On Tuesday morning, The Creative Independent (an online resource for creatives published by Kickstarter) released a new report on the financial lives of practicing artists. The findings were pooled from survey responses from 1,016 visual artists and show that while many artists feel neutral on whether or not they are “financially stable,” artists are not making very much money.
When artists were asked to rank their financial stability on a scale of one to 10, the median answer was five. But, when artists were asked how much they make annually, almost 60% reported that they make less than $30,000; and only 17% of respondents reported that they earn more than the U.S.’s median income of $58,000 per year.
Being an artist is expensive. With many artists paying two rents––one for their home, one for their studio––in addition to everyday expenses and art supplies, financial stability is difficult. When the study asked artists what their main sources of income were, 61% reported that they rely primarily on freelance and contract work, 42% count on a second job in addition to their art practice, and 29% depend on family for money or an inheritance. The data shows that for most respondents, selling artwork is one of the least effective ways to earn money: Only 12% cited “gallery sales” as one of their top sources of income.
Low income not only affects the amount of time artists can spend in their studio, it also prevents them from building up savings. The study found that 39% of artists are only able to work 10 hours or less per week in their studios, and 27% of artists put more than half of their income back into their practice.
While the report suggests that the financial lives of artists may not be very fruitful, it also shows that regardless, artists still seem to enjoy their role. When asked, “How satisfying is it to live the life of an artist?” the median answer was a 6, with artists working for over 20 years ranking their satisfaction at a 7.