This report includes a selected summary of some of the different activities that reflect UKK’s work over the past year since the last Annual Meeting in June, 2022. These include UKK’s policy development and advocacy, working group activities, organizational practice, events, and others. These activities represent a small sample of our overall work as there are many more notable projects and work that are currently under development that we will share with our members as they materialize. Hopefully, this abridged presentation will provide a brief overview of UKK’s recent work.
As part of UKK a critical aspect of our work is to help shape the conversations and policy making to improve conditions for art workers in Denmark. In the past year, the National Election proved to be a good occasion for us to put forward what we think are the most pressing issues for cultural policy in Denmark. We shared our thoughts in the open letter A Cultural Sector After Covid-19, Before the Next Crisis, in an open letter to the new Cultural Minister Jacob Engel-Schmidt, and we also co-wrote an opinion piece in Information together with eight other organizations. As such, we were invited to contribute our thoughts on the situation for the visual arts sector in 2023 to the Minister of Culture’s recent cultural policy statement.
The following is a brief summary of what UKK considers the six most important focus areas within cultural policy in Denmark that were reflected across these different statements:
Integrate Art within Denmark’s Green Transition on a Mass-Scale:
At UKK we think that the unique knowledge and skills that the art sector produces have great potential for contributing to facilitating the green transition in numerous ways. From the need to construct new green buildings and infrastructure, to unleashing new creative skills and interdisciplinary collaborations across sectors, art has a crucial role to play. Therefore UKK advocates for new legislation, collaborations, and expanded public funding that will generatively support artists and curators within the green transition.
Improve Art Sector’s Economy:
Visual artists are statistically the lowest paid profession in Denmark and UKK thinks this problem should be rectified through new state investment and public support for visual art. UKK therefore strongly suggests that funding not only continues, but is also increased to public art institutions, The Danish Arts Foundation, and other publically funded grant programs and initiatives, for the benefit of the sector as well as society in general. This is the first step in working toward the co-creation of new economic rights, pathways, and protections that are missing from the Danish art sector.
Create More Studio, Workshop Resources, and Housing for Artists:
The ongoing housing crises is a challenge for all low-income groups across society as a whole, but the art sector is particularly vulnerable to the real estate and housing crises, due to its spatial requirements for studios, workshops, and housing that are necessary for artists to continue to be a vital part of our bigger cities and communities. UKK hopes for more publicly funded affordable studio spaces, workshops, and housing available to artists, curators, and art workers.
Increase Focus on Diversity:
At UKK we think Denmark’s art field should seek to be an accurate and evolving reflection of our society, and this cannot be done without efforts to include artists, curators, and art workers across different gender, racial, class, cultural, and societal backgrounds. This cannot be achieved without dedicated inclusivity initiatives starting from education to representation within different art and cultural institutions.
Address Physical Inaccessibility within the Art Field:
The last action taken by the cultural ministry to improve accessibility was an initiative in 1999. As such, we at UKK think it is long overdue to have both an investigation, comprehensive action plan, and begin the physical process of ensuring the right of all people in Denmark – including those with handicap needs – to have access to a cultural life. UKK stands ready to work together on this and bring persons with handicaps into the decision-making processes to start to rectify this situation.
Support Artistic Research, Specialization, and Arts Education:
UKK hopes for more support and work towards further professional and strategic development of the art sector with increased resources and emphasis placed on research, development, and (higher) education for artists, curators, and art workers. We need more, not less artistic research to meet the future complex cultural needs of society and to maintain competitiveness in an increasingly global arts and cultural industry. Further financial resources dedicated to not only artistic research, but also arts education, provides many socio-economic benefits broadly, but also will create more specialized forms and formats and create a richer art and cultural life for the benefit of society as a whole.
Creative Legal Consulting with TWIIID:
In February of 2023, UKK hosted a legal workshop for our board along with Tobias Van Royen from the Belgian artistic legal advisory TWIIID (Twee-eiige Drieling) at Art Hub Copenhagen. TWIIID is a legal advisory for visual art and the creative sector that specializes in creative contracting, cultural legal advisory, and new forms of interdisciplinary legal practice (with)in the art sector – with a particular focus and knowledge on EU law and Belgian perspectives. One of the advantages to their broader EU perspective and creative legal practice is that it brings new ideas, agencies, and broader thinking into UKK’s work in a Danish context. See their previous collaboration with UKK here.
