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“In spite of the economic and social significance of their output, artists lack visibility in crucial ways … They do not sit easily within the structures and methods that government – both central and local – have adopted to measure what they consider to be important … It is as though visual artists are invisible.” Robert Hewison and John Holden, The Right to Art: Making aspirations reality, 2004
This paper takes the above statement as the starting point for an enquiry into the current position and status of visual artists within the discourses through which arts policy in England is debated, shaped and articulated. It shows that within present-day arts-focussed research the field of impact assessment has emerged as a growing area of enquiry and influence, providing the data necessary to enable evidence-based policy, and that artists tend to feature only as marginal subjects in this genre of research. As a consequence, artists are increasingly being overlooked in arts policymaking. The paper concludes by suggesting that new methodologies are required that will reinstate artists as the locus of impact research. This will enable a more equitable balance to be attained between an instrumental and an intrinsic approach to arts development. The relationship between the two is widely felt, during the tenure of the New Labour government, to have become unhealthily skewed towards instrumentalism.