By Frank To

ESTABLISHED in March by my former art lecturer, artist Matthew Burrows MBE to help artists struggling due to Covid-19, in April Artist Support Pledge (ASP) announced that £15 million sales had been generated via a new economic model revealing a new “gifted and egalitarian micro economy’.

It has since become a global movement of connected communities committed to an equitable and sustainable economy for artist and makers of all countries, media and ethnicities.

The project uses social media platform Instagram for artists to post images using #artistsupportpledge giving details of their works and price (no more than £200). If people are interested in buying, they message the artist. Anyone can buy the work and artists don’t need permission to join.

Each time an artist reaches £1,000 of sales, they pledge to buy £200 of work from other artists. There are no enforcements. It is a system based on trust where everyone at every level can contribute in supporting artists and makers.

I have been an active participant and supporter of ASP since its formation and can testify that it has indeed helped me continue to work as an artist throughout this pandemic by selling and buying art works via #artistsupportpledge.

I share ASP’s commitment to sustainability, a belief that underpins many of the works I have produced throughout the course of this year, which were inspired by and redeploy Boris Johnson’s letter to the nation.

Sent in April to all households across Britain to urge them to heed the Government’s coronavirus guidance and stay home wherever possible, the letter was delivered to 30 million homes, reaching all 66 million residents in Britain as part of the Government’s public information campaign at a cost of £5.7 million.

For me, these letters highlighted the incompetence of the Government in its handling of the pandemic. This was important to me because it is about taking a stance against the Government and Chancellor ishi Sunak’s statement about the need for artists to retrain.

That statement highlighted the hypocrisy of the Government. These letters cost almost £6m and were a waste of taxpayers’ money because most people chucked them straight in the bin; the information was already available online and no account was made for the visually impaired. My artworks recycle and repurpose these letters and, by so doing, make a comment on the need for sustainability.

Last year the art industry was worth £10 billion in the UK, yet the average artist earned less than £10k. Many of the artists who struggle to survive make a considerable contribution to our diverse cultural landscape.

ASP does not believe it is acceptable for artists to go hungry and live a life of debt and worry to make such a valued contribution. Instead, it believes, as I do, that all artists who make that contribution to our common good should be appropriately supported.

ASP believes that an equitable and sustainable future economically and environmentally must begin by examining the cultural values we live by; that artists are central to this debate; and that all artists are important in maintaining the permaculture that is our global artistic ecosystem.

Its vision is for a sustainable economy and supportive community for all artists and makers, in all countries and in all medias and traditions. It is a vision which I support fully.

Frank To is a Scottish contemporary artist and social activist