Poor Artists Suddenly News

The Globe and Mail covers a report that says “artist earnings have been decreasing since 1990 – a decline likely to intensify over the next two years. While average earnings for the overall labour force rose by almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2005, artists experienced a slide of 11 per cent” and also points out that though there are more female artists, they earn, on average, less than men. Oh, and a lot of them take part-time work doing other stuff to survive.

Surprise!

Canada doesn’t support it’s artistic community. And women get paid less than men. Neither of these should come as a shock to anyone who even dabbles in the arts. The economy is tanking, and artists are going to suffer too, though as was mentioned on the radio the other day, because they always live on the edge of insolvency, they’re more likely to have coping strategies already in place.

“While artists earn much less than the overall labour force and outnumber the workers directly employed by the Canadian automotive sector (140,000 versus 135,000), they’re better educated than most Canadians. The Hill study reports that 39 per cent of all Canadian artists have at least a university degree at the bachelor’s level, whereas for the overall labour force the percentage is 21.” (my emphasis). The government needs to get a clue and invest in culture as well as infrastructure, rather than simply bailing out companies whose time has passed.

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1 Response to “Poor Artists Suddenly News”


  1. 1 jeff February 7, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hi. Nice blog, full of good opinions.

    I think art transcends the economy. We work, we play, we lay around, all the while soaking up the subliminal as well as the observed aspects of existence – then we reflect it back at society. After that, it’s not up to us.

    The pursuit of money can really foul this process up. I live in Victoria, BC and here we are awash with artists who are employed at the banal for the sake of a paycheque. I go to galleries here and seldom am I really impressed, I think because people are doing their best to make nice decorative, stable images to please gallery owners and designers, both of whom are trying to feed someone’s bourgeois dream of perfect decor.

    This is fine, if you’re into that, but if one wants to deviate from this here, one becomes the typical starving artist. And there are lots of them in Victoria.

    I got around this by starting a housepainting co. and while it’s not very glamourous, it allows me the freedom to make the art I want to make and sell it to the people who want it, instead of pleasing parasitic middlemen. I’m not rich, famous or successful in art, but I’m a happy artist.

    As a last comment I’ll venture to say that no artist should look to the government for a paycheque. Subsidization is not the way to go; subsidization either supports an industry or product that people either don’t want (like good art which is seen as a luxury) or something that is too expensive at its real cost (like gasoline). An artist, like a businessperson, should sink or swim like everyone else and his or her startup funds should come from a business loan, not a gov’t handout. I’m not sure about other places, but in Canada we have the Canada Council for the Arts and the process is full of bias, favoritism and politics. Unless I’m going to produce a series of paintings on bureaucratic tomfoolery, I will stay away, as the process is inherently unfair, not only to artists who don’t make the bureaucratic cut, but to taxpayers too, who don’t value publicly sponsored art and shouldn’t have to pay for it.

    Art should set you free, not chain you to an artificially supported economic system.

    Whew! Looks like my 2 cents turned into $5! Cheers, really enjoy the blog. Jeff


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