The Difficulty Of Practising Fine Artists In Making A Living: Why Arts Entrepreneurship Education Is Important

PhD Thesis

Thom, M (2017). The Difficulty Of Practising Fine Artists In Making A Living: Why Arts Entrepreneurship Education Is Important. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Engineering
AuthorsThom, M
TypePhD Thesis

This study identifies six key reasons explaining the social phenomenon that many
practising fine artists find it so difficult to make a living in the arts.
Due to a marked paucity of research explaining this social phenomenon, the study
at hand investigates the internal factors related to artists’ personality, motivation, and
skills as well as various external factors influencing artists’ working and business
environment by applying two acknowledged analysis tools in strategic business
The literature findings highlight four external threat factors mainly responsible for a
very challenging working and business environment affecting practising fine artists’
chances of professional success. Consequently, two internal factors – notably artists’
motivation and ambition to conduct business and a living in the arts as well as their
developed skills – turn out to be key factors to successfully deal with these external
threat factors. In this context, three research aims related to practising artists’
professional education and preparation arise: the identification of crucial skills to
successfully make a living in the arts as practising artists, the status of their professional
education at higher education institutions (HEIs), and the capability of arts incubators as
alternative education programmes to prepare large numbers of practising fine artists for
professional success.
The approach to investigation is exploratory and inductive with a cross-sectional
survey strategy. To identify the crucial skills for professional success in the arts, surveys
of up to 219 fine art lecturers, 168 fine art undergraduates, and 149 commercial galleries
are conducted. To report on the status of fine artists’ educational preparation, 87
undergraduate degree programmes, 55 post-graduate programmes, and 46
extracurricular training offerings at HEIs are investigated. The study focuses mainly on
the UK and Germany. These countries are selected due to their significantly different
market sizes and reputation for the purpose of identifying differences in market
challenges and professional preparations faced by fine artists. To analyse arts incubators’
capability in preparing large numbers of practising fine artists for a professional career, 92
arts incubation programmes around the globe are analysed and nine structured
interviews with practising fine artists are conducted.
The investigation of the crucial skills for fine artists’ professional success highlights
in particular the development of an entrepreneurial mindset as well as of seven skills.
Research on arts education shows evidence that fine art graduates are hardly equipped
with this skillset and mindset due to HEIs’ lack of focus on the professional careers of
practising artists. The analysis of arts incubation programmes illustrates serious
limitations in supporting larger numbers of practising fine artists in their professional
The research findings stimulate the discussion in, and contribute to, knowledge in
the fields of artists’ professional preparation, arts entrepreneurship, and the redesigning
of fine art curriculum to purposefully prepare fine art graduates for an entrepreneurial and
professional career as practising artists.

PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
Print01 Jun 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Feb 2018
Publisher's version
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