National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Artists In The Workforce Study

Sarah Atlee working in the studio, 2007. Photo by David L. Gray. Click image to enlarge. Sarah Atlee working in the studio, 2007. Photo by David L. Gray. (Click image to see full size.)

The National Endowment for the Arts has just released a comprehensive new study examining the role of artists in the American economy. In a nutshell: We're more important than we thought. From the NEA's website:

“Artists now play a huge but mostly unrecognized role in the new American economy of the 21st century,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “This report shows how important American artists are to both our nation’s cultural vitality and economic prosperity of our communities.”

Numbering almost two million, artists are one of the largest classes of workers in the nation, only slightly smaller than the U.S. military’s active-duty and reserve personnel (2.2 million). Artists now represent 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Here are some other factoids (that I kinda already knew, and that the NEA has kindly confirmed):

* Artists are entrepreneurial – 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed. * Artists are underemployed – one-third of artists work for only part of the year. * Artists generally earn less than workers with similar education levels. The median income from all sources in 2005 was $34,800 for artists, higher than the $30,100 median for the total labor force, and lower than the $43,200 for all professionals.

You can download the entire study in PDF format from the NEA website.

This came to me via the OVAC Blog, a great resource for Oklahoma artists.