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E – Working with artists

E.1 Simple guide to contracting

This is probably the main reason why you got involved in arts development – the process of developing people’s creativity and seeing something beautiful evolve. So its worth remembering that engaging artists to deliver work for you and your Council is a partnership – your end of the deal is to define the outcomes, ensure the project is set up properly and pay the artist. Firstly, how much to pay? Guidance issued by the Arts Council recommends that participative artists are paid around £175 per day, plus expenses. A simple taster workshop will normally be a half-day fee. You will need to negotiate an inclusive fee that will pay for a number of different contributions from the artist; for example an inclusive fee may cover:

  • Contact time for participation (no of days/hours)
  • Planning time
  • Evaluation after the project is completed
  • Artist attendance at public launch of the creation
  • Travel and accommodation, if appropriate

Remember to be clear about materials. You may be offering a budget that can be used to purchase materials, or the artist may be supplying their own. The key issue that both parties know what is expected.

Wood sculpture by Nick Horrigan
Wood sculpture by Nick Horrigan. Courtesy of Fermyn Wood Studios


Once this is agreed, you will issue a contract. This can be a simple letter of agreement between you and the artist, or an artist may have a template that they will issue to you. Either way, the agreement will set out clearly:

  • When the project happens, and over what hours. This may be in an agreed project brief, which is attached to the contract
  • Where
  • Details of the outcomes you expect – this may include details of groups who will participate
  • Materials to be supplied and by whom
  • How the fee is to be paid, and in what instalments (it is not uncommon to pay a %age in advance), plus details of additional expenses agreed
  • How evaluation happens, and by when
  • Evidence that the artist has undergone a police check (see section C.3)
  • Evidence of artist’s VAT status and public liability insurance
  • Cancellation policy – this is the fee that may be payable (by either partner) if the project cannot proceed after contracts are signed.
  • Public liability insurance requirements

Where you are commissioning a new piece of work, or public art, the contract will need to be more detailed. It will need to cover a number of development stages – design, creation, installation and maintenance, for example. a-n contracts http://www.commissionsnorth.org/commissioning/guidelines/8 is a useful website that offers guidance in contracts for commissions. Walsall Metropolitan Council arts team have an excellent contract form for public art commissions that covers all the necessary details.

Finally, it is worth remembering that a verbal agreement between you and the artist is enforceable; it is often assumed that the contract is the legal document, but that is not so. The written contract does, however, set out the key details of your agreement, in the interests of both partners.