This month, we began a new research investigation in the arts and economic disadvantage research area into how artists make a living. We are examining the barriers that economically disadvantaged people face when pursuing “scarce” opportunities in the arts to become artists. We have agreed upon research questions and completed an initial scan for literature to support this investigation.

Our research questions include:

  • How does economic disadvantage decrease access and knowledge of working arts opportunities?
  • How many low-SES people who might want to be artists cannot be artists because of barriers to participation?

Literature from our initial scan includes:

Anderson, A. R. (2003). Class matters: human and social capital in the entrepreneurial process. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 32(1), 17–36. Retrieved from

Beattie, I. R. (2002). Are All “Adolescent Econometricians” Created Equal? Racial, Class, and Gender Differences in College Enrollment. Sociology of Education, 75(1), 19–43. Retrieved from

Benhamou, F. (n.d.). Artists’ labour markets. In A Handbook of Cultural Economics (pp. 53–57). Retrieved from,+successful+artist,&ots=808sTBgr7J&sig=p1sN51mGV3lieGBaFekB8ppBHLM#v=onepage&q=time%20and%20money%20required%2C%20successful%20artist%2C&f=false

Bui, Q. (2014). Who Had Richer Parents, Doctors Or Artists? NPR Planet Money. Retrieved from

Cox, R. D. (2016). Complicating Conditions: Obstacles and Interruptions to Low-Income Students’ College “Choices.” Journal of Higher Education, 87(1), 1–26. Retrieved from

Filer, R. K. (1986). The “Starving Artist”–Myth or Reality? Earnings of Artists in the United States. Journal of Political Economy. Retrieved from

Hans, A. (2008). Why Are Artists Poor? : The Exceptional Economy of the Arts. Retrieved from

Jahoda, S., Murphy, B., Virgin, V., & Woolard, C. (n.d.). Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists. Retrieved from

Luftig, R. L., Donovan, M. L., Farnbaugh, C. L., Kennedy, E. E., Filicko, T., & Wyszomirski, M. J. (2003). So What Are You Doing after College? An Investigation of Individuals Studying the Arts at the Post-Secondary Level, Their Job Aspirations and Levels of Realism. National Arts Education Association, 45(1), 5–19. Retrieved from

Minniti, M., & Nardone, C. (2007). Being in Someone Else’s Shoes: the Role of Gender in Nascent Entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 28(2), 223–238. Retrieved from

Mullen, A. L. (2014). GENDER, SOCIAL BACKGROUND, AND THE CHOICE OF COLLEGE MAJOR IN A LIBERAL ARTS CONTEXT. Gender & Society, 28(2), 289–312. Retrieved from

Rampell, C. (2014). The Most Expensive Colleges in the Country are Art Schools, Not Ivies. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Simon, R., & Barry, B. (2013). A Degree Drawn in Red Ink. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

SNAAP. (2013). An Uneven Canvas: Inequality in Artistic Training and Careers. Retrieved from

Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. (n.d.). Spotlight on First-Generation Artists (PART 2). Retrieved from


Meanwhile, we have also begun work on a new research area, continuing our investigation into the history of the arts ecosystem.


History of the Arts Ecosystem: expanding definition of the arts

Arts institutions and organizations that constitute the core of the formally recognized “cultural sector” were—and continue to be—dominated by Eurocentric artists and art forms. While this bias persists, the definition of what counts as art, and what is deemed worthy of study and support by formal institutions, appears to have expanded considerably over the past 50 years.

Createquity is investigating this shift as part of our larger project on the history of change in the arts ecosystem, with an emphasis on the role of changemakers. A few of the questions we will be exploring in this research process are:

  • What are some examples of artistic activities and traditions pursued by artists or communities of color that have seen an increase in prestige and recognition from the 1950s to today?
  • Is there any data or method of quantifying this increase in prestige?
  • How much has the amount of monetary support available for noncommercial artistic activities and traditions pursued by artists or communities of color changed from the 1950s – today?
    • How does this contrast this with the general increase in support available for nonprofit arts activities, and with demographic shifts in the same period?
  • Have artists of color working in the commercial sector seen increases in the resources they personally gain as a result of their artistic work?
  • Who are some of the most important actors from within communities of non-Eurocentric artistic practice who have deliberately organized to increase the visibility of their work and their peers?
    • What was their original intention when they started the work that led to this change?
    • How did they gain attention or resources for their activities beyond the norm for their time?
  • What are some identifiable moments of reform from within institutional funding communities?
    • How did they start?
    • Who made the ultimate decision to change institutional policies and why?
  • Has the bulk of this shift been in recognition and prestige as opposed to monetary resources?
  • How have artist-driven movements or projects and funder-led initiatives interacted with one another on this issue?

We have begun our initial literature search, and we are also looking for suggestions from our readers. Read more about that here.