Study: Why Artists Need More than Creativity To Survive

Jun 7, 2010

In 2003 the Urban Institute published a comprehensive study on the support structures for artists in the United States titled Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists.   Although it's a few years old now, the study's findings are still relevant and offer great insight into the economic, cultural, and political landscape we are in, as well as action steps for improvement.

Stated in the report's introduction:
Why Artists Need More than Creativity To Survive

"Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it."
-- Berthold Brecht

Throughout our history, artists in the U.S. have utilized their skills as a vehicle to illuminate the human condition, contribute to the vitality of their communities and to the broader aesthetic landscape, as well as to promote social change and democratic dialogue. Artists have also helped us interpret our past, define the present, and imagine the future. In spite of these significant contributions, there's been an inadequate set of support structures to help artists, especially younger, more marginal or controversial ones, to realize their best work. Many artists have struggled and continue to struggle to make ends meet. They often lack adequate resources for health care coverage, housing, and for space to make their work. Still, public as well as private funding for artists has been an uneven, often limited source of support even in the best of times economically.


This important and timely study was eventually completed in July 2003. In it, the Urban Institute has given us much to ponder. The big headline is that improving support structures for artists in the U.S. will not be accomplished simply by restoring budget cuts, though we will certainly need to rebuild these kinds of direct financial support going forward. Making a real difference in the creative life of artists will entail developing a new understanding and appreciation for who artists are and what they do, as well as financial resources from a variety of stakeholders. Achieving these changes involves a long-term commitment from artists themselves, as well as arts administrators, funders, governments at various levels, community developers and real estate moguls, not to mention the business and civic sectors.

The study and this resulting report, which includes information on ways in which the environment of support may be improved over the long haul, offers a real opportunity to make a difference in the artistic landscape of this country. We hope it receives a wide readership and that its useful insights can prove the basis for a new approach to investing in creativity.
For more information, check out the Urban Institute's website, or download the entire report directly as a PDF. 

Thanks to Teresa Eyring for the tip. Have other resources that we should know about? Send them to us at

Tags: Urban Institute, study, economics, culture

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ARTISTS: Promotion
ARTISTS: Business of Arts
ARTISTS: Issues & Ideas


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