7.09.2011

Arts Jobs are Growing, says the NEA


Well, excuse me if I’m not excited about the news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which forecasts “growth trends” for jobs in the arts.

What jobs? Where?

The National Endowment for the Arts commissioned a study, Artist Employment Projections through 2018, which was released on June 27.  In the decade between 2008 and 2018, the labor force is expected to increase “by 10 percent, or 15.3 million people.”  Artists are not in the highest-growth projection (that would be registered nurses and customer service representatives), but the numbers appear to look good for artists--until you see that “artists” as a category includes everything from radio announcers to animators.  

In terms of the arts, says the study,  “The art occupations with the highest projected growth rates are museum technicians and conservators, curators, landscape architects and interior designers.“   Indirectly those curatorial and interior designer jobs will translate to exhibition opportunities and sales. Inscialla, as they say in Italian, by way of the Arabic: god willing.

But the “artist” category sees only “average rate” grown for artists, sculptors and craft artists. Inexplicably, this category includes commercial-sector jobs in art directing and in technology-savvy animation, which is on the rise. But if you’re a painter?  “Average growth” just means that the jobs increase along with the population—i.e. more people, more art students, more artists disgorged from art schools.  Here's a no-brainer forecast:  I see growth in the Williamsburg/Bushwick rental market. 
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The competition for jobs will be, says the report, “keen.” This is news?

And what, exactly, is a job for an artist: Is it working in an art gallery? Showing in an art gallery? Selling from a show in an art gallery?  Having a tenure-track teaching job (because there are so many of those available). Working in an art supply store?
Frankly, most of the jobs we have are the ones we create ourselves: making supplies or offering services that other artists can use, creating events that benefit artists, teaching out of our studios, lecturing, writing. But here's the thing: these jobs don't even get counted as jobs.  And recognized or not, they don't bring in a lot of money.

I think Jared Keller, writing in The Atlantic blog on this same topic, nails it:
There is another, less positive reason why artistic jobs might grow faster than the general economy. They're cheap. As my colleague Derek Thompson noted, graduates with arts and humanities degrees are among the lowest median earners by major group, just above social workers and educators. In the early years of the recovery, some of the fastest growing positions are what economists call "McJobs," offering service work at long hours and barely livable wages.

We’re not artmakers because we expect to be millionaires. But we are taxpayers, and some of our tax money went into producing a report that does not serve us—painters and sculptors, at least--in any real way.

NEA: Next time, use that “research” money to find out what artists are really doing. Better still, use the money to fund artists!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

'Here, Here,' as the Brits say....

And you're absolutely right...since this was a study commissioned by the NEA, you'd have expected a better breakdown...at least 'fine artists' and 'craft artists' and 'commercial artists' if not 'visual arts,' 'performing arts,' etc.

Makes little sense...but who to bitch to so that someone goes back and re-looks at the numbers?

Anonymous said...

Oh-I forgot....
I found this:

http://columbusfoundation.org/news/files/TCF-Sustainability-Final-Report-January-2011.pdf

via the Cleveland Foundation's Arts and Culture blog...
I realize that it's looking at Columbus specifically, but it also compares and contrasts it's art sectors to 15 mid size cities. It's pretty in-depth.
I'd love to see the NEA look at the national 'arts'
sector(s) this specifically!

mariandioguardi.com said...

I met a recent painting MFA graduate and I asked him if he was teaching. Indeed he was. He was teaching art to children in an art program, part time. It's in his field but I know how much those jobs pay. He was thinking of getting a PhD so he would have a better chance at teaching adults. PhD of Fine Arts..that would be an interesting topic for discussion.

Anonymous said...

Artists are being hit hard, very hard, by this prolonged recession. But it isn't limited to artists. We have to face the fact that conditions for artists are inextricably linked to how the big majority of ordinary people are living. The corporations are pulling in record profits while most people are having to scramble to get by.

In the 1930's artists saw themselves as natural allies of the broad social justice movement that was sweeping the country. We need more of that kind of vision today.

Joanne Mattera said...

Marian: Any post about a PhD in the arts would be very brief: DON'T DO IT.

Once enough artists have PhDs and are still without teaching jobs, institutions will push "plus-size" degrees--PhDs with additional hours, extra courses, anything to keep alive the idea that it's a lack of education, rather than a lack of jobs, that's keeping overeducated artists from finding reasonable employment. Meanwhile, aren't institutions cutting out the tenure tracks and going for more part-time workers?

Mery Lynn said...

Since the wealthiest 1% has grown obscenely wealthier in the past ten years, maybe the NEA should fund swanky classes taught by celebrities like Steve Martin and Kevin Spacey on how to collect art. Seed money.

couchartpotato said...

I know Jared Keller - he was a classmate of my son's so I think of him as an 8 year old with a Super Soaker...I also know a number of recent (past 5-7 years) MFA's who pushed themselves very hard and now have adjunct jobs...seems to be the best you can hope for unless you are already a commercial superstar

Eva said...

They trail these jobs by looking at all the MFAs and where they are coming from. There are more than ever - someone had to teach them. And of course they are all curating each other, writing about each other. It is a whole system which wasn't as active even 20 years ago. But that's what they mean by "jobs."

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:04, I'm an artist who "[sees myself as a natural ally] of the broad social justice movement" but after being at it full time since 2002, I've come to believe that my elitist, esoteric studio practice is worth a helluva lot more than the mass-marketed political message swag I make for a living. Diagnosing problems only goes so far; we have to start taking real actions to solve them, and I just don't see enough able people willing to sacrifice any comfort in this country. Just sayin'. And that study was lame-as has been most of the reporting on it.