In recent months, we have seen the incredible successes of countless Irish creatives, from the bold cinematic achievements of The Banshees of Inisherin, An Cailín Ciúin, and Aftersun, accruing a record 14 Irish Academy Award nominations, to the triumph of Grammy-nominated band Fontaines DC as Best International Group at the Brits.
However, despite these successes, living as an artist can prove practically impossible in Ireland today. The ongoing housing crisis has been brutal for artists who may not have consistent or stable incomes, with their earnings fluctuating based on season and availability of work. Average rents in Ireland at the end of 2022 were 126% higher than in 2011, averaging around €1733 per month — even reaching €2253 in Dublin, a major art hub.
It’s a vicious cycle; when people see the struggles of aspiring creatives today, the idea of pursuing a career in the arts seems much less viable, dissuading many potential artists. Even in my own social circles, those who are really interested in creative arts feel a need to study something else and sideline their artistic passion as a hobby or a pipe dream, primarily because of the desire to have a stable income.
Moreover, the issue isn’t only the cost of living pressuring artists to either quit or pursue their dream elsewhere, it’s the funding allocated for the arts themselves. According to an Irish Times article from 2021, the European average for arts funding is 0.6 percent of GDP, yet Ireland’s arts funding makes up only 0.1 percent of GDP.
“Art is a vital part of Irish culture, keeping city streets buzzing and drawing in tourism.”
Art is a vital part of Irish culture, keeping city streets buzzing and drawing in tourism. Recently, though, more art and culture spaces have been closing in Dublin, while murals have been replaced with hotels and pubs, draining the artistic ecosystem vital to the city. It’s a slippery slope — and it won’t be long before a lot of what keeps the city alive and flourishing has disappeared.
In comparison, Germany has recently initiated a cultural scheme to give 18-year-olds €200 to spend on cultural goods and events, with similar initiatives in France, Italy and Spain, providing a catalyst for the flourishing of local artistic production and cultural experiences. Many young people do not give the money to regularly attend theatre performances or art galleries, so a similar scheme would be greatly beneficial here in Ireland.
Barry Keoghan, an Oscar Best Supporting Actor nominee for The Banshees of Inisherin this year, has spoken about his experiences growing up in poverty and sneaking into the Omniplex on Parnell Street to earn a film education. Without a broad range of arts-based Leaving Certificate subjects — alongside the relatively low popularity of existing arts subjects — these anecdotes are more than understandable, demonstrating why it is vital to encourage kids to pursue artistic careers by ensuring they are economically viable.
A renewed interest in STEM degrees due to the promise of higher net earnings, particularly within the lucrative technology sector, has driven a lot of students to take STEM subjects in school even when it might not be their passion. This stifles the creativity of those who may wish to pursue artistic careers, but are constantly faced with the economic and societal pressure to return to STEM.
Recent successes in the creative arts have highlighted incredible prospects for this country’s culture, as increasingly more Irish stories and artists are propelled onto the world stage. However, to make these one-in-a-million success stories more prevalent, we need to increase arts funding in Ireland to reach the EU average at the very least, promote arts education in schools, and make pursuing an arts career while living in Ireland a feasible endeavour.