The past thirty years have seen an exponential increase in the number of self-identified artists working in an ever-widening field of creative expression. But while creative output is at an all time high, established, formal structures for supporting individual artists have stagnated or even diminished. Here are some facts and figures:
- The $146 million budget of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) represents just 0.012% (about one one-hundredth of one percent) of federal discretionary spending. In arts-friendly New York City, the budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs is only 0.25% of the entire NYC budget.
- 55% of foundation funding for the arts goes to the 2% of arts organization with budgets exceeding $5 million. The effect of this is to allocate billions of dollars to serve a mostly wealthy, white (and shrinking) audience. At the same time, non-white populations have grown in every region of the country since 2000, more than a third of the country is comprised of people of color and in four states white people are no longer the majority.
- Only 5% of all charitable giving in the United States goes to the arts.
- The number of individuals who dedicate themselves to art making, without even expecting a living wage in return, outnumbers those whose art practice generates their primary income by 20 or 30 to 1, according to a 2001 study by the RAND Corporation. There is every reason to believe that proportion has increased greatly over the past decade.
- Technology has given rise to innumerable new “methods, techniques, and materials … for conveying emotional states and ideas….” These “new forms of self-expression” exist across multiple platforms and in multiple, new contexts, fundamentally “altering the sources and reach of creative expression.” (How Art Works, a publication of the NEA)