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National Endowment for the Arts Releases Landmark Report On Values and Needs of Artists

Jennifer Cole

Jennifer Cole, Metro Arts, 615-969-6424,

Results reinforce strategic efforts Metro Arts around artist financial security, training and equity

(September 20, 2016) Nashville, TN—Addressing the needs of artists in a world of accelerating change is the focus of a new report launched by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the NEA Chairman’s 50th anniversary Creativity Connects initiative. Creativity Connects: Trends and Conditions Affecting U.S. Artists was produced in cooperation with the Center for Cultural Innovation. It examines issues familiar to the arts world such as funding and training, but also widens the lens to look at the effect of other forces shaping the work environment for artists including technology, the gig economy, student debt, and the growth of cross-disciplinary work.

Accompanying the report is a new ‘Bright Spots’ interactive graphic on the NEA website, Creativity Connects featuring resources and successful projects undertaken by partnerships of arts and non-arts organizations that demonstrate new ways in which creative people are working.

Chairman Chu said, “This report is practical and well-informed, providing insights and implications for action that together can advance our nation’s creative future. We thank the Center for Cultural Innovation for their work and look forward to sharing the report with our colleagues and those interested in welcoming artists to their sectors to share their creative practices and inspire innovation.”

Angie Kim, president and CEO of the Center for Cultural Innovation said that the Center “is proud to partner with the National Endowment for the Arts on this seminal research. The arts sector is not alone in undergoing seismic shifts, but many of these shifts have opened up exciting new opportunities for artists to be at the center of social change."

Report Findings

The report is divided into three sections, each with its own set of conclusions.

  1. Shifts in the Artist Population and the Ways Artists Work
  2. Technology, Economics, Equity, and Training
  3. Implications of this Research

As regards implications of the research, the report identifies five main goals that could improve conditions for artists.

  1. Articulate and measure the benefits of artists and creative work to societal health and well-being.
  2. Address artists’ income insecurity as a part of larger workforce efforts.
  3. Address artists’ student debt and help build their assets.
  4. Create 21st-century training systems.
  5. Upgrade systems and structures that support artists.

Report Background

The Creativity Connects report builds on a 2003 report by the Urban Institute, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists led by current National Council on the Arts member Maria Rosario Jackson. Since its publication, Investing in Creativity has influenced the efforts of funders, policy makers, artist support organizations, scholars, and others interested in artists’ creative capacities and extending artists’ contributions across local, state and national levels. But the world has changed significantly since 2003, and the purpose of the Creativity Connects: Trends and Conditions Affecting U.S. Artists is to present an updated picture of the world in which artists operate, and to offer suggestions for addressing the identified challenges to artists’ success.

To develop the report, CCI and NEA staff undertook extensive information-gathering and analysis over the past year and a half. This included conducting 65 in-depth interviews, convening 10 roundtables across the country, reviewing more than 300 documents, gathering more than 30 field experts to review the initial findings, and commissioning 18 online essays written by leaders in the field and available at and on the NEA website.

“The Creativity Connects report findings validate many of the steps Metro Arts has taken over the last several years to address the changing needs of artists and cultural production in Nashville,” said Jennifer Cole, Metro Arts Executive Director.

Nashville consistently ranks on a variety of national studies as a top market for artists and creators. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the MSA ranks 16th in the country for artists per capita and Mayor Barry has consistently pointed to the need to ensure that the creative sector is supported and flourishing in her administration. Key findings in the report demonstrate the need to address financial and wage issues of artists, focus on broader professional training, and address the class and race inequities in the larger systems for artists.

Metro Arts strategic plan, Crafting a Creative City, adopted in April 2015, incorporates many of the report’s findings. Specifically:

  • Focus on Artist Wages and Access to Financial Stability—Longstanding partnership with the Mayor’s Financial Empowerment Center programs offering artists free financial counseling and the launch of the THRIVE program in 2014 that hires neighborhood artists as Metro vendors to facilitate neighborhood placemaking projects.
  • Focus on Professional Training for Artists—Multi-year partnership with the Arts & Business Council on the Periscope Artist Business Training program and the recent launch of the NEA funded Artist Learning Lab that provided training and access to project capital for 25 emerging civic and public artists.
  • Strategic Focus on Addressing Equity in the Arts Ecosystem –Is called out both in Metro Arts and the launch of the Racial Equity in Arts Leadership (REAL Program).

“This landmark study validates what we see every day in Nashville. For artists and musicians and creators to thrive in our city we must drive conditions like equity, professional development and financial stability. We must do this in partnership with existing city efforts and the private sector. When artists and creators succeed, so does our larger community,” stated Cole.

National Next Steps

In the coming weeks, the NEA will announce a round of Creativity Connects demonstration grants, facilitate state and regional partnerships that invest further in these core issues and will host a national convening, In Pursuit of the Creative Life: the Future of Arts and Creativity in America at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC featuring artists, arts leaders, and creative thinkers from around the country. Portions of the event will be live-streamed. More information will be available in October.

Local Next Steps

In the coming weeks Metro Arts will announce its second Race Equity in Arts Leadership cohort and project funding for artists in the Learning Lab.

In partnership with Vanderbilt and the Scarritt Bennett Center will host national leader and speaker and study contributor, Maria Rosario Jackson for a free public discussion, “Imagining Equity and Justice in the Arts Ecosystem.” The lecture is October 3 from 6-7pm at Emma Bistro - 9 Lea Avenue - Nashville, TN 37210.