A new study out from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RACSTL) is shining a light on the creative community. The data from Creatives Count, the only study of creatives in the region, will be used as a critical source of information for governments, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals who want to better understand the creative heart of St. Louis.
“We use the term ‘creatives’ to gain a wider understanding of all artists in the sector,” said Liz Deichmann, RACSTL evaluation and research lead. She spearheaded the project. “It includes craftspeople, culture bearers, designers, makers, musicians, performers, and other people who are creatively active.”
Several key takeaways help tell the story of the creative community in St. Louis.
“One of the biggest takeaways – artist are entrepreneurs,” said Vanessa Cooksey, RACSTL president and CEO. “Yes, we can love art for art’s sake! We can also elevate how we think and talk about artists in a way that truly honors and reflects the financial and civic value of their creativity.”
Of the more than 1,500 creatives surveyed in St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 41% view their creative practice as their main career.
Another key finding was related to income. Some 36% of survey respondents said they were “just getting by” or even “finding it difficult to get by” financially. Conversely, 65% of creatives said they were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably.” More than 31% of survey takers relied on work outside the arts and culture sector for income.
In 2022, RACSTL granted more than $4.5 million to working artists, arts programs and arts organizations through its normal grant cycle. Outside its normal grant funding, RACSTL was awarded $10.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) from St. Louis City.
“Despite this historic investment, our resources alone aren’t enough,” said Cooksey. “We are inviting business and civic leaders to partner with us and invest in the artists that help make St. Louis a great place to live, work and visit.”
The study also shows St. Louis creatives have a lot of optimism about the creative community in St. Louis –citing cost of living and support from other artists as key benefits of living in the region.
In addition to the survey, Creatives Count engaged with 34 local creatives through a series of online and in-person focus groups.
“Qualitative research was a critical part of the study. It allowed us to hear directly from creatives about their experiences in a richness that is invariably lost with quantitative data alone,” said Deichmann.
RACSTL plans to use data from Creatives Count to plan its artist grants, programs and services until the next study is produced in 2028. Insights gained from the first iteration of the study, Artists Count (2013), were instrumental in informing RACSTL’s introduction of grants for individual artists.
About Creatives Count
Creatives Count is a research study of RACSTL. It is informed by the first iteration of the study, Artists Count (2013), as well as RACSTL’s strategic vision for St. Louis as a place where every resident has the freedom, resources, and opportunities to enjoy a full creative life. RACSTL engaged the arts research and consulting firm WolfBrown to conduct the research for the study.
The survey was open to anyone who was creatively involved in the production or presentation of creative cultural products, including music, fine or folk arts, creative writing, fashion, film/media, social practice, makers, and other creative works, whether for financial gain or personal satisfaction. Additionally, survey takers had to be 18 years or older and live in St. Louis City or County or does creative work or present creative work to the public in St. Louis City or in St. Louis County.