The legal workshop TWIIID hosted was part of an ongoing consultancy UKK has initiated to gain a better insight into our internal and external legal position as an arts interest organization in a Danish context toward better achieving our organizational goals, which oftentimes deal directly with law, legislation, or legality. One general focus was to articulate what new legal tools, techniques, and strategies could assist the UKK organization’s work overall, as part of developing ideas and proposals for a legal strategy and network for UKK’s future work, since UKK doesn’t have an in-house attorney. This work is ongoing and will continue to be communicated with our members as it unfolds.
Fair Practice Culture:
Can a certification code for art and culture be a way for a more sustainable cultural field in Denmark? Inspired by The Fair Practice Code, a cultural label similar to the Nordic Swan, developed and implemented in the Netherlands, we will facilitate conversations across the arts and culture field to investigate the possibilities of the model in Denmark. The project began in 2023 and consists of three parts; workshops and meetings, a report, and a public hearing in the Danish Parliament.
Fair Practice is now becoming an international movement, which we believe could be a productive model for the art and cultural sectors in Denmark. Through presentations, discussions and workshops, and based on concrete experiences from the Netherlands, the project will investigate certification as a method, and collect and share knowledge and perspectives on what fair practices are, for both art workers and employers. The purpose of the model is to unite working conditions and policies/values, adapted to the special premises of the art areas. It has the potential to improve the working conditions for the arts and culture fields by being a concrete tool furthering transparency and translating working environments and structures into a common language, making it easier to speak across the art fields.
Fair Practice Culture is a collaborative research project between The Danish Composers’ Society and UKK. It is facilitated by Sine Tofte Hannibal, manager of the Danish Composers’ Society and committee leader of the Fair Practice working group in the European network ECSA and Maj Horn, artist and former chairperson of UKK. The project is generously supported by the Bikubenfonden, the Augustinus Foundation, The Danish Composers’ Society/Koda Kultur, and UKK.
Studio Conditions in the Municipalities:
In September 2022, the Studio Group presented an open letter on Studio Conditions in the Municipalities . This was based on a survey where the studio group contacted all 98 of Denmark’s municipalities to investigate whether they provided artist studios or workshops and if they had a local strategy and standards for working conditions aimed at visual art. The answers the studio group received from the 55 municipalities that chose to participate painted a picture of very different approaches and priorities that each individual municipality chose to take.
Through the survey we could see a pattern where many of the municipalities are actually willing to support arts and culture as long as it is not professional. This is because professional artists are defined by some municipalities to be a business that operates at the same level as all other businesses, and is therefore not in need of their support, as it then is seen to offer no interest or value to the general public. These definitions and the division drawn between professional and career and amateur arts plays a major role in how municipalities support artists if they even support them at all. This is particularly problematic, because a significant portion of public funding that is available as arts support – roughly 42.4 percent of total cultural funding comes from municipalities (Kulturministeriet, 2023) - is currently not being administered in a way that is conducive with the needs of the art sector.
UKK believes that catering exclusively to hobby artists is not a sustainable nor ambitious arts strategy for municipalities. UKK recommends that the municipalities directly seek to rectify this issue on definition and distinction in the approach they take to amateur versus professional art. Access to studio space plays a key role in whether artists have the means to stay in the municipality where they currently live – which is a ground rule for maintaining a rich local cultural life. The possibility of securing sufficient studio and workshop space can also help to attract artists to a given area. UKK therefore encourages municipalities to support the working conditions for the professional visual artists residing in their municipality.
Based on the studio group’s work with the municipalities they also encountered that many policy makers simply didn’t know what physical support is needed for an artistic practice. Therefore UKK (in collaboration with our members) created a document that outlines what a studio is, this document is available on our website and can continually be updated when we receive new input from members.
Student Working Group:
In April of 2023, current UKK student representative Noah Holtegaard along with fellow Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts students Andrej Kiripolsky, and Seraina Grupp re-established a UKK Student Working Group. Their current focus is relating to “culture, politics, and society” and a focus on creating a student network that can help be a portal for young artists and students to come together around a cluster of issues such as increasing focus on diversity, better class/economic relations, and reinventing and rethinking institutions from a youth and student perspective in the art sector and beyond as a year long project in the Nordics.
The Student Working Group recently put forth a comprehensive application with Nordic Culture Point for the creation of a new student network in Denmark and the Nordics in late April 2023 as an extension of this work. If you are a student member of UKK, and are interested in participating in the new Student Working Group (particularly from the Jutland and Funen Art Academies) please send a short email to email@example.com.
