#ArtIsEssential Campaign

February 12, 2021

In late November 2020, CHEAD and CVAN* met with key art sector organisations with regional and national influence in visual arts with a view to form an advocacy group. This meeting demonstrated a sense of urgency to change the perception that our sector is in a stable and comfortable condition, particularly when compared to other art forms such as Theatre, Dance, and Music.  There is a general understanding that due to the agile nature of our artform, we are able to reopen ahead of our other artforms, and when our doors are ‘open’, we are generating income, that the recovery fund has secured our sector, that we are saved, which is far from the case.

This perception needs to be changed. Be part of the visibility.

On 11th February 2021 CHEAD joined a panel of speakers to pitch the campaign to an audience of over 650 people. Speakers included;

Woodrow Kernohan – John Hansard Gallery and VASW

 Helen Cammock – Artist and VASW

 Sheryll Catto – Action Space 

 Sarah Munro – Baltic and CVAN 

 Sandra Booth – Director of Policy and External Relations, CHEAD. A transcript of Sandra’s advocacy pitch can be dowloaded here.

 Laura Sillars – MIMA 

Matthew Burrows – Artist and Artist Support Pledge 

 Julie Lomax – a-n The Artist Information Company 

 Alfredo Cramerotti – MOSTYN and VAGW

Katie Lineker: Practical application of the campaign

Paula Orrell: Thanks

This launch was designed to arm a wide cross section of our sector with the right assets, information, and energy to take to social media and tell their story as to why Art Is Essential to them, to their communities, to their organisation, to themselves.

The Campaign is now live and the assets can be found here.

There are huge parts of our practice that are currently not being engaged with especially those that reach communities and vulnerable groups.  The sector is incredibly diverse and some individuals are facing total loss of income, the precariousness of the delicate ecology of our sector has been exposed.  We need to ensure that the conversations with policy and decision makers are urgent and ongoing, to have a chance of influencing the longevity of our sector.

This campaign will also address the perception that we are seen as a fractured sector, unable to galvanise and amplify our messaging in a united way.  We are therefore driving a campaign that brings the entire ecology of the sector together, to change perception, to be visible, to secure our future.  This campaign will run throughout 2021, in which there is an unusually short spending review cycle.  We want to be visible throughout the year, and hard to ignore when the spending review comes up.

This first stage of the campaign is designed to demonstrate the far reaching impact of the visual arts sector by using social media as a tool to do so.  With one united approach to bring us together, to share our stories.

  • The arts and culture sector contributes £2.8 billion a year to the Treasury via taxation to the UK economy, and provides 363,700 jobs, but recent events have exposed the delicate ecology of our sector leaving it vulnerable. We need to ensure that policy and decision makers are considering the real needs of our sector and sees the far reaching impact the visual arts has in our communities and the contribution it makes to our economy.

    This campaign has been set up to unite us as one voice. As a sector, we need to come together to be visible throughout 2021 and the run-up to the Government Comprehensive Spending Review to demonstrate that #ArtIsEssential.

    Whether you are an artist, arts freelancer, arts educator, arts professional, venue, organisation, network or anyone in between – you can make a difference by being part of this campaign.

    Let us unite to influence policy and decision-makers to do the right thing by our sector.

    Tell your story and show the far-reaching impact of the visual arts sector, its contribution, and the vital role in building back the health and wealth post-Brexit and during our COVID-19 recovery.

This campaign has collaboration at its heart and has been made possible by the generosity of time and financial contributions from:

a-n, The Artist Information Company

BALTIC, Gateshead


CHEAD, Council for Higher Education in Art and Design

CVAN, England and the regional CVAN networks

Gasworks, London

International Curators ForumJerwood Arts

John Hansard GalleryManchester Art Gallery


Modern Art Oxford


Nottingham Contemporary

Plus Tate 

Turner Contemporary

*The Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) represents and supports a diverse and vibrant visual arts ecology, embracing a broad range of artistic and curatorial practice across the nine English regions.  

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