The Artistic Dividend Revisited

April, 2005

Executive summary

Artists continue to sort themselves out among American cities. In the 1990s, they reversed a trend of several decades and gravitated in larger numbers towards three premier centers of tourism, entertainment and creative work: Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. They also favored a set of second tier metros — Washington DC, Seattle, Boston, Orange County, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego and Miami — over nineteen other large metro areas. Neither sheer metropolitan workforce size nor recent growth rates explain these divergent patterns. A combination of amenities, regional support for the arts, informal networks among artists and synergy with particular industries appear to explain their presence and persistence.

In this update of our 2003 study, The Artistic Dividend: The Hidden Contributions of the Arts to the Regional Economy, we explore the results of the 2000 Census to update our depiction of artistic prowess city by city, expanding our analysis to the twenty-nine largest U.S. metros. We confirm the tendency for different metros to specialize in artistic suboccupations. Performing artists, visual artists and writers sort themselves out in distinctive spatial patterns rather than replicating each others’ preferences. We add two arts-related occupations, architects and designers, to our analysis, showing how members of these groups, more prosperous and less likely to be self-employed, exhibit yet different urban patterns. We explore the relationship between occupation and industry in one case, advertising, to underscore the desirability of a dual analysis in understanding emerging urban economies.

We also probe the significance of self-employment among artists, which we find to be quite high. We find that many more individuals report artistic work as their occupation in the Census than do employerbased data sources. We show that in some metros, artists are more likely to be formally employed than in others. Furthermore, some, especially musicians, pursue their income-earning artistic activity as a second occupation. The number of artists in a region is greatly undercounted, in many subgroups by more than 100%, when non-Census sources are relied upon. We reassert our preference for using Census data for assessing the size of the artistic dividend.

This update should be read along with The Artistic Dividend, our initial work. In that study, we reject the view that the arts are a discretionary element in a regional economy, disconnected from the competitive forces shaping its growth and stature. We articulate the various ways in which self-employed and other undercounted artists contribute to the economy – through direct export of their work and services, through contractual work for area businesses, and by instigating innovation on the part of their suppliers. We explain the occupational approach to gauging the size of a metro’s artistic dividend and make the case for artists’ choice of a place to live and work independent of a particular employer or job offer. And we probe the policy implications for artists, private sector businesses, non-profits and state and local governments who wish to enhance the artistic sector of their economies, most of them modestly-priced initiatives that will augment artistic networks and learning, prompt greater artistic entrepreneurship, thicken the ties between non-artistic businesses and artists, and nurture diversified, decentralized artistic live and work spaces across metropolitan neighborhoods.

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