2010 HCSP

Artists and the Economic Recession Survey: A Summary of Findings

Helicon Collaborative: Alexis Frasz, Holly Sidford; Princeton Survey Research Associates International

LINC, in partnership with Helicon Collaborative and Princeton Survey Research Associates International, developed the Artists and the Economic Recession Survey to provide high-quality and timely information to funders and artist service organizations. The survey sought to understand artists’ financial circumstances a year into the recession, and how artists were responding and adapting at that time. LINC partnered with 35 arts service organizations across the U.S., who invited their members to take the study’s electronic survey in either English or Spanish. The response was substantial: 5,380 artists nationwide completed the survey between July 20 and August 17, 2009. Half of surveyed artists reported a decrease in their art-related income from 2008 to 2009, including 18 percent who saw it decrease by 50 percent or more. The decreases were due to lower sales, lower prices/fees, smaller and fewer grants, and fewer opportunities to present or perform their work. Teaching and residency opportunities also decreased. Despite the recession, a large percentage of respondents reported feeling optimistic about the future and confident about the positive role artists can play in strengthening communities in difficult times.


The research findings confirm what artists and those who work with them know experientially—that most artists struggle to make ends meet financially and that this struggle is even more pronounced in tough economic times. The study also confirmed our observation that artists are remarkably resourceful in crafting their work lives and creative in responding to the ebbs and flows of opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, the study found that a significant majority of artists feel especially inspired now, excited by changes they see taking place in our society, and optimistic about the future despite their current financial challenges.

More and more U.S. workers now cobble together livelihoods in ways that artists have been doing for years. In sectors like journalism, health care, teaching, technology, and other areas in the business sector, more workers are beginning to craft careers like artists—self-directed, opportunistic, and less dependent on institutions. Artists may lead this trend, but they are not alone.

In addition to offering programs and policies specifically tailored to artists’ needs, we need to advance programs and policies that support hybrid work lives and 21st-century employment constructs for the growing number of people who choose or are forced in this direction. By working on both fronts, we will enlarge the number and kinds of resources available to artists and will recognize the multiplicity of ways artists now pursue their creative lives.

“LINC’s trust in our evolving process was itself a form of capital – an especially useful one for a small organization in a challenging economic moment.”