And Now A Rant


Has anyone see that new document produced by the NEA? Artists in the Workforce 1990-2005.

I was all excited about it, until I got their "executive summary"--a brochure of "key findings." What I wanted was the 135 page PDF document. That's what I thought I was getting (silly me); I guess the gov doesn't want to use the ink and paper any more than I do. Still, it's a pretty expensive brochure, and I’ll bet the PDF printed on cheap photocopy paper would have cost less.
I wonder how much the survey cost—as opposed to actually funding artists-- because I could have pretty much filled out the "key findings" in the brochure based on what I know of myself and my colleagues. Some facts from the survey:

. Artists remain in highly concentrated urban areas. So do galleries, art fairs and collectors. Quel surprise.

. Artists are 3.5 times more likely than other workers to be self-employed. Well, duh. Unless you’re doing a community mural, or you’re Mark Kostabi, who else is going to be making your art?

And now for some real shockers. Ready?

. Artists generally earn less than workers with similar levels of education. And here you though you were raking in more than your lawyer, accountant, doctor, dentist, or barista. Really, when was the last time your surgeon said to you, “I can remove your gallbladder on Wednesday night or over the weekend, but the rest of the time I’m behind the counter at Pearl Paint.”

. Women remain underrepresented in several artist occupations. The survey is talking about architects and announcers. (Announcers?? Call me out of touch, but since when did “Heeeere’s Johnny” become an art form??) Here’s the real fact that isn’t mentioned: There is a greater percentage of women in art schools, but a greater percentage of male artists go on to have gallery representation, solo shows and critical coverage. That’s "underrepresented." (To be fair, maybe this information is in the PDF, but how do you peruse a 135-page document on line?)

And here are some facts that are just not clear:
. One-third of all artists work fewer than 50 weeks a year. . . . and . . . 28 percent of artists work for less than 35 hours a week. Perhaps that’s because they’re also working a 40-hour, full-time, income-producing job that may or may not be art related; or they’re juggling freelance work or several part-time jobs before they can actually get into their studios to make art? So in fact, I would say that three-thirds of all artists are working closer to 70 or 80 hours a week.

Let me close with a quote from Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts: “From global exports to local investments, the new American economy depends on imagination, innovation, and creativity, and those are the skills that artists develop, nurture, and promote. Isn't it time that the nation notices?”

Bravo! But, dude, put your money where your mouth is. Isn’t it time that the NEA started funding artists again?


Chris Rusak said...

Amen! I couldn't have ranted better myself.

Judy Wise said...

Brava! I think it's time to bring "national treasure" status to America.

Catherine Carter said...

I've been chuckling about your rant all day long, Joanne. Not because it's "ha-ha funny" but because you really hit the nail on the head with every point you made. I agree with the other commenters -- amen and brava!

Nancy Natale said...

DUH! to their findings. But should we be surprised after hearing the NEA's pithy slogan repeated so many times on PBS when they sponsor an "art" program: "A great nation deserves great art." How's that for meaningless pap?

Lee Kottner said...

You're right on the money, unfortunately. Where the rest of American gets the idea that art isn't work in itself is beyond me. Even the IRS considers it a "hobby" unless you make enough money at it. Boy did I recognize myself in all the things you said.