The concept of universal basic income, in simple terms, is to provide an unconditional cash payment rather than a bureaucratic benefit system. It has been discussed in various countries for a while as a way to address economic insecurity and increasing income disparities. Now two trials are underway that apply this concept to the arts to address the economic insecurity of arts practitioners hit by the pandemic:
San Francisco is running a pilot programme for artists administered by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, who also run a study to evaluate the effects. Initially it offered $1,000 monthly stipends to up to 130 artists and cultural workers for a period of 6 months, later extended with private funding.
Ireland has also started a pilot for the arts based on a proposal that predates Covid-19. The National Campaign for the Arts believes the programme has “the potential to be an historic milestone for the arts in Ireland… [as it] recognises the necessity to remove precarity from the lives of artists and arts workers of all disciplines, so that they might develop, create and present their best work for the benefit of all society.”