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The Artistic Dividend Revisited

Ann Markusen, Greg Schrock and Martina Cameron, University of Minnesota

October 18, 200518 October 2005

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The Artistic Dividend Revisited updates Markusen’s 2003 study on The Artistic Dividend (see Arts Research Monitor Vol. 2 No 5) by providing information from the 2000 U.S. Census on arts occupation clusters (performing artists, visual artists, writers and musicians) and the location decision-making of artists.

The authors argue that “economic developers typically think first in terms of industry and only then in terms of occupations. We are making the case for treating occupations as a coequal force in regional development. This is because location decisions on the part of skilled workers may be as important as those of firms, and because firms’ success may have much to do with existing agglomerations of talent and the ability to retain and attract more talented workers.” In particular, the authors “believe that decisions of artists to live in certain regions may be a stimulant” to the economic vitality of an area. This is the “artistic dividend” in the report’s title.

In examining the differing patterns of the concentration of artists in various U.S. metropolitan areas, the authors note that “neither sheer metropolitan workforce size nor recent growth rates explain these divergent patterns. A combination of amenities, regional support for the arts, informal networks among artists and synergy with particular industries appear to explain their presence and persistence.”

The Artistic Dividend Revisited shows that, during the 1990s, artists gravitated towards three “Arts Super Cities”: Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. These cities have large labour forces in all of the arts occupation clusters. This success is attributed to well-developed media, entertainment, and tourism industries in these regions.

The authors find that artists are also attracted to a number of “second-tier metros” (Washington, D.C., Seattle, Boston, Orange County, CA, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego and Miami) where the cost of living is often lower and where there is an abundance of amenities, arts networks and recreational opportunities. The authors provide data showing that “performing artists, visual artists and writers sort themselves out in distinctive spatial patterns.” For example, Boston and Seattle have high concentrations of authors, while Orange County and San Diego have high concentrations of visual artists.

Self-employment is shown to be much higher in the arts than in the overall labour force. Almost half of those in arts occupations are self employed (45%), a figure that is much greater than the overall labour force (8%). These American figures are almost exactly the same as Canadian figures from Hill Strategies’ report A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada Based on the 2001 Census (44% self-employment rate for artists versus 8% overall).

The authors find “no clear relationship between artistic strength and either overall regional employment size or recent growth rates.” Some fast-growing metropolitan areas, including San Diego and Miami, have significant artistic concentrations, whereas other fast-growing metros, such as Dallas, Phoenix and Denver, are below the national average of the percentage of artists in the labour force. The authors conclude that the arts are “local-serving” in many communities, which implies that the arts are not a magnet for growth in all cities.

Markusen, Shrock and Cameron offer suggestions for amplifying the artistic dividend of a city. First, cities can diversify away from subsidies for arts facilities to supporting artistic occupations through support for artists’ clubhouses, live-work spaces, arts education, and artists’ business-skills development. A related conclusion is that governments “should improve their decision criteria for allocating public dollars to the arts” by ensuring that large new performing arts facilities do not “receive disproportionate shares of the public dollar.” Finally, the authors argue that “cities can pioneer ways of tightening the connections between an existing corporate community and resident artists.”

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