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A biweekly commentary written by Artist Robert Genn.

Artist at Work: Articles regarding Disability Insurance for Freelancers
First of a series of articles written by Aidan Cosgrave, of J.S.T. Productions.

Visual Arts ^

Robert Genn visual artist at canadaart.INFO
From the pen of

Robert Genn

Subscribe to Robert Genn's twice weekly letter for insight and inspiration for your artistic career.

March 6, 2015

"Gail Pateman of Squamish, B.C. wrote, "My daughter Mieko drew this azalea and wanted to share it with a real artist. She wrote a poem -- inspired by the spring sunshine. It was just so cool and spontaneous -- she sat on a rock for 30 minutes working (long for a kid's attention span) -- I think why I'm so taken by it is because I would never dream of doing that. There was this spark that lit up in her that was so magical. As a sports and science person whose artistic skills are limited to stick people, it's way out of my league to know what is appropriate for her age. Any suggestions for tools for a budding artist?"

Thanks, Gail. Start with a bottomless supply of drawing paper. Here are a few guidelines for parents of creative kids at any age:

Make time for unscheduled time.

Be outdoors without the intrusion of a whistle, goalpost or ski pole.

Nature walks create a culture of observation, taxonomy, collecting, recording and attaching meaning. Once meaning is felt, the desire to communicate pours like a love letter. "

Read the Painter's Keys Content Archives.


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Artist at Work ^

Peace of Mind

I recently received an e-mail regarding a member of the arts community who had become ill, was no longer able to work and needed some financial assistance. As I have done in the past, I sent a cheque to assist, though I knew this was only a band-aid solution. In the e-mail it indicated that the individual had no savings, no RRSPs, and no Disability Insurance. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon story. I suspect that many readers of this article are in need of reviewing their financial management strategy.

As I wrote the cheque I thought back to other cheques that I have written in similar situations and decided it was time to spread the word to freelancers about the importance of carrying Disability Insurance. To begin, I conducted an unscientific survey, asking freelancers if they have disability insurance. The good news was that the majority knew what Disability Insurance was; the bad news was that the majority did not carry it.

I know that this is an old topic but clearly the message has not resonated with its target. This is evidenced by the recent announcement in the States that the Altman Family will be matching donations to support a fund for members of the arts community who have been injured or fallen ill.

Why didn’t the surveyed freelancers have coverage? One individual seriously said, “I don’t require coverage because I am careful at work”. Most indicated that they are covered by WSIB or the group plan offered with their membership in an industry association. While these are valuable to freelancers, WSIB only covers an individual when they are injured on the job and many group plans only offer short-term coverage.

Disability Insurance offers extended coverage and, most importantly, covers you when you slip in front of a bus, fall ill, or, in the worst case, have been diagnosed with an incurable disease.

After understanding the limitations of WSIB and group plans the next reason given for not having coverage was the cost and hassle of signing up. I did not have an answer for this so I enlisted the help of my Insurance Broker to review various plans and find a financially viable option with simple sign up procedures.

For those unaware, Disability Insurance is a form of insurance coverage that provides a portion of income lost as the result of a total or partial disability caused by either an accident or an illness. Who should carry this insurance? Everyone. Who MUST carry this insurance? While it is not the law, it is commonsense that all individuals who are freelance and/or small business owners should carry disability insurance.

As noted, the reason many individuals in the arts community don’t have disability insurance is because it is perceived to be expensive. On average by investing approximately 3% of your annual income you can protect almost 90% of your income. More importantly Disability Insurance offers peace of mind, knowing that in the event that you are injured or fall ill, your financial situation will remain relatively solvent.
As a small business owner, I am very aware of the cost of insurance and the need for Disability Insurance. But I am also very aware of the cost when an individual does not carry the necessary insurance and becomes injured or is fallen by an illness. We are all human and tragedy can strike at anytime. There are too many in the community who have ignored the need for RRSP’s, life insurance, savings, and most importantly Disability Insurance.

