The Business

About this section

This section provides information about the business side of working as an artist in participatory. Voluntary Arts briefings are a good source of information for this and the briefings are downloadable free of charge following an initial sign up. Artworks Cymru’s Quality Principles provide a framework for ensuring quality in the filed of Participatory arts. ArtWorks Navigator’s bibliography for artists working in participatory settings also provides a list of sources of relevant information (including free and paid-for resources). 

Relationship with commissioners

Artist Theresa Easton's work with Walbottle School, Photo: David Lawson

ArtWorks Navigator’s laboratories with employers/commissioners and artists (community musicians and visual artists) show the skills and personal qualities which commissioners value in participatory artists:

  • A skillset comprising art form, contextual and personal skills
  • Excellent people skills and strong project management skills
  • Flexibility and facilitation skills so that artists can adapt their approach to the needs of the participants and setting
  • An understanding of the aims of the project and commissioner’s expectations
  • Mutual understanding and respect between commissioner and artist
  • There is no single definition of quality – this depends on the intent of the work. If the focus is on the music itself, organisations look first and foremost for artform excellence. For development organisations, their priority is more on excellent people skills.

Commissioners rely heavily on their ‘little black book’ to identify artists and personal recommendations from peers. Engaging someone on a trial period in a shadowing or assisting role is common practice.

This ‘how to‘ guide edited by Su Jones of a-n is aimed at arts managers exploring the practicalities of working with artists collaboratively and effectively.

Image: artist Theresa Easton’s work with Walbottle School, Photo: David Lawson


Helix Arts Sunderland Restorative Justice Programme with artist Adam Clarke Photo Adam Clarke

Helix Arts’ prezi on the main stages of project management identifies the important elements in the planning stage of a project: articulating the purpose/rationale of the project; stakeholder analysis/consultation; identification of funders; project risk management; planning and agreeing roles and responsibilities; drafting a partnership agreement; preparation of communications matrix; drafting master budget and cash flow forecast and recruitment of evaluator.

Image: Helix Arts’ Sunderland Restorative Justice Programme with artist Adam Clarke, Photo: Adam Clarke


Project management

ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 1 fabricsArtWorks North East’s workshop materials on project management include: a presentation on the role of the project manager and Dave Camlin’s prezi on the main stages of project management. JISC infonet also provides comprehensive free resources on project management. ArtWorks London’s activities include this perspective on the relationship between freelance artists and project managers.

Image: materials used by artist Pady O’Connor in ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 1



Our project management workshop includes an example budget for use with project activities. JISC infonet provides guidance on the main cost headings. Su Jones’ ‘how to‘ guide includes information about artists’ fees and the main areas to cover in a written contract. For information about tax, national insurance, VAT and benefits visit HM Revenue & Customs


ArtWorks North East Youth Work Workshop 2 Tommy Anderson face

This guide to arts funding provides tips on effective fundraising including: sources of funding, writing an application, what to include in an application and proofreading. Arts Council England publishes guidance on sources of funding for arts projects.

Image: artist Tommy Anderson’s Summertime Jam project for Helix Arts, Barnardos, Northumberland Clubs for Young People and Throckley Community Hall



Writing applications/artist statements

An artist’s statement is piece of writing about an artist’s practice which can be used in funding applications, project press releases, websites and when approaching commissioners. Artquest provides advice on writing these – the statement should act as an introduction to the artist’s practice as a whole, highlighting the common threads of ideas, motivations and process running run work. A longer statement may go into more detail about specific works. 

Artist Ben Jones, chef Rob Stewart and community allotment group The4Cs worked with residents in Gateshead on local growing and cooking project Building Bridges

Image: artist Ben Jones, chef Rob Stewart and community allotment group The4Cs worked with residents in Gateshead on local growing and cooking project Building Bridges


Stephen Cashman’s Thinking Big, published by the Arts Marketing Association, is the definitive guide to strategic arts marketing featuring diagrams, models, strategies and case studies. Voluntary Arts also publishes many relevant briefings which cover: design of promotional material, use of social media, e-marketing, press releases, search engine optimisation, planning a marketing campaign and design of promotional materials.

Event management

ArtWorks North East Criminal Justice Workshop 1 books

Voluntary Arts publishes the following briefings on event management: a checklist for the most important issues surrounding disability for arts events; finding a venue.

Image: selection of books used in ArtWorks North East Criminal Justice Workshop 1




Health and safety

Helix Arts Creative Progression Photo Sarah Blood

Voluntary Arts publishes several briefings on health and safety including risk assessment for organisers; Health and Safety for lone and remote workersevents checklist – disability and access. The National Society for Education in Arts & Design has a guide to safe practice in arts and design. The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on running an event safely.

Image: Helix Arts’ Creative Progression project with unemployed adults and employed people on low incomes, Photo: Sarah Blood


Insider Art at Kibblesworth Gateshead rednile

Voluntary Arts briefings provide up-to-date information about safeguarding: child protection (Disclosure and Barring Service checks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland); protection of vulnerable groups scheme (Scotland); child protection, Garda vetting and the arts (Republic of Ireland).

For guidance on disability access view: Arts Council England’s disability access: a good practice guide for the arts; Voluntary Arts Briefings on: equality and diversity update, 2013welcoming people with a learning disabilityevents checklist – disability and access.

Image: Insider Art at Kibblesworth, Gateshead, rednile


Voluntary Arts’ briefing on measuring the impact of arts and crafts activity provides a concise overview of the various ways to measure the quality and impact of activities with details of ten evaluation methods including proving and improving toolkit.

Arts Council England’s Partnership for Learning is a guide to evaluating arts education projects. Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum provides methodology prompts and case studies.

Sage Gateshead Silver Programme Photo Mark Savage

Image: Sage Gateshead’s Silver Programme, Photo: Mark Savage