In 2016, we worked with the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) and the National Endowment for the Arts on Creativity Connects, a participatory research initiative to understand the most important trends and conditions facing artists today. The research included 65 in-depth interviews, ten roundtables across the country, a review of over 300 documents, a gathering with 30 field experts to review the initial findings, and 18 commissioned essays written by leaders in the field.
Although there are many things impacting artists’s ability to make work and thrive today–changing technology and participation habits among them–our main finding was that the biggest issues facing artists today are not specific to artists. As the report put it: “Artists share challenging economic conditions with other segments of the workforce” and “structural inequities in the artists’ ecosystem mirror inequities in society more broadly.” The report argued that to make real, sustainable improvements in conditions for artists, funders and intermediaries must work on larger systemic issues like affordable housing, debt reduction, access to capital, rights and benefits for independent workers and more.
This finding has prompted a number of supporters of artists to explore new cross-sector partnerships and initiatives. For its part, CCI has launched AmbitioUS, an initiative to connect the arts sector to work happening around cooperatives and other “new economy” efforts. Helicon helped conduct preliminary research and design work for this initiative and is an Ally.