Already Struggling, Artists Hit Hard by Recession, Survey Finds

A new survey of American artists — two-thirds of whom say they earned less than $40,000 and a third less than $20,000 last year — found that slightly more than half experienced a drop in income in 2009, the New York Times reports.

Commissioned by nonprofit artist-support organization Leveraging Investments in Creativity and funded in part by the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the survey found that 51 percent of the more than fifty-three hundred respondents saw their incomes fall in the past year, while 18 percent reported a drop of at least 50 percent.

The report, The Artists and the Economic Recession Survey: Selected Findings (8 pages, PDF), found that the most commonly reported impact of the recession was a decline in sales, followed by lower rates or fees. In addition, more than a third of the surveyed artists reported fewer and smaller grants, fewer grant opportunities, and fewer scheduled bookings and chances to exhibit, perform, or present their work.

The survey also provided statistical support for long-held beliefs about artists, such as they tend to work day jobs to support themselves, musicians and architects tend to do better financially than writers and painters, and more than a third of working artists lack adequate health insurance.

According to Judilee Reed, executive director of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, "A lot of the artists who were reporting were telling us, 'I live in a recession all the time, so this downturn has really not been so different for me.'"

Randy Kennedy. "A Survey Shows Pain of Recession for Artists." New York Times 11/24/2009.