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Infographic: Artists & Employment
by ArtSlant Team


Artists:  Where do they work? How much do they work? What do they earn?  

The ArtSlant Team ran some analyses of these issues using the 2006-2008 PUMS microdata sample from the US Census 2006-2008 and 2005-2010 American Community Survey (ACS). These statistics apply only to conditions within the USA. While the results are not surprising, there are some interesting things to note.



In terms of location, artists in the USA are congregating in the largest US centers of California (Los Angeles and San Francisco), New York (New York, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens), Texas (Dallas, Austin, Houston) and Florida (Miami). Secondary locations are Illinois (Chicago) and Pennsylvania (Pittsburg), followed closely by the states of Colorado, Georgia, Massachusettes, Michigan, New Jersey and Washington.

Obviously, factors such as employment opportunities and the standard of living in given areas contribute towards these stats. Also, the number and caliber of art schools, art institutions and galleries are determining these decisions. In terms of overall US demographics, the surprising location is Miami, which is ranking higher as a place for artists to live than national standards.



In looking at the breakdown between male and female artists and designers, and the kind of employment each group is engaged with, it is obvious that males far outweigh females in terms of full-time employment.



This graph shows where artists are working. The categories are:

  1. Employees of private for-profit companies
  2. Employees of private not-for-profit companies
  3. Government employees
  4. Self-employed, not an incorporated business
  5. Self-employed, an incorporated business
  6. Working without pay in a family business

Long story short - artists are either working for themselves or they are working for private companies. By far, the majority are supporting themselves as freelancers, so the need for business acumen is great. We predict that the Internet will continue to provide greater and more varied opportunities for self-employment for artists, which will increase the the number of producers (artists) who are trying to support themselves, as well as the audience participating in the commercial side of the art world. The challenge, as always, will be to maximize time for making art while increasing business and marketing skills so as to grow a business.



Artists in the USA are not making a lot of money. In terms of statistical reporting from 2006-2008, the vast majority report earnings under $60,000 per year and a huge percentage of that group are making less than $30,000 per year. In looking at the contributing factors for this, several possibilities come to mind: Perhaps there is very little market for art and the profit margin on the production of unique pieces is very low. Or it could be that the systems for selling art do not adequately compensate or support artists financially. Or maybe artists simply do not focus on making money so the low earnings actually reflect a lifestyle choice. Or, finally, could the fact that the majority of artists are self-employed contribute to these low earnings? Is it the case that the market could expand for financial compensation if artists became better at running their own businesses?

Each artist will have to address these questions themselves in their search for career development.

Posted by ArtSlant Team on 8/22/12

the past two years are EXTREMELY important for income surveys of artists. This means that none of the above means anything other than a filler to pass time if one is bored and needs to read something. Looking forward to an article that gives good and accurate justice to what's happening in contemporary art. Art Journalists where are you?
Red_self_lg re regina's reply
Point taken, Regina. i am not sure what i think about 'statistical evidence' anyway. It never seems to match what i experience in the world. Be well... :o)
20120426131139-rv Re Geoffrey's reply
Geoffrey - I have anecdotal evidence only (meaning not a full statistical breakdown) - from people I personally know in my part of the country. I stated this clearly right up front. You know people who are having a different experience. That difference tells me that we need more informative graphs. Because these current graphs don't tell us whether your experience is more typical or whether mine is. It's anyone's guess, and I don't like that type of data presentation.
Red_self_lg re regina velluzi'c comment
Re your comment " the people who are deriving low incomes from art are also making and selling art part time, or just starting out." I can assure you that ALL the artists that i know including myself, have been working 'full time' ( whatever that is) at making art and and ae not just 'starting out'. In my own case i spent 9 yrs at art school, have three degrees in art and have been painting for 47yrs. The last two years have been a nightmare for most of my friends, due to the removal of disposable income of the middle classes and the tight fisted attitude of the wealthy. ...have you noticed there is a recession going on?
20120426131139-rv Breakdown of income versus type of employment?
It would seem to make sense to look at income level breakdowns for full and part-time employment separately, since many artists have day jobs. It would also make sense to clarify whether the earnings presented are an artist's total income or just the income derived from art. And it would make sense to breakdown the income categories further by type of employment. If you did these three things, we might have meaningful data which would allow us to examine causes for "artists' poor compensation". In my experience - anecdotal evidence - the people who are deriving low incomes from art are also making and selling art part time, or just starting out. Ah yes - can we find data on how long people have been working to establish themselves as artists versus income derived from art? Do you need help conducting market and compensation research?

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