Okay I’ve been threatening to bring some numbers to bear on the perennial claims made by folks about artistic realities in the Bay Area without any research to back up their assertions. I’ve gotten a copy of “The Artists and the Economic Recession Survey: A Report Comparing Main Survey Artists [i.e., national] and Artists Who Live or Work in the Bay Area.” While not an exact match with what we’ve been discussing here, it does offer some interesting insights. The following research has been done by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International for Helicon Collaborative and Leveraging Investments in Creativity. The latter group seems to exist to help artists; their web site is here.
First, this survey is unusually inclusive. That is, 5,389 artists responded, all last summer. Another 1,583 were contacted through the end of November. So this data is very fresh. Particular attention was paid to keeping the sample balanced by age, race/ethnicity, education, discipline, percent of income made from art practice, and visual artists and performing artists. Surveys were available in Spanish. The only possible drawback is that all participants had to have access to e-mail.
Some of the first things covered are differences between the Bay Area art scene and the national art scene. Locally, 56% of artists are women, compared to 46% nationally. 9% of local artists are 65 or older, compared with 6% nationally. In the Bay Area, 71% of the artists have a BA degree or higher, as against 62% nationally. In the Bay Area, 69% of the artists are white, compared to 75% nationally. (Fewer are African American; six percent are Asian, 14% Latina/o, versus 2% and 5% outside the region). In the Bay Area 10 percent are foreign-born citizens, and 6% are non-citizens, versus 5% and 3% elsewhere. Of particular interest to me was that 56% of Bay Area artists have lived in the same county for ten or more years, and 67% of them went to art school in the same county in which they still reside (nationally: 49% and 58%). 70% of the Bay Area artists said they were either visual artists or media artists; 69% nationally (though different: we have fewer visual artists—46/50—and more media artists 24/19). (We also have way more dancers and choreographers and way fewer actors).
Okay. So. The numbers in this research say that Bay Area artists report the same total (art and other sources) income as artists nationally: 60% make under $40,000 a year (2008 tax year). 25% make between $40,000 and $80,000. 10% make over $80,000. What percentage of this income is from art making? The answer is polarized: basically very little of it or most of it. That is: 48% of Bay Area artists make less than 20% of their income from art (43% nationally). 29% of Bay Area artists make 61 to 100% of their income from art; nationally the number is 35%.
Seven in ten have another job besides being an artist nationally and locally; 40 percent have one job and 25 percent have two. Two-thirds of those jobs are in the arts; nationally the figure is lower, 59%. More than half of those jobs locally are in a non-profit, compared to 42% elsewhere. Half are in the academy and 40% in commercial art both locally and nationally. If artists work outside the arts, over 60% of their income comes from these non-arts jobs.
It seems like the situation is pretty much the same here as everywhere else. However, it’s possible that what we see is a homogenization. It would be nice to see New York separated out in the same way that the Bay Area has been separated out. It seems like artists do make slightly less from their art work here than elsewhere, but on the other hand almost a third of self-identifying artists make the majority of their income from their art. Also of note: most artists who subsidize their income with jobs either teach or work in commercial art jobs. There’s more data in the survey but mostly about the impact of the recession….