What’s Happening Down Under

I had reason to read the Australia Council report on artists’ careers this week ( and found the news simultaneously encouraging, grim, and enlightening. Forty-five percent of Australian artists make their living outside of the arts sector – not just day jobs related to the arts, but jobs that are not in the creative sector at all. On the other hand, artists report spending 80% of their time on creative or arts-related work. The overwhelming majority of those employed in the arts sector are employed in the design professions of illustrator, graphic designer, interior designer, or fashion designer. The proportion of arts sector workers employed in these applied fields has been growing steadily since the inception of the study in 1996, indicating that more arts workers are seeking – and finding — employment in the “applied arts” than in the “fine and performing arts.” Ultimately, artists are likely to develop what my (Australian) colleague Ruth Bridgstock calls “portfolio careers,” a mix of employment opportunities that enable artists to be creative in a number of different areas, which, when amalgamated make for a whole career. We see this phenomenon frequently in the US, where artists often combine their creative work with teaching positions or service jobs.  The most touching part of the report was the quote from a young man in whose “portfolio” includes a job as a warehouse manager:  “I enjoy the balance between working in the warehouse and making art. The warehouse and driving the delivery van give me the headspace to come up with ideas for projects and problem solve projects I’m working on at the time. If I only made art I think I would burn out very quickly.” I guess that’s one way to put a positive spin on it…..

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