Creative sets up ‘Artist Job Centre’ to prove a point about valuing the arts

4 November 2020, 09:56 | Updated: 4 November 2020, 10:06

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A tongue-in-cheek installation has popped up in London, giving creatives everywhere a little bit of hope that art, and comedy, are very much still alive.

A London-based artist has set up an Artist Job Centre to prove a point about valuing the arts.

Stuart Semple, a painter, sculptor and activist, is known for using his art to discuss democracy and youth politics.

And while the arts are going through a painfully difficult time amid the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Semple created the tongue-in-cheek installation in solidarity with the many creatives currently feeling undervalued in their professions.

Jobs on display at the shop include Toilet Attendant, Bread Slicer, Motorway Line Painter, Landfill Supervisor, Potato Handler... and even Factory Carrot Quality Control.

The receptionist? One, Basil Brush.

Semple describes the shop, located at 67 Neal St, Covent Garden, as a “little reminder that those of us in the arts exist and we’ve been through a lot to share our creativity in the hope it adds some value to other people’s lives.

“When you watch Netflix tonight or recall a night at the theatre, comedy show, or an art exhibition remember we are artists and we make culture.”

Read more: Violinist Tasmin Little warns of ‘cultural desert’ as 400 musicians perform in Parliament Square protest >

Playfully, but rather poignantly, the installation pokes fun at the viral government-backed CyberFirst advert which suggested a ballet dancer named Fatima ‘rethink, reboot and skill’ in cyber security.

Many creatives felt it was the nail in the coffin when it came to support for arts jobs, after chancellor Rishi Sunak appeared to suggest in an interview that musicians, artists, and other creatives struggling with a lack of work or government support during the pandemic, “retrain” and “get another job”.

The chancellor denied the allegation, saying that people in “all walks of life” need to adapt. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden similarly distanced his department, DCMS, from the cyber ad.

Many have warned the future of the UK’s arts and culture industry is under increasing threat. Reports say the live music sector alone is facing the loss of 170,000 jobs by Christmas, while a third of musicians have already been forced to quit the industry during the pandemic.

In what has been a desperately hard time for creatives, many of whom are freelance and ineligible for support, Semple’s installation aims to shine a light on the “great artistic talents of our time across all disciplines”.

“It’s really important that we all follow the government’s guidelines when it comes to Covid, and that includes artists,” the artist says.

“I understand retraining might be daunting for those who have dedicated their lives to perfecting a craft, so hopefully the AJC will make that transition easier. With things as they are with the economy, we don’t have many jobs going, but we will do our best to find artists work where we can.”

The Artist Job Centre closed yesterday (3 November), Semple announced on Instagram.