Why lead with the number of responses? Because if Daniel Kahneman's writing is still worth consulting the sampling bias alone means we can't trust this study to be worth a whole lot. Just barely over 1k from 50 different countries is probably worthless in study terms. "Maybe" 1,016 artists drawn from a single county might be more informative. But ... it's not necessarily a concern in arts reporting across the board. So ...
The majority of visual artists working today make less than $30,000 per year, according to a study released this week. Conducted by the Creative Independent, a publication affiliated with Kickstarter, the study draws on responses from 1,016 artists working in the US, UK, Canada, France, and nearly 50 other countries in hopes of demystifying the economics of being an artist.
While some of the study’s findings are not particularly surprising — like that artists’ satisfaction with their work increases in direct proportion to the amount of time they spend in the studio — others are quite illuminating, especially where the economics of being an artist are involved. For instance, only 12% of respondents said that gallery sales of their work have been helpful in sustaining their practices, and grants ranked similarly low; the majority (61%) said that freelance and contract work was the most significant economic factor supporting their art. Among responding artists, only 17% are making three quarters or more of their income from their art; nearly half said they make between 0–10% of their income from their art.
“Because of this myth of the ‘pure’ artist who is able to afford to live off of gallery sales, through grants, or some other mysterious way, we see many artists who feel like failures or sell-outs simply because they have to have a day job, take corporate work, or wait tables,” Willa Köerner, the Creative Content Director at the Creative Independent, told Hyperallergic. “If only art schools would better prepare artists for the business aspects of being a visual artist — including preparing them to overcome the debt they’re accruing from that very school — so many artists would be in better shape, and would stop being so hard on themselves when it’s really the system that’s failing them. ‘Trial and error’ is not really a great strategy for becoming financially stable, but that’s currently the most-employed strategy by visual artists. That needs to change.”
The full study on the financial situation of visual artists today is available from the Creative Independent.
If we want to imagine where and how the myth of the pure artist gets promoted and disseminated I wonder where and how that myth could be promulgated.
I'm reminded of Paul Hindemith's rant against American music education as being devoted to teaching that produces teachers who produce teachers, and his complaint was that music education in America was emphatically not devoted to general music appreciation and participation at an amateur level. The false promise was that any kid who worked hard enough could be a next Beethoven or Heifetz as if the world could have more than maybe a dozen such people. What I doubt is likely to happen is that academics would concede they can play the role of the villain deceiving students as to how, whether, or most especially if, art students can actually make a living in the arts.