Announcing a study on the financial state of visual artists today
Seven months ago, photographer Yumna Al-Arashi sent a frustrated email to a few of us at The Creative Independent. She said:
I’m having some issues with “The Gallery World” at the moment. Some to do with sexism, others to do with the entirety of bullshit it seems to consist of, and mostly with the idea that it’s not actually built for artists to benefit from—unless they’re dead. I thought maybe you could recommend someone’s words or advice that might make me feel better about where my career is headed?
Since The Creative Independent’s launch in September 2016, we’ve published the wisdom of over 430 working artists in the form of conversations, how-to guides, essays, and more. Despite all this, we had no clear answer for Yumna. How should a talented, driven photographer set herself up for a successful career in today’s art world?
Because the path for becoming a financially stable artist is neither straight nor predictable, it’s almost impossible for emerging artists to make informed decisions and plan for the future. And, much of the advice on navigating the art world that does exist is conflicting. 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, most emerging artists have no firm guide posts to lend a sense of stability to their journey.
The Creative Independent exists to be a resource for artists. So after continuing the conversation with Yumna, and because we’ve heard similar frustrations voiced by countless other visual artists, we felt it was impossible to ignore this issue. There was clearly a missing resource here—something to reveal how other artists were managing to make a living, and what practices or approaches were working (or failing). So, we decided to try and fill this gap.
Seven months after Yumna’s email landed in our inbox, this morning we’re releasing 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.
So, what did we learn? Well, it’s a mixed bag. As it turns out, most artists don’t feel either 100% financially stable or completely unstable. And while the average responding artist 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. Other noteworthy findings include the revelation that 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 only 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 our survey report, this week everything we publish on The Creative Independent 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.