The other issue that becomes particularly important when working in public is insurance. The reality is that insurance doesn’t have to cost the world if you’re just doing a couple of installations a year. You can take out your own stand alone policy or search out some collective insurance covers that some organisations offer to artists working in various disciplines.
There’s a number of policies worth considering when you’re working in public. They do add up in cost, but if you find yourself working on enough artworks to warrant them, you’re also likely to be in a position to put a little from each budget towards the insurances.
Public liability’s a bit of a no brainer and not without reason. Firstly, its kind of law. If you absolutely can’t afford it then make sure you negotiate with whoever’s commissioning the work to see if they can cover you with their existing policy or otherwise find some additional funds. If you do something and that something injures someone else, you’re responsible. Going hypothetical, you install a work that pokes someone in the eye, they’re blinded and also lose several months of work. Unless you’re in that tiny category of the independently wealthy, you’re not going to be able to afford to pay your blind friend’s bills. Your public liability insurance is designed to cover this kind of scenario. That’s a bit of a simplification which segues into OH&S, Risk Assessments, Safe Work Method Statements and the like which we’ll get to later on.
As well as injuring others, there’s good argument for looking after yourself. If you’re working for an employer then you should be covered by a Work Cover policy. There’s been a recent (and likely still current) change to allow retrospective work cover policies to be taken out to cover incidents occurring to employees and sub-contractors who earn less than (I think) $5,000 per year from you. Look into it more as it may be appropriate for some of the works you do. If you’re a free-wheeling agent then best to look at some kind of Personal Accident & Illness cover. This generally incorporates income protection and means that if you do yourself a dis-service while working on a project, you’ve got some chance of maintaining an ‘income’ while you can’t work. Again, it’s a simplification and I’m not about to advise on any particulars but its worth looking into.
Depending on the nature of the work you’re doing you may want to look into taking out volunteer cover. Basically a variation on Work Cover but to cover volunteer labour on a project.
Then there’s arguably the original insurance – damage / theft etc. When working in public, and focusing on temporary works, there’s an argument that it’s not completely necessary. If a work’s exhibited at the mercy of the public and the elements, is it worth insuring and would a claim against loss or damage even be successful? A large scale work is very unlikely to be stolen. Smaller works, you kind of expect a good work to disappear occasionally. With regards damage, you may find it’s easier to just perform maintenance on the work to ensure it stays in a satisfactory state for as long as possible rather than taking out a policy that may or may not cover losses, but won’t necessarily remove the need for maintenance anyway. Why bother with the maintenance? I guess unless you’re working on the extreme guerilla end of things, people will know you’ve created the work, so it becomes an issue of how much you care about the connection between yourself and the perceived quality of your work.
There’s professional indemnity insurance as well, but insurers have found it difficult to justify selling this kind of insurance for artworks even when it’s been requested by a commissioning body.
That kind of summarises the insurances, except to say the exact insurances you should carry will vary depending on what structure you settle on and what scope or scale of artworks you’re looking at working on. None of the above should be considered as advice, just a really loose starting point for what you might need to look into more.