Visual Arts Manifesto, December 2017

Visual Arts Manifesto, December 2017


We teamed up with SCAN and Engage Scotland to co-author a Visual Arts Manifesto. Launched on 11 December 2017, this document was directly informed by members' data and experiences, gathered through various surveys and consultations by the three organisations over a number of years. 



This document is a direct response to the current challenges facing the art sector as a whole and our first public response to the new National Culture Strategy consultation process.

The Manifesto sets out our policy demands but also our collective commitment to positive change. This vision and set of ambitions for the sector will help ensure that we maintain Scotland’s global reputation as a dynamic, innovative place for contemporary visual arts.

Through this manifesto we commit to ensuring that diversity is celebrated and respected, that low paid cultural workers and artists have access to fair pay and professional working conditions and that barriers are removed for all those who choose to participate.

“We passionately believe in the important, intrinsic value of art and artists within society. This needs better understood and articulated, championed, and protected. But we also acknowledge change is needed. This manifesto makes public our commitment to work together, with others and with urgency to address the significant challenges and inequalities that exist within the visual arts in Scotland.

“This is a live document that will be updated regularly. We commit to continuing our discussions with others, listening to and understanding different approaches and experiences.”

Download a PDF of the Visual Arts Manifesto here



1. We, Engage Scotland, SCAN and the Scottish Artists Union undertake to work together with urgency to address the significant challenges and inequalities that exist within the visual arts in Scotland.


2. We are visual artists, cultural workers, curators, educators, freelancers, makers, producers, technicians, writers, art lovers and the organisations that employ, represent or support us.

3. We respect and value the diverse and powerful contribution that art and artists make to our society, culture, and economy.

4. We believe that art is vital for the health and wellbeing of individuals and society.

5. We recognize that artists inspire agency and change within their communities and they play an essential role in public life.

6. We call upon policymakers to place culture at the heart of representative policy and decision making.

7. We draw attention to the fragility of our arts infrastructure and its reliance on the voluntary or low paid work and diminishing investment.

8. We advocate for workers' rights, fair pay and professional working conditions across the arts and commit to upholding them in all aspects of our work.


9. We call for longer-term public investment that supports the creative and professional development of artists, workers and organisations.

10. We urge policymakers to develop fir for purpose legislation that supports and protects those navigating precarious livelihoods.

11. We seek to work within a cultural environment that is collaborative rather than competitive and resist the pressure of continual growth, a burden that expects us to do more with less.

12. We demand that the social impact and intrinsic value of our everyday cultural labour and commitment be recognised.

13. We commit to openness in our discussion, and understanding, of the barriers that affect people working in the visual arts and those who do not participate.

14. We pledge to take urgent action to create a visual arts sector that celebrates diversity and promotes equality of opportunity for all.

15. We insist that the potential of learning through the arts is seen as crucial in helping to change and shape children and young people's lives.

16. We maintain that learning can play a nourishing and vital role for all of us, throughout our lives.

17. We defend the right of art and artists to move freely across borders and defend the freedoms of our international peers and colleagues.

18. We are dedicated to working towards an environmentally sustainable future and will use our unique tools as artists and cultural workers to help innovate and inspire the transformational change that is needed.

19. We encourage others to work us to advance these intentions and navigate these precarious times.


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