There was a time when becoming an artist meant devoting yourself to a starving, bohemian lifestyle, sleeping on a futon and burning your rejected works to stay warm. But artists should feel a little more encouraged now that a new study from the National Endowment for the Arts reveals that the artist lifestyle isn't as conventional wisdom might have it.
The recent study was conducted using the 2.1 million artists in the US, comprising 1.4% of the total workforce. The NEA "analyzed 11 distinct artist occupations: actors, announcers, architects, dancers and choreographers, designers, fine artists, art directors and animators, musicians, other entertainers, photographers, producers and directors, and writers and authors." They collected data from 2005-2009, and what they found paint's the artist's dream as a surprisingly cozy reality.
The median salary for artists is $43,000, compared to the $39,000 averaged labor force as a whole. (Professionals, however, average $54,000.) Within the subdivisions of artists, architects come out the wealthiest—averaging around $63,000—while 'other entertainers' bring up the rear with $25,000. Women are earning $0.81 to the men's dollar, a whole penny more than the general workforce's $0.80 to the dollar. Furthermore, 6 in 10 artists have college degrees, compared with 1 in 3 over all.
Artists seem to have mastered the art of living as well. 35% of artists are self-employed and artists are 3 times more likely to work from home than the general laborer. New York and California hold the highest numbers of artists, with Oregon and Vermont also making an impressive showing. And despite the stereotypes of artists being unstable or promiscuous, they actually have the same likelihood of marriage as the general workforce.
On the whole, the NEA's results determined "artists to be entrepreneurial (more likely to be self-employed) and more educated than the workforce at large." So next time you think about confessing your dream of being your generation's Damien Hirst to Mom and Dad, don't bring tissues, bring champagne.