Leading equal rights organisations in the UK have announced a landmark research commission into racial inequality in the art sector, as a new organisation called Black Lives in Music also aims to tackle racial inequality in the music industry.

The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, and Freelands Foundation have partnered to deliver the first major commission into how black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students are excluded from art education.

They hope the initiative will be a catalyst of structural change in the sector, where despite the success of individual artists such as Steve McQueen and Lubaina Himid, only 2.7% of the workforce come from a BAME background.

In 2017, the Department for Education recorded that children in UK schools– of whom 31% were categorised as minority ethnic – were introduced to visual art by teachers who were 94% white.

The Runnymede Trust will deliver a two-year research programme and ask whether young people see their diversity reflected in the art industry and how this shapes their engagement. A sector-wide review, to be published in autumn 2021, will map the representation of people of BAME artists, curators and organisational leadership.

It will also investigate art education in secondary schools and gather data around racial inequalities among students, teachers, and within the curriculum. It will focus particularly on key stages 3 and 4, when students are aged 11 to 16.

Halima Begum
Halima Begum: ‘With representation comes inspiration.’ Photograph: Halima Begum

Dr Halima Begum, the director of the Runnymede Trust, said: “Our school students are a blank canvas. It is imperative they are able to see and appreciate diversity in art. With representation comes inspiration, and I have no doubt that this project, led by Freelands Foundation and Runnymede Trust, will lend important data and evidence to the thus-far sparse study of equity and inclusion in the UK art sector.”

The announcement of the commission comes as Black Lives in Music, which will support black musicians and bring about increased representation and participation in the music industry, launches.

The organisation wants to address the lack of data on the everyday reality for black musicians in the UK with the Black Lives in Music survey, which will look into the issues black creatives face, including racial discrimination, mental health, wellbeing and economic disparity. The results of the survey will be published in an annual report in May 2021.

Black Lives in Music’s co-founder and chief executive, Charisse Beaumont, said: “We are bringing together all black musicians and music professionals for this research in order to create change. Your participation will make this data, which currently doesn’t exist, the most powerful dataset about black musicians in the world which will be used to drive positive and lasting change.”



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