The Artists Count Survey
The Regional Arts Commission has always been committed to St. Louis artists through formal and informal initiatives and arts organizations. But we were missing comprehensive data about their ecosystems. In 2012, we undertook the Artists Count survey of artists and creatives to understand their working and living environments, the conditions under which they create their art, how they support themselves financially and the motivations that affect their work.
The survey was conducted by William Cleveland, director, and Dr. Patricia Shifferd, research associate, of the Center for the Study of Art and Community, an organization focused on building working relationships between the arts and the broader community.
Who Took the Survey
From April through August 2012, RAC widely promoted the survey through the media, social media, the Artists Count and RAC websites, partnerships with the media, paid advertising, posters and distributing collateral materials at many events attracting diverse creative audiences.
More than 3000 artists responded, making this one of the largest studies of artists ever completed in the United States. Participants included visual artists, writers, dancers, actors, directors, videographers, graphic designers, architects, singers, musicians, fashion designers and other self-identified creatives. Ages ranged from 14 to 87, with the median age of 42. 34% were from St. Louis City; 40% St. Louis County; and 26% from other Missouri and Illinois counties. The respondents were 61% female and 39% male. The response from identified diverse communities was 19% and from Caucasians was 81%.
Most St. Louis artists are small business owners who are motivated by their creativity. As entrepreneurs, they are in charge of developing their careers and selling their art, which is why 10 to 50% of their time is spent on marketing and communications. Running the business side of art-making also requires planning, promotion and fund-raising. More importantly, artists produce jobs for others, like most entrepreneurs. The artists surveyed reported hiring more than 4100 artists and non-artists to help with their businesses.
Artists Rely on Multiple Sources of Income
Only 29% of the artists surveyed are full-time artists and art-making alone does not sustain most the area’s artists. The rest have multiple sources of income that includes sales of their art, commissions, work for hire, arts jobs, non-arts jobs and grants. For additional financial support, many artists rely on outside jobs, which are most often in teaching or arts administration.
What Artists Earn (based on art-based and non-artistic income)
46% of artists earn less than $25,000 and 32% earn between $25,000 and $50,000; 12% earn between $50,000 and $75,000; 6% earn between $75,000 and $100,000; and 3% earn $100,000 or more.
Support Means More than Money
While financial support is important, in order to grow their careers, artists also need different kinds of support from organizations and people that invest in their core mission. This includes training, technical support, marketing assistance, accounting help and legal advice, which many artists have found through a variety of RAC-funded organizations, most notably Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. Personal support comes from family, friends, artist peers and colleagues as well as through vendors, presenters and curators.
Time is Money for Artists
Time to make artwork is the top priority, especially to create their “best work.” They also need time for outside jobs and for family commitments. Often creating art is relegated to late nights or early mornings, leaving the artists wishing for time to sleep.
St. Louis is a Hot Spot for Artist-Driven Community Development
Increasingly, artists are partnering with other community sectors to help build healthier and more productive communities. RAC is recognized as an international and national leader in the growing arts-based community development movement of the past two decades through its funding priorities and the Community Arts Training Institute.
Because of RAC’s focus in this area, St. Louis artists have been actively creating collaborations across sectors such as education, youth work, community development, science, social services and parks and recreation.
Artist-driven community development is benefited when there are large numbers of artists living in the same area. The survey indicates that regional artists are particularly clustered in several areas in Downtown and Midtown St. Louis, Richmond Heights, Maplewood and the Cherokee Street region. As illustrated in national studies, this preponderance of artists in these areas can provide social and economic benefits for community development.