How are today’s visual artists making a living?
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Back in 2016, Kickstarter launched The Creative Independent as a resource of emotional and practical guidance for all kinds of creative people. Since then, we’ve published interviews, how-to guides, and essays from more than 430 working artists—including writers, filmmakers, dancers, designers, musicians, poets, and more. We’ve used each conversation as an opportunity to learn about the issues faced by independent creators today, and to gather wisdom on dealing with things like creative anxiety, burnout, and sharing your work.
One thing that has come up again and again in our work is the question of how to make a living. For visual artists today, the path to financial stability is neither straight nor predictable. When faced with the question of whether to seek out gallery representation, attempt to sell art on their own, or keep a day job while hustling to make art on the side, many emerging visual artists have no firm guide posts to look to on their journey.
Because The Creative Independent's aim is to be a resource for creative people, we decided to try and create something that could openly document how today’s artists are managing to make a living. This morning we've released a study on the financial state of visual artists today. In it, you’ll find information collected from 1,016 anonymous respondents reflecting their financial status, business practices, and overall experiences working within the art world.
The findings from the report are nuanced. For example, while about 60% of responding artists said they were earning less than half as much as the average American household, about half of respondents felt optimistic that they’d be able to become financially stable down the road. The data also demonstrates that for most artists, it’s not realistic to expect to make a significant amount of money through art sales (nearly two-thirds of artists are supporting themselves through freelance work, while only 12% listed gallery sales as an important means of support). Additionally, three-quarters of artists said they’d been learning to become financially stable through trial-and-error, compared to just 6% who’d taken a financial planning class or worked with a financial advisor. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to the survey report, this week all of The Creative Independent's interviews and guides will focus on how to make a living as a creative person. You can explore everything we’ve published on the theme so far here. We hope the information will be useful if you’re working to forge your own path as a visual artist which, while not easy, is definitely possible.
—Willa Köerner, Creative Content Director at The Creative Independent