Stuff You Don’t Think About – Relation Between Insurance And Ability To Hang Art

Lately I have been seeing articles in The Guardian that are calling attention to overlooked aspects of creative practice that have big impacts if conditions start to change. A couple weeks ago it was the impact the dwindling number of piano tuners and technicians can have on the ability to present live performance. More recently, I saw an article about how changes in policies by Australian insurer, QBE, may limit and prohibit visual artists from painting murals and even hanging art in galleries.

This is a subject you don’t normally think about in relation to creative practice, but it seems pretty obvious that artists probably want to be protected from injury when they climb into a scissor lift or scale scaffolding.  I don’t know anything about Australian law so there may be stricter requirements to have the insurance than residents in other countries may imagine.

The article notes that in the last decade that the  National Association for the Visual Arts has been providing the policies through the insurer QBE, there haven’t been any public liability claims related to working at heights.

QBE will no longer cover artists working at heights of more than five metres, and those working at lower heights face extra premiums of up to $600 per annum.

The carve-outs would effectively prevent artists doing public art and mural projects or installing their own work in galleries, according to Penelope Benton from the National Association for the Visual Arts (Nava).


The carve-outs would also affect professional art installers, and emerging artists and curators, who generally install their own work.

I would be interested to know if anyone sees the possibility of a similar situation emerging in their country.

Strip Club Dancers Return To Work With Actors’ Equity Representation

Last September I made a post about strippers working at a club in Los Angeles who were approaching Actors’ Equity Association to help them unionize their workplace. Today I saw on that they had indeed held a successful unionization vote under the auspices of Equity last May (NPR story).

While the setting of the strike may add a salacious air to the story, the basic details of the effort are pretty common across all unionization fights. The dancers forming the union were contesting their categorization as contractors rather then employees, seeking better working conditions, and better assurances of their safety and security. There were lock outs, picketing, suits contesting the dancers’ right to form a union.

It appears they don’t have a contract yet, but the dancers returned to work at the end of August in a gesture of mutual trust based on physical improvements that had been made during renovations as well as changes in policy and practice.

Actors’ Equity suggests that the legal rulings that lead to this may set a precedent for other workers in the beauty and entertainment industries to be categorized as employees rather than contractors.

Strength Of Intent To Return May Be Stronger Predictor Of Return Than Even Enjoyment Of Experience

I recently received an email which directed me to a 2021 study funded by the Wallace Foundation called, What They Say And What They Do which essentially looked at whether people who say they will return to a venue actually do.

Bottom line is yes, the more strongly people express a desire to return, the more likely they are to return. However, as with everything, there are some interesting nuances.

A couple disclaimers, most of which appear right at the start of the presentation. First, this research was conducted pre-Covid. Second, the three organizations that participated were “large, well-established in their discipline and predominantly white.” (Goodman Theatre, Lyric Opera, both in Chicago and Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.) So your mileage may vary.

The study was conducted across the 2014-2019 seasons. Single ticket buyers were surveyed about their interest in returning and then the organizations cross referenced that data with whether the people actually purchased again. The presentation also notes that people who fill out surveys are already engaged with the organization and therefore more inclined to return. Certainly there were many who didn’t fill out the survey that may have returned. I also wondered how many may have returned where a different family member purchased the tickets and used a different email or mailing address that might have been missed.

The finding was that the stronger people expressed their interest in returning on a Likert scale, the more likely they were to return – 49% of single ticket buyers responding as “definitely” and 31% responding “probably” returned within two years. Interestingly, while enjoyment and overall experience were also associated with an actual return, these factors weren’t as strong a predictor of return as stated intent to return.

Based on these responses, the Goodman Theater focused more expensive marketing efforts on those responding they would definitely return and experienced a higher return with that group.

While those 65 and older had slightly higher rates of return, the relation between strength of stated intent to return with an actual return held true across all age groups.

What I really found interesting was that what people said they did or didn’t like was the same whether they returned or not.  The presentation has charts which show responses to enjoyment of the performance and quality of  experience don’t vary a lot between those who do and don’t return. But the word clouds generated from the comments really illustrate how little difference positive and negative elements factored in to whether people returned or not.

I have seen a number of studies saying if you can only ask one question on a survey, it should be whether you would recommend an experience to a friend. Whether you will return yourself seems closely related to that question. While this data is definitely limited, there are hints that stated willingness to return may be a strong indicator that someone will.

Will Dwindling Supply Of Trained Piano Tuners Also Threaten Arts Orgs

Caught a timely article from The Guardian about the dwindling number of piano tuners in Australia. I am fairly certain arts and cultural organizations in other countries are having a similar experience when trying to schedule piano tuners. Personally, I have been in a situation where we had a choice of two-three tuners which dwindled to one that lives a two hour drive away and covers a large geographic area.

I am not sure what the situation is in the US and other countries, but people interviewed for the article note that there aren’t a lot of training programs in the country and a lack of effort to make people aware that training opportunities exist. It isn’t a profession that is entered lightly.

“People think, ‘I’ll learn to tune a piano, I’ll do it in a year and that’s it’, but no, it takes 10 years to learn how to tune a piano, and 20 years to master it,” Kinney says.

The training takes even longer for piano technicians who do broader work on repairing and refurbishing pianos. Tuning can only do so much before the instrument needs a major overhaul.

By “good tuners”, Kinney means piano technicians. These are people who have undergone a year of training as piano tuners before developing their skills at international piano factories or with mentors, learning action regulation, voicing, diagnosis and complex problem solving.


When Scott Davie, an Australian concert pianist, has toured through Australia, he’s played regional shows where the pianos had been tuned but not properly maintained. When this is the case, he must work hard to alter the way he plays to finish the show.

“I’d be remembering which notes are going out of tune and which notes are really badly out of tune, and leaving them out of chords or trying to play them so softly that you couldn’t hear them,” he says. “But it gets to a point where it sounds horrible, if a piano is really starting to break down.”

This article made me think–we are hearing about all the arts organizations that are closing or having a difficult time, but there are other elements of the infrastructure that are probably being overlooked that may cause on going issues as well.