Bust? Or just a new opportunity to create…

I have been reading more and more lately about Art and the current economic outlook.  The New York Times ran an article back in February discussing whether the “Boom” was over; pointing out the large amount of product for sale in the art communities and the lack of patrons willing to pay for art.  The article discusses the powerful movements created in art from recessionary times (i.e. the creation of SoHo in NY, the use of available materials such as work by Gordon Matta-Clark, or rooftop performance art pieces).  There is some historical referencing done by Holland Cotter to compare this current recession to those which occurred in the 70’s and 80’s.  You can read it in its entirety here
During this same past year LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity) released their results from a survey taken using 5380  artists nationwide.  The survey was completed in just under a month over the summer and was titled “Artists and Economic Recession Survey”, focusing on artists economic circumstances almost a year into this current recession.  In general the survey confirmed the NYTimes article with regards to artists having to make changes in their lifestyles, locations, entrepreneurial skill adaptability; all of which will create a large art movement.  51% of artists surveyed reported a decrease in their art-related incomes between 2008-2009 of which a small percentage seen the decrease exceed 50%.  65% of surveyed artists hold at least one other “day job” in addition to their art practice.  One of the most staggering figures was that 44% of surveyed artists felt a need to lower fees/rates charged for their work.  Although most of the figures in the survey are not appealing, 75% of the surveyed artists had a positive outlook to the future and felt it is an inspiring time to be an artist, but not without their personal worry.  In the survey artists indicated their worries are focused around funding for projects, grant monies, and rising debt.  You can read the actual survey here.
Most recently I attended a panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago titled “The Creative Economy: Beyond ‘The New Normal'”.  It was a panel consisting of Kelly Costello, director of Design Research at Doblin, Inc.; Mark Dziersk, VP of Design Brandimage-Desgrippes & Laga, Educator at Northwestern University; Theaster Gates, University of Chicago, Coordinator of Arts Programming; and the school’s President Wellington Reiter.   The information used for the panel discussion was the same as it is in the above paragraphs, however I felt this was more interesting because I was listening to the panelists who came from diverse areas in the art community.  The general philosophies expressed were detailed and interesting.  There was a discussion about the MFA becoming the new MBA whereas corporations and businesses are seeking out individuals who have problem solving skills and can think “outside the box”.  Artists are well-known problem solvers and its our creative ways of thinking which are appealing to businesses who are looking to gain ground in a quickly moving world.  There was also a re-emphasizing of the entrepreneurial skill building during the down time in order to make yourself ready when the market turns around.  While this is encouraging for someone like myself who has a strong business and art background, it’s not so wonderful for the person who wants to be  a practicing artist.  However, I have heard from the school that in the springtime they will be holding another panel discussion that focuses on gallery exhibiting and art making in this economy.  You can see the panel discussion on these 3 links. 
1. Part One
2. Part Two
3. Part Three
I guess what I am hearing from all of this chatter about art and our current recession driven economy is that as artists we need to create change.  The artists need to stay focused on their convictions, look inside of themselves to see what they would like to accomplish, and then persevere in that direction no matter what.  We need to continue to solve problems, regardless of their nature and boast that we possess that skill.  This economy will turn around and artists will be the ones who leave the footprint of what it’s implications have been. 

4 thoughts on “Bust? Or just a new opportunity to create…

    1. Ms. White, it’s a shame the only thing you found to write a comment about was on the character of a person who hosted a panel discussion about art and the economy. The larger issue at stake with todays art community is the dire economic situation involving dried up grant funding, tighter wallets at art galleries, and dwindling exhibition opportunities. Those issues were the focus of the blog and I’m happy to see Mr. Reiter and his staff at SAIC offering open dialog to students and artists alike, regardless of the topic.

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  1. Debi Adams

    Even during the Holocaust, artists were driven to create their work. They were hidden until the freedom to share their creations came into fruition. I believe that if allowed, “true artists bloom where they are planted”. The passion is not fueled by any source but the artist. The art defines where we go as artists. No box, no prison, can take away that source. So, in the most dire of circumstances if art can still be created, what is to stop anyone in a recession? There is always a way. Look at the history of art, not the statistics:) I’m just sayin’…

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  2. Thank you for keepin’ it real Debi…like you always do. You’re so right about the artist’s need to make artwork regardless of the current situation. In the LINC survey, it was reported that for many artists this latest recession has brought them a freedom to concentrate on their artwork in new ways with 40% of them spending more time on their artwork which they viewed as a positive outcome during this time. There has always been a strong connection between art and community. I believe times like these renew those connections creating stronger bonds.

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