Art In The Recession: In Tough Economy, Artists Act Anew

Huffington Post is launching The Recessionary Arts: A HuffPost Culture Series, a series of articles that over the next two months “will explore how the recession is reshaping our nation's cultural state, and what this means for artists, consumers and the future of the arts.”

The first article comes from Lucas Kavner, a Huffington Post Culture and Media Reporter, titled Art In The Recession: In Tough Economy, Artists Act Anew:

Despite dim job prospects and ever-dwindling paychecks, more artists are living and working in America today than ever before. If as sociologist Charles Horton Cooley once said, “an artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one,” then success in America is at an all-time high.

At a time when making and distributing art to the masses is easier and more widely consumed than ever, at least 2.2 million people in the United States can be classified as professional artists, up from 1.9 million in 1996. And as artists have proliferated, arts organizations have followed suit; According to a report from Americans for the Arts, there are over 100,000 non-profit arts groups and 550,000 for-profit arts businesses in the U.S today. Between 2003 and 2009, a new nonprofit arts organization was created in the U.S. every three hours.

However, general funding for the arts decreases year after year in most states, with the more classical disciplines — dance, classical music, and theater — facing especially severe cuts. In 2009, according to the same Americans for the Arts study, 41 percent of nonprofit arts groups reported a deficit, up from 36 percent in 2008. Attendance at museums and performing arts events “decreased 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, between 2003 and 2009.”

In early 2010, Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, went so far as to tell The New York Times that “there might be too many resident theaters” in America and the decreasing demand for their product was something they should “talk about.” Many theater professionals reacted with outrage — “If the National Endowment for the Arts doesn't support our existence, who will?” — but the statistics, and the decrease in funding for everything, everywhere, made the statement more pressing.

Art might be the only sector that has seen an increase in employees without an increase in monetary support to back them up. At the same time, artists and the organizations that support them have had to consistently prove themselves to local and state governments hesitant to spend money on anything at all.

Read the full article.