NASAA Notes: January 2007


January issue
Back to all issues
January 19, 2007

Did You Know?

Artists Find Value in Working across Commercial, Community and Nonprofit Sectors

Artists have long been categorized into one of three distinct sectors according to the nature of their work: commercial, not-for-profit and community. Although artists were once thought to be confined to an individual sector, a recent study found that many artists worked in several sectors. The study from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs demonstrated that only a small share of artists spent most of their creative hours within one sector: 39% created art primarily in the commercial sector, 29% in the not-for-profit sector, and 6% in the community sector. Many artists divided their hours of creativity among several sectors: 42% in the commercial sector, 55% in the not-for-profit sector, and 69% in the community sector.

Top Ranks for Artistic Development

Commercial sector:

  • understanding of artistic and professional conventions
  • broader visibility
  • networking that enhances artwork opportunities
  • higher rates of return

Not-for-profit sector:

  • aesthetic satisfaction
  • exploring new media
  • collaborating with artists across media
  • satisfying emotional needs

Community Sector:

  • enriching community life
  • affirming cultural identity
  • pursuing political and social justice goals

Source: Markusen 2006.

Artists “crossed over” because it allowed them to tap the separate and meaningful benefits of each sector. The largest group of artists viewed commercial sector work as the most lucrative, not-for-profit work as the most emotionally and aesthetically satisfying and community sector work as a medium for self-expression. A smaller, yet sizable, group of artists found different value in each sector. These artists identified the community sector as a source for intellectual freedom or aesthetic satisfaction, the not-for-profit sector as the most stable source of income and the community sector as a place to develop new artistic conventions. Most artists thought that a balance of work in each sector contributed to their artistic development.

Many artists pointed to financial constraints as the most significant barrier to crossover. If income were not an issue, artists in each sector reported that they would devote more time to other sectors. The largest shift would occur as artists in the commercial and not-for-profit sectors entered the community sector, increasing its artist participation rate by 20 percentage points. The study also linked the number of financially lucrative opportunities to crossover rates. Out of the two regions surveyed (San Francisco and Los Angeles), the region hit hardest by the economic recession (San Francisco) had fewer of these opportunities and lower crossover rates. Artists suggested that increased funding, through various vehicles that included grants and donations, would reduce financial risk and boost crossover. Combined with funding, artists hoped that open-mindedness, increased communication and training would foster a crossover-friendly environment.

Source: Markusen, Ann, Sam Gilmore, Amanda Johnson, Titus Levi, and Andrea Martinez. 2006. Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Nonprofit, and Community Work. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

In this Issue

Legislative Update

Executive Director's Column

Did You Know?

Frequently Asked Questions




To receive information regarding updates to our newslettter. Please fill out the form below.