The Art Of Insurance: Creative Approaches For Artists

Seth Richardson is a volunteer with the Arts Law Centre and member of the Icebergs swimming club

The Crisis

In May 1999, the collapse of commercial giant HIH Insurance became the centerpiece for the crisis in insurance, particularly public liability insurance. There were other contributing factors including September 11, our insatiable desire to litigate. For the arts sector, insurance became unavailable, and then unaffordable. Without insurance, artistic endeavors can remain just ideas. And with insurance, tight budgets are further eroded by increased premiums and small arts companies must do more with less to keep solvent.

In this article we look at some of the options for group and community insurance schemes that are covered in more detail in the forthcoming book Arts Insurance Handbook by Catherine Fargher and Seth Richardson.

Art and Insurance: Do We Understand Each Other?

While each arts sector has specific insurance needs, these are not often fully understood even by practitioners and administrators. For example, the recent Myer Report into Contemporary and Visual Arts and Craft found that "many practitioners are also unaware of the importance of insurance and associated legal obligations" (Myer Report, 2002, p 129). This lack of understanding can make finding appropriate, accessible and affordable insurance difficult.

Government Response

As insurance underpins economic activity, government intervention into the insurance crisis was more than warranted. Governments responded to community concerns about the insurance crisis in two particularly important ways. Firstly, State and Territory governments have introduced legislation (such as the NSW Civil Liability Act 2002) to limit payouts in damages claims, and secondly, they have assisted in establishing public liability schemes for non-profit community groups.

The community public liability schemes are for non-profit organisations that provide a service or benefit to the public, have voluntary participation and are not controlled by business or government. Our Community, for example, has worked with other key stakeholders including NRMA, Allianz and QBEto develop and promote accessible and affordable public liability insurance for non-profits organisations only. These community insurance schemes vary throughout Australia so for information go to, which lists all applicable public liability insurances schemes.

Arts Industry Insurance Schemes

The arts industry itself has also responded. Indeed, some arts organisations, such as Craftsouth and Ausdance, were well prepared for the crisis as they have offered insurance packages to members for a number of years. Today, accredited membership of Craftsouth automatically includes an insurance package that covers public liability, products liability, tenants' liability, and goods in care, custody and control. Membership of Craftsouth costs $165, making insurance both accessible and affordable.

Ausdance, though its Safe Dance Insurance Package, which has been in operation since 1987, offers a range of insurance products to individual performers, companies and dance teachers. The available insurance products include: public and product liability, professional indemnity.

This year the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) will launch a product and public liability package to its members. It is another vital step towards the arts industry taking initiative and control over their financial and legal obligations by the unity that umbrella and peak bodies can provide.

In addition to sector specific insurance schemes, individual artists and small companies can look to be auspiced. Auspicing is accepted by government funding bodies as a way of structuring a project. Auspicing allows for an individual, partnership or small company to come under the umbrella of a larger organisation that can assist with a range of matters including insurance. For example, Ausdance events provide umbrella coverage for community groups, that might otherwise have difficulty in the necessary insurance protection. In addition, organisations such as Auspicious Arts Projects Inc. provide financial management for a specific project, which can include public liability insurance and workers compensation, for a fee.

Arts Insurance Handbook

For individual artists and companies, insurance remains a necessity. Art involves risk and insurance is about protecting yourself against risk.  The new edition of the Arts Insurance Handbook is targeted at helping those in the arts sector to understand insurance and how to access affordable insurance.

Almost sixty years after film noir murder-insurance classic Double Indemnity, the recent Australian film The Rage in Placid Lake features musician Ben Lee, and a story line about emotional retreat into the structured ordinariness of the insurance world finds art and insurance together again. There must be something to all this.

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