Exploring how artists in the United States live and work and what they need to sustain and strengthen their careers.
Creativz was a participatory digital project Helicon curated exploring how artists in the United States live and work and what they need to sustain and strengthen their careers. It features essays by a range of thinkers in the arts field, along with comments, images and ideas curated from contributions through social media.
It was part of a research project from the Center for Cultural Innovation and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Surdna Foundation to identify trends and conditions impacting artists, and what they need to thrive. The final report for that project can be found here.
Writer & strategist Danielle Jackson tackled the issue on the challenges of sustainability, livelihood and compensation in the field of photography.
Jackson proposes that "as more of the general population works in the 'gig economy' and various legal movements to secure basic protections for these workers emerge, photographers should consider joining coalitions of other artists and independent workers to organize and advocate for their rights as freelancers. Lack of healthcare, erosion of fees, no guaranteed hours, late pay – these are the types of struggles between management and workers that the modern contingent workforce share."
"What could it look like to take a cue from adjunct professors and fast food workers who are organizing at the level of industry, rather than institution?"
Dean and Professor, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University Steven Tepper on the lessons we can learn from the gig economy.
Tepper discusses "how we live in a gig economy defined by short-term, project based work. While career success might once have looked like a connected set of dots on a straight line rising over time, today it looks more like a desk drawer filled with electronic device chargers and wires that are endlessly entangled, with no clear sense of where one wire ends and the next begins. Artists have much to gain from broader policies supporting part-time and “gig economy workers,” and the experience of artists may be instructive to those other sectors just starting to be influenced by these trends."
"What does it mean to sustain a career or a life of purposeful work in this context? How would we think differently about what a “sustainable career” looks like for artists if we accepted that it is not possible for most artists to make a living from the studio or the stage alone?"
Playwright, actor, artist and advocate Sarah Howes on the “shifting creative economy,” its effect on artists and what arts organizations can do to better support artists.
Howes writes "Lines need to be drawn in a way that still allows exceptions for such meaningful, necessary opportunities (and even unpaid internships that are truly educational and that benefit students). And artists have every right to let others use their copyrighted works at no cost, so long as the choice is theirs. However, for the artists who are behaving like employees, giving companies valuable labor, and receiving none of the benefits of being either an employee, a student, or an entrepreneur, something needs to be done. Otherwise we are either throwing away the critical workers’ rights that Americans have fought for since the Great Depression, or suggesting that these rights don’t apply to artists."
Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts, Laura Zabel on what is needed for a real, systems-level change in how artists are able to support themselves and be visible and valued for their work.
Zabel discussed the incredible work "happening all across the country to ensure that artists are more able to make a living and a life and contribute meaningfully to their communities.Even if we were to exponentially scale and broaden access to the current artist supports – for example, if every artist in America had access to basic business skills training — while it would be an important improvement in the lives of artists, it still feels a bit like nibbling at the margins."
"Because our systems aren’t just broken for artists, they are broken for everyone. I’ve come to believe we can’t really improve life for artists in any broad or lasting way without improving life for everyone."
Carlton Turner, Executive Director, Alternate ROOTS, exposes the failures of a one-size-fits-all leadership development program and proposes alternative approaches and valuable operation practices to create equity in culture.
Turner explores "how organizations with a dedicated mission to serving communities of color are struggling to stay afloat not because of mismanagement, lack of capacity or inferior artistic products. They struggle to stay afloat because of the history of inequity that exists in our society at large, a phenomenon that also impacts the distribution of funds in the cultural sector. We continue to struggle with issues of inclusion, diversity, and equity in the nonprofit arts and culture sector because our society continues to struggle with them."
The website is not a summary of research findings, but rather an integral part of the research process itself. The goal is to make the research transparent, include a broad range of people and perspectives in the process and hear from as many artists and artist support providers as possible. A report summarizing the findings will be published and available on this site in June 2016.