Art Workers with Disabilities:
In 2023, UKK Art Workers with Disabilities began work on the project Mapping Disability Access to Danish Art Spaces with support from BKF and Bikubenfonden. The project seeks to raise awareness on the current culture of inaccessibility dominating the Danish art field and demonstrate the severely limited environments that art workers with disabilities must operate in. To start this work, Art Workers with Disabilities held an open meeting in February where people with disabilities within the art field were invited to share their experiences and engage in dialogue to help highlight areas of concern and focus points for the project. Then they published an Open Call in March inviting the community to participate in the work either as mappers or in various areas including research and planning within the working group.
After attending various research events and taking into consideration the conversations and feedback on the project, Art Workers with Disabilities have begun the work to create an online system and graphic language to showcase the preliminary mapping work. At Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAF) they presented a preview of this system and built upon the conversation around the access needs that this project seeks to address. Art Workers with Disabilities hosted a panel discussion between visual artist, Anthony Dexter Giannelli and dancer and activist, Cath Borch Jensen and an open house that explored the groups preliminary work with an artist talk by Victor Vejle. This new online system will be a base structure to house future mapping works as Art Workers with Disabilities seek to continue this project long term.
In February of 2023, UKK in collaboration with Overgaaden co-hosted the talk “On Artist Mothers (and other parents)” by the British art critic Hettie Judah at Christianshavn’s Library. Hettie Judah is an art critic, broadcaster and writer who has worked for many years on the topic of art and motherhood. Following publication of her 2020 study on the impact of motherhood on artists’ careers, in 2021 she worked with a group of artists to draw up the manifesto “How Not To Exclude Artist Parents”.
At the talk in Copenhagen, Judah presented topics raised in her recent book, “How Not to Exclude Artist Mothers (and other parents)”, focusing in particular on the impact of parenthood on an artistʼs practice. Frederik Rørman Jørgensen gave introductory remarks on behalf of UKK at the event.
Minimum Artist Fee Agreement Re-negotiation Process:
In August 2022, UKK, BKF and KUFA began renegotiating the Recommended minimum fees for exhibiting artists with ODM and FKD. As part of the negotiations we sent out a joint questionnaire about our members’ experiences with the agreement for the first 2 years. We got replies from 129 artists that had exhibited at one of the institutions that are part of the agreement within the last 2 years. As part of this process UKK also reached out to artist-run and independent spaces in Denmark to hear how they are using the agreement and we had a productive conversation that continues to influence our work with the re-negotiation of the agreement. UKK is happy that so many people know and use the agreement, while we also agree with our members that there is room for improvement. We hope to have an updated agreement ready to share with the public before summer.
Further Outreach and Socialization with the Art Sector:
As we emerge from lockdowns of the covid-19 crisis, it is apparent more in-person gatherings, socialization, and community are needed within the art sector, as it is across society in general. As such, UKK has begun organizing more gatherings in the art sector as well and is working to reach out to all of our members and publics across the country to bring artists, curators, and artworkers together toward more informal ways of connecting and furthering solidarity across the sector.
For example, board member Felis Dos initiated a UKK “Meet and Greet” event for artists and curators at Corporum in Aarhus in November of 2022. Not only was this event a great moment in working toward forming social collectivity through UKK’s work, but is also a part of activating UKK’s work across the country further as a national arts interest organization. These efforts are in a push to continue to work toward not only developing policy and advocating for the art sector, but also helping it develop better solidarity and community.
Frederik Rørmann Jørgensen represents UKK in Dansk Kunstnerråd. As an umbrella organization, DKR functions as a meeting place for everything from cinematographers to cartoonists, and musicians. Although these are very different disciplines, we share a number of the same challenges that characterize life as a freelance worker. Under the new leadership with Nis Rømer, there has been a special focus on lobbying for better conditions for everyone in the creative industries. With this in mind, we stand much stronger as a unified cultural field, which is otherwise often characterized by many smaller factions with their own agendas.
The latest initiative “Kunstnere i Tal” is a good example of this. With support from the Danish Arts Foundation and in collaboration with Danmarks Statistik, the economy for cultural workers will be mapped through a large amount of quantitative data. By drawing on organizations such as UKK, all the independent artists who have not been in contact with the Danish academies are also included. With robust data in the area, the hope is that it will be easier to discuss some of the challenges the industry faces. As the shutdown showed, the lack of statistical overview was a major obstacle to securing compensation for lost work during this period.