Problem-solving the Creative Economy

Newly Published: Year-long Study of Creative Capital’s Artist Grantees, and Summary of Grantmakers in the Arts Pre-Conference on Individual Artists

Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa’s Creative Capital Artists Look Back: 1999-2015. New York: Creative Capital, April, 2016. Download here:

In a summer 2015 survey of fifteen years of Creative Capital (CC) awardees, respondents (31 percent of all awardees) valued most highly retreats with interdisciplinary cohorts at which they brainstormed their projects and listened to others, often finding collaborators for future projects. Encouraged by CC, half of the respondents aspired to align their work with non-arts fields (e.g., science, social work, health care, criminal justice), and of these, 85 percent succeeded. Some 42 percent now devote more time to building audiences through marketing, branding, paid jobs, and career maintenance, while cutting back on rest and renewal but not on time with family and friends. While 79 percent have increased their incomes, most still struggle to enhance retirement savings. Asked about post-award additional funds they have raised for their artwork, artists reported an average of $257,000. If all awardees (n = 579) raised similar amounts on average, the total raised to date would be nearly $100 million.

Ann Markusen’s commissioned write-up of the Grantmakers in the Arts Fall Pre-conference: “Supporting Individual Artists: Translating Value, Evaluating Outcomes.” Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Vol. 27, No. 1: Winter.

Intro: At October’s “Support for Individual Artists” GIA preconference, more than six-dozen funders convened to share their experiences supporting individual artists and to ponder how to gauge and communicate the results. The Jerome Foundation’s Eleanor Savage and Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Roberto Bedoya shepherded an agenda that included five artists speaking about their work and careers. After lunch, participants chose topical group conversations, each led by a funder, reporting results in a “Long Table” format. Kicked off by planning committee chair Joe Smoke of Los Angeles’s Cultural Affairs Department, the organizers made the case for the day’s themes of “measuring impact” and “translating value.” In this era of big data, we have become preoccupied with measurement. Some objected to the narrowness of the concept. “Measurement implies numbers,” one participant noted, “and not all or even the best evaluations involve numbers.” Case studies, narratives, open-ended answers on surveys, and the artworks themselves are also ways of charting the results of grants and awards. The word impact also came under scrutiny — one person quipped that it reminds her of an auto accident. Is that really how we conceptualize the creative process? Do artists not bring their own considerable resources to the work and play powerful roles in outcomes?

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