According to stereotype, artists have two career choices: stay true to your vision even if it means dying penniless, or give up your art, join the for-profit world and start making enough to support your family.
The new study by University of Minnesota Economics Professor Ann Markusen suggests that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
"There are artists who are afraid if they do commercial work it will undermine their stature as a fine artisan. Our study completely disproves this," says Markusen.
Her findings indicate artists are increasingly dividing their time between their art--painting, sculpture, writing--and contributing their artistic talents to for-profit projects, such as advertising and graphic design.
Markusen says artists could do this even more, to the benefit of business, if they had the means. But she says there's no coalition of arts agencies and educators out there to help, "because the arts and culture landscape is so balkanized, we don't really have an arts policy," Markusen says. "We don't have a constituency that really debates and thinks about what should arts and culture policy be."
Markusen says her study, which is based on interviews with artists in Los Angeles and San Francisco, has implications for the entire country, including Minnesota.
Markusen points to the health of the Twin Cities advertising industry:
"A part of that, I really think, is because we have very strong visual artists, writers, designers," she says. "All of those are occupations that are heavily drawn on by the advertising industry. And yet I don't think our advertising industry for the most part is really tuned into how the training institutions, the artists centers, the networking among the artists in the Twin Cities really contribute to the quality of the talent we have here."
The study, titled "Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Non-profit and Community Work," offers several recommendations on how the arts sector can emulate the coalitions being built in the high tech and health care industries.