At a national level, the Arts Council of Ireland is responsible for funding visual arts in Ireland. Making Great Art Work: Visual Arts Policy and Strategy 2019-2022 was published by the Council in 2018. The Arts Council supports individual artists to buy time to make new work and to develop their practice through funding programmes such as the Bursary Award, Next Generation Award, Project Award, and Arts Grant funding. Artist led studio spaces and workspaces are supported through the Visual Artists’ Workspace Scheme. Through strategic funding the Council indirectly supports visual arts organisations to support artists.
As stated in the strategy, a recurring challenge is the ability to sustain financially viable careers in visual arts. The Council states that “the lack of a strong industry framework and production models, outside of individual exhibition opportunities over the lifetime of an artist’s career, is problematic for working artists.” In fact, numerous reports have been conducted as far back as 1979 on the living standards and earning potential of visual artists. Consistently, research has clearly demonstrated that only a very small minority of visual artists are able to financially sustain a career in the visual arts. Most visual artists are forced to sustain their artistic career through incomes derived outside of their visual art practice, requiring second and third jobs to make ends meet. According to the 2010 Arts Council Report on living standards, 67% of artists earn less than EUR 10,000 per annum from their creative work. The data refers to 2008 figures that don’t account for the significant cut in earnings felt across all sectors post recession. The average annual salary in Ireland was EUR 45,256 in 2016.
According to research conducted by the representative body for visual artists in Ireland, Visual Artist Ireland (VAI), funding sources available to artists are meagre. Artists in Ireland are entitled to apply for tax exemption status on earnings derived from their creative works. While this is of assistance to a number of artists, the majority of artists do not earn enough from their creative works to merit the administrative burden of claiming for the relief.
The Artist Tax Exemption Scheme allows income earned by visual artists from the sale of original and creative works to be exempt from income tax. The scheme is governed by Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act (1997). It is administered by Revenue with assistance from the Arts Council. While this scheme has helped artists since 1969, it has not changed the living conditions of artists generally. Artists in receipt of funding from local or national cultural agencies can avail of the scheme.
Availability of artists’ workspaces is also a current issue, especially in Dublin. As the commercial pressures increase and the availability of space decreases with commercial development, artists have felt the squeeze in terms of lack of available space to rent and increasing rental costs. There are a number of long established subsidised studio spaces available, but it has been acknowledged by Dublin City Council that the issue needs to be addressed.
 The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaion (1979) The Living and Working Conditions of Artists in Ireland; The Arts Council Ireland & The Arts Council Northern IRELAND (2010) The Living and Working Conditions of Artists in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; Visual Artist Ireland (2009) The Social Economic and Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland.
 Central Statistics Office, Earnings and Labour Costs