communities seeking employment in various sectors. This has profound implications for nurturing emerging talent and may impede the future innovative growth of the visual arts.” 

The full Arts Professional article can be read here (paywall).

Museum Gallery Exhibition Tax Relief (MGETR)

CVAN continues to work closely with colleagues at Arts Council England and other cross art form trade bodies on a wide-ranging research project led by Nordicity, in collaboration with Ipsos and Saffery. The research will lead to a greater understanding of cultural tax reliefs and how critical they are to maintaining excellent exhibition and commission practice across the country. We will also continue to campaign for the permanent adoption of MGETR for the visual arts, to align with tax relief opportunities for other cultural sectors.

Navigating Post-Brexit Challenges

In the post-Brexit landscape, it remains crucial that CVAN continues to contribute to discussions around the challenges still faced by all parties and have contributed to a formal recommendation on mobility with members of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly, meeting with Lib Dem members to discuss the impact. CVAN continues to advocate for a visa waiver.

We always like to hear from you about your insights and issues related to ongoing challenges in cross-border work as we continue to navigate this landscape, making use of the 2022 report about the impact of leaving the EU on the visual arts.

Your engagement and support have been instrumental in driving all of these initiatives forward, so thank you. As we move into 2024, your continued involvement will be pivotal in shaping policy, advocating for artists’ rights, and fostering a vibrant cultural landscape.

Warm regards,

Paula Orrell

CVAN England, National Director