As seen in our previous article about the public funding of culture, arts are a key element for a complete education. Moreover, they have a tremendous impact on the academic performance of students, whether they come from high-income households or not. From primary school to university, students that enroll on artistic courses are statistically more likely to succeed in their education. But, what of the students that wish to study arts? What happens when you decide that you don’t want arts to be complementary to your education, but the focus of it?
Being an artist in the EU and the USA
Well, those students who decide to become working artists, might have a career path tougher than their peers who choose other professions. Even though culture accounts for a big percentage of rich countries’ GDPs (4.4% of the EU’s GDP; 4.3% of USA’s GDP), and it creates a considerable amount of jobs (7.6 million jobs in the EU, 5.2 million jobs in the USA), fine arts graduates have a difficult time integrating the labour market. Statistics show that, in the USA, only 10% of all arts graduates make their primary earnings as working artists. But, why is that? Like with most higher education courses in the USA, art students tend to end up with a heavy debt load once they’re graduated. In fact, 7 of the 10 most expensive higher education institutions in the USA are art schools, making the corresponding student loans higher than those for non-art schools. Meanwhile, most working artists in the USA have a median annual income of 30,621$ (around 26,300€), when the national average sits at 41,573$(around 35,700€). With higher debts and lower earnings, most art graduates are forced into other industries and activities in order to pay their bills, which explains partially why only 10% of them end up as working artists.
These numbers might seem alarming, but the same situation happens on the eastern shore of the Atlantic. In France, for example, less than 10% of all art graduates (between 5% and 10% according to the Ministry of Culture), can live off exclusively from their art earnings. In fact, 57% of them are obliged to find a complementary job in the cultural field, while the rest work for non-artistic industries. In Spain, 50% of fine arts graduates are still unemployed four years after their graduation. In addition, when it comes to wages, they are consistently lower than the average. In the UK, for example, 66% of all artists make less than 10.000£ (around 11,870€) from their arts practice, while the median annual income for full-time workers in the UK reaches 29,900£ (almost 35,500€), and the minimum wage is 17,300£ (around 20,500€).
An unbalanced labour market
Facing these number, we have to wonder why arts’ graduates have a hard time living off their art, while the market seems to be stable and expanding. Why are young graduates struggling to enter the labour market and, when they do, why is it so hard for them to live off their art? While digging into these questions, we were struck by the following findings: In the USA, only 16% of all the working artists (around 1.2 million registered as such), hold an arts-related bachelor’s degree, versus 44% of them who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Similarly, less than 40% of people declaring to work in the fine arts sector in Spain, have studied a course related to it.
There seems to be a tremendous lack of efficiency in the artistic job’s market and, in art2act, we are deeply concerned by it. This is actually one of the main reasons for our existence and current development. We believe that such inefficiency can harm the sector and, particularly, young artists. That is why, by partnering with higher education institutions, we will work to present real professional opportunities for young arts graduates, so they can find the tools they need to pierce into the professional market, without having to make concessions like working two jobs while they wish to dedicate their full-time to creating.