Saturday, June 14, 2008

Starving Artists? Maybe Not! Also, Buying Art at Art Fairs

Where do artists live? What do they earn? Some answers from “Artists in the Workforce” report.

If every artist in America’s work force banded together, their ranks would be double the size of the United States Army. More Americans identify their primary occupation as artist than as lawyer, doctor, police officer or farm worker...

In 2005 nearly two million Americans said their primary employment was in jobs that the census defines as artists’ occupations — including architects, interior designers and window dressers. Their combined income was about $70 billion, a median of $34,800 each. Another 300,000 said artist was their second job...

Like the population in general, the number of artists has grown fastest in the West and the South since 1990, but New York State, followed by California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Colorado, has the most artists per capita...

The only artists whose ranks declined since 1990 were, as a group, fine artists, art directors and animators, to 216,000 from 278,000...

Overall, the median income that artists reported in 2005 was $34,800 — $42,000 for men and $27,300 for women. The median income of the 55 percent of artists who said they had worked full-time for a full year was $45,200.

Over all, artists make more than the national median income ($30,100). They are more highly educated but earn less than other professionals with the same level of schooling. They are likelier to be self-employed (about one in three and growing) and less likely to work full-time, year-round. (Dancers have the lowest median annual income of all artists, architects the highest — $20,000 and $58,000, respectively.)

“Many performing artists are underemployed,” Mr. Gioia said, “but one of the stereotypes we’re trying to debunk is that artists are mostly marginal and unemployed.”

...While the number of artists doubled between 1970 and 1990 as theaters, galleries, orchestras and university and commercial venues grew, their ranks since 1990 have increased at about the same rate as the total work force. They now represent 1.4 percent of the labor force, or nearly as many people as the active and reserve armed forces.
If knowing that all artists are not starving reduces your guilt about haggling at art fairs, Christopher Borrelli gives some hints about getting what you want at a price you can afford:
Sparkles—beloved Sparkles!

That's what the painting said—"Beloved Sparkles!" Mittelstead had been trawling for cheap wooden furniture at a county fair when he spotted a kitschy painting of a dog's face—a dog named Sparkles. "It was so fun," he remembered. But he didn't buy it—he chickened out. And he regrets it, to this day. "That face is seared in my brain. I miss not having that painting of Sparkles."

Don't let this be you.

"If you like something you see, buy it," he said. That was Tip No. 1. Last weekend, Mittelstead, who is a lawyer and art collector, led an Art Buying Boot Camp with Jannotta through the 57th Street Art Fair. With art fair season in bloom, their tips apply to nearly any fair you happen across—from the Old Town Art Fair (Saturday and Sunday) to your suburban parking lot festival awash in birdhouses made from license plates.

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