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New Arts Council Report ‘Open Up’ uncovers why Black and Black Irish artists have high rates of ineligible funding applications relative to all other ethnic groups | The Arts Council

The Arts Council is working to ensure Black and Black Irish artists are better supported in their pathways as artists 

The Arts Council has published a research report called “Open Up”, which explores why Black and Black Irish artists are most likely of all ethnic groups to have their funding applications assessed as ineligible. The Report reveals that the majority were deemed ineligible due to missing information, underscoring the need for greater support and information for this group. 

Annual Arts Council application data highlighted disparities in success rates among different ethnic groups, with black males being the least successful applicants. This prompted the Arts Council to commission research to understand the root causes and to inform future actions. 

Of the ineligible applications submitted by Black and Black Irish artists, 71% were missing materials. These were both mandatory (54%) and support materials (17%), which are required for applications to be assessed.   

The Report found that Black and Black Irish artists often rely on smaller networks for information, feeling socially outside wider networks. There was also evidence of reluctance to approach the Arts Council for advice, based on their experience of systemic exclusion and discrimination in the arts sector. At the same time, support groups often lack the necessary knowledge or resources to assist these artists effectively. Artists who grew up in Ireland showed better access to information networks.   

Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council, said:

“As the funding body leading the development of arts in Ireland, it is imperative that we acknowledge the disparity in eligible applications of Black and Black Irish artists. The information in this report will help us address these challenges. Our goal is to ensure that all artists and arts communities feel connected with us and believe that the Arts Council is accessible and approachable. Feedback and direction from the Black Irish artistic community will be vital as to how we ensure a positive, collaborative future together.”

The report included a quantitative analysis of 919 ineligible applications, a literature review, and interviews with 21 participants, including artists and staff from arts organisations.  Quotes from artists underscored the need for visible pathways and recognition for Black and Black Irish artists, highlighting the extra hurdles they face in the industry. 

Quotes from Black artists in Report (anonymous): 

“Until people see that there’s a pathway for them, they see people that look like them in this form, in this work, getting the funding, being celebrated having, you know, roots and success in this field. It’s going to be a case of ‘oh that’s for them’, [not me].”

“What often is the case with people of colour and Black artists particularly is that in order to even get on the stage, you have to have had such a huge demonstration of excellence, just to get the bare minimum. Whereas promotion of regular everyday decent artists, a white artist, it’s easy. But to be a Black artist, you have to be better than good to justify them giving you an opportunity.”

The Arts Council is committed to ensuring equality across its work, striving to ensure that all artists, regardless of ethnicity, have equal access to opportunities. As a next step, a seminar is being planned to engage with the arts sector and Black and Black Irish artists, aiming to explore how best to provide support and pathways for their artistic careers. 

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