Artists have long been seen as mobile subjects, with the migrant or nomadic artist a trope in fictional and academic writing. However, there has recently been an increased interest in promoting the migration of artists both nationally and internationally. The European Expert Network on Culture ‘On the Move’ examines intra-European artist migration seeking to identify and overcome obstacles to their mobility (such as financial costs, visa regimes, work permits or rights of residence, social security, and intellectual property). This focus on artistic migration, particularly at the EU level, is linked to a belief that artists promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, as well as driving economic development and innovation.
Artists are often uncritically seen as bringing economic benefits to a city, region or country. In attracting artists to cities and countries, the idea is that new job opportunities and urban regeneration effects will follow – the so-called ‘creative class’ thesis (Florida 2002). Policy-makers therefore attend to dynamics of place attraction and place retention, considering what makes artists move to particular places and what makes them stay there. However, the locational choice is also influenced by working opportunities, professional or personal networks, environment, life-course and ‘entry barriers’ to local arts scenes. Artists strategically use and acquire resources to migrate abroad, with certain individuals and cultural organisations (such as the British Council or the Goethe Institut) working as key providers of networks, knowledge, showcases and funding for development. Yet some migration decisions are also more fluid, opportunistic, and also precarious, creating divergent experiences of ideas such as creative satisfaction and artistic freedom.