Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Artists Who Make Money Are White and What That Means For Art Managers

Someone already posted about the “Art Reports Back” study by art collective BFAMFAPhD and how the economics of obtaining and arts degree is depressing at best. The study also reveals the disproportionate rate, in comparison to the racial and gender composition of our nation, of people who attend art school and artists who make money from their art being white. In this article from The Washington Post, they discuss how the expensive rate of tuition at art schools and the rather low amount artists make a living on average, makes art school a luxury especially as the wealth and poverty divide in our nation widens.

Some people wonder (or completely neglect to acknowledge) how the arts are deemed as something only for the elite or a luxury. If art is supposed to make commentary about life and greater philosophies, if only one point of view is portrayed i.e. that of someone who could afford a BFA/MFA and manage to live without art sales, art becomes a luxury item created by people fortunate to be able to solely focus on it. This poses a serious challenge for us budding art managers if we choose to be in, or create, organizations that have diverse casts or show artists from diverse backgrounds and engage diverse audiences. If we cannot directly change the cost of tuition at art institutions, the income-gap in our country, or ignore quality artists who simply by mathematics will be white and male, how do we make commitments to diversity or aim to have an institution or organization that reflects the society of our country?

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3 comments on “Artists Who Make Money Are White and What That Means For Art Managers

  1. trishayoung
    October 31, 2014

    I appreciate that this article states that 60% of the United States is still predominantly white and also that the median salary for non-degree artists is only $6000 less than artists with a graduate degree. Yes, some of the most expensive schools are art schools but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good arts programs in community colleges or universities whose overall focus is not arts. In this article I would be interested to get more detail about the artists who chose to pursue careers without seeking an undergraduate degree.

    Also, I happened upon this article from News.Mic (http://mic.com/articles/101758/good-news-art-students-your-degree-is-actually-paying-off) stating that art degrees are paying off which I thought was interesting. My favorite part of this article is in the comments section when someone asked whether they’re actually paying off or if artist’s expectations are just going down. I guess they got it right though since both women pictured in the photograph are white…so there’s that.

  2. qfloyd
    October 31, 2014

    Interesting article and makes sense. The fact that the arts are less diverse also equates to the arts’ audiences being diverse. As America’s non-white population continues to grow (by 2020 white will no longer be the “majority” race of Americans), we need to seek out artists of different backgrounds as well as audiences who can relate to these artists.

  3. dianalfreeberg
    November 1, 2014

    Although I was somehow blessed with rights from birth, I was still born into a white, middle-class family. Diversity is a word we all strive for, but very few of us actually achieve. One of my favorite quotes is- “Privilege is invisible to those who have it”.

    This article is an example of a conversation starter. This should not begin or end a topic, but it should spark a greater dialogue about access to the arts for all people.

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