“Money doesn’t matter.” I only hear this from people who have never been without money for long, or if need be, they would have ready access to it.
An early retired investment banker remarked to me and group of artists who she was hosting, “Money doesn’t matter to you guys.”
I didn’t want to insult my host, but I could barely contain myself. How absurd. How ignorant.
The harsh reality is that most artists struggle to thrive financially.
That financial struggle negatively impacts our emotional, physical, and social well being.
What we know through experience is confirmed in a “Summary of Findings” from a report “Artist and the Economic Recession, May 2010.”
This survey reached a diverse array of artists, ranging across artistic media, racial and ethnic backgrounds, age, levels of formal education, geographic locations, and years as a practicing artist.
Here are a few key points:
- Artists play multiple roles – seven in 10 artists hold at least one job in addition to making art
- Most artists have multiple jobs. Two-thirds hold at least one job in addition to their artistic practice, while 21% hold two or more additional jobs.
- Designers and architects (54%) and musicians (42%) are most likely to earn their living solely through their artistic practice, while literary artists are most likely to supplement their artistic work with other employment (59% have at least one additional job).
- Artists are well educated, but not highly paid – six in 10 artists made less than $40,000 in 2008, although two-thirds hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
- More than eight in 10 artists in the sample have a college degree, including 56% who have at least some post-graduate education. Interestingly, higher education does not seem to correlate with higher income levels.
- Two-thirds reported their total 2008 income as less than $40,000, and nearly one-third earned less than $20,000.
I can only wonder many film, art, theater, and music schools graduates are actually pursuing their craft one, two, or five years after graduation.
Even I quit after only two years and I barely made it back to making and selling art.