This article is only the first step in ensuring that I don’t have to write any more cheques.
Step 2 - continue to spread the word about the importance of Disability Insurance
Step 3 - offer assistance to those with questions
Step 4 - source a cost effective and hassle free disability insurance plan
Step 5 - ensure that the curriculum in all Arts related programs includes a course on the
financial responsibilities of the freelance community

Disability Insurance = Peace of Mind.

aidan cosgrave
J.S.T. Productions


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Canadian Art Issues ^

CCART news about canada art at
Canadian Conference
of the Arts

CCA Bulletin 27/10
October 26, 2010

After 30 years, what has UNESCO’s Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist achieved?

Just the Facts
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist. With the support of the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) has conducted a critical review of this initiative in Canada. After 30 years of efforts, what exactly has been achieved for artists and creators in this country and abroad? The question is particularly relevant as we prepare for the CCA’s upcoming conference Artists: Powering the Creative Economy? Many of the issues analyzed in Status of the Artist in Canada will frame the panels, debates and conversations held on November 2 and 3 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
The paper analyzes how Canadian artists fare at social, economic and cultural levels. By exploring key issues like taxation, social benefits, training and professional development, health and safety, collective bargaining and other issues, the main concerns of artists in Canada’s current environment are established. Status of the Artist in Canada takes a look at federal initiatives used to bolster the ability of the artistic workforce followed by a breakdown of provincial initiatives.
After examining Canadian standards for artists, the document includes a brief analysis of international standards and best practices. This leads to a discussion regarding the relevance of status of the artist today and to the specific recommendation that states that the first $10,000 of net income earned from artistic activity be free from federal income tax liability. This special exemption would be added on top of the universal basic exemption.
Tell me more

Status of the Artist in Canada describes a category of legislation and other public policies directed at improving the economic and social status of professional artists. The concept has two components: the important role that artists play in every human society should be acknowledged, and government legislation and programs should encourage creative expression and ensure equitable treatment for artists by responding to the atypical manner in which they work.

The UNESCO Recommendation addresses issues and recommends government actions on the following:
Employment, working and living conditions of artists.
Recognition of the rights of their professional and union organizations.
Social status, including measures to ensure equivalent status to other workers in areas such as health and insurance.
Protection of freedom of expression and protection of intellectual property rights.
The education and training of artists.
The importance of arts education.
Measures related to income, support during periods of unemployment and retirement issues.

In Canada, there are many specific issues that have an impact on the social and economic circumstances of professional artists. The work of artists has certain defining characteristics and each artist will combine a few or many depending on the nature of their art. While some of the individual characteristics are shared by other professions, taken as a whole, for all artists, they create a pattern of work very different from most others in the labour force.

Most become an artist because of their love for the art form. A person must love to dance, paint, write, sing, act or play a musical instrument, and they often do so for many years before becoming a professional.
They can spend a substantial amount of time preparing to earn income, in training, rehearsal, study, research or in creating a finished product.
They sometimes work for a number of engagers simultaneously, or for none at all. They may sell nothing for long periods and then suddenly secure a great deal.
They often have to train and rehearse even when they are working, either as an artist or outside their art.
Experience and skills do not guarantee marketplace success. The creative element of the work is difficult to define and perhaps impossible to teach.

Many professional artists must supplement their income with revenue generated from part-time work outside their area of professional expertise, in order to survive economically. For some, this may come to represent the bulk of their income.
Because of the creative nature of the work, they often have an ongoing economic interest in their completed work, either through copyright law or contracts, and they can receive income from it long after the work is finished.

There is a distinction between creative artists (such as authors, visual artists, composers and designers) and interpretive artists (such as actors, dancers and musicians) since the artists in these categories generally have different working relationships and engage different methods to earn artistic income.

According to census data and studies on the cultural labour force, the number of professional artists is growing rapidly; a high proportion of artists are self-employed; artists are highly educated but their earnings are low compared to that of other Canadians; and their income can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. Most artists do not have access to the social benefits generally enjoyed by other Canadian workers, such as paid vacations and holidays; income maintenance when there is no work or when they are sick; maternity/paternity and adoption leave; medical, dental and life insurance; and retirement/pension plans.

What can I do?

This paper, along with our conference on November 2 and 3 will help outline a policy roadmap necessary to benefit artists in Canada. Read this paper and then join in the conversation by attending our conference. Comment on our blog to give us input on your policy needs and priorities as a Canadian artist.

Publication of
Canadian Conference of the Arts

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