The first Cincinnati Artist Report was written by artists (left) Calcagno Cullen and Anissa Lewis.
ArtWorks and Wave Pool are proud to announce the findings from the first ever Cincinnati Artist Report, accessing the needs of local artists and digging deeper into the impact of the arts in Cincinnati. As a response to the Cincinnati Artist Report, ArtWorks and Wave Pool are launching new programming, which will be especially important in responding to the needs of local artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever the arts are indispensable,” said Calcagno Cullen, co-author of the report and executive director of Wave Pool. “Artists build community, create awareness and empathy, inspire, and help us cope during difficult times. We need to prioritize this work and make sure that artists get the resources they need to thrive in our region.”
According to the 2019 Ohio’s Creative Economy report by the Ohio Citizens for the Arts with the Center for Regional Development and Bowling Green State University, the creative economy generates $6.1 billion in the Cincinnati metropolitan statistical area and supports 39,000 jobs. The Ohio arts and creative sector is facing “devastating economic implications” (PDF) because of COVID-19, according to a release by Ohio Citizens for the Arts.
The Cincinnati Artist Report was written by Cullen and local artist Anissa Lewis. The data was generated from survey responses by 875 artists and from community engagements held by Lewis and a team of 4 ArtWorks youth apprentices at several local arts events in summer 2019.
We acknowledge that artists’ circumstances have changed even from the time of filling out the survey in 2019 and believe the survey results would look a lot different if responses were being collected now.
Approximately 70% of artists surveyed reported a need for $5,000 or less to conduct a civic or public art work or other art project, though the report authors note this is likely too low. According to Working Artists for the Greater Economy (WAGE), a New-York based advocacy group, the market tends to undervalue artists’ time and labor. WAGE defines fair wage to include only artists’ labor and does not include project costs like materials or marketing. Artists often are unable to pay themselves fairly due to low amount they receive.
“I’m always being asked to donate work for an ‘opportunity for exposure’,” wrote one respondent. “Artists are constantly undervalued, but always being asked to donate time, materials and work to solve social problems.”
Having strong relationships is important for any career, and Cincinnati artists report a need to expand their networks within the region. While the survey found more than 50 percent reported some positive relationships with other local artists and those that support the arts, there is significant room for growth.
“I have great personal relationships with other artists,” wrote one respondent. “But as far as support from funders, critics, curators, arts organizations, it’s minimal. I need help here.”
In the survey, artists reported they would like cultivate relationships with curators, gallery owners and artists in a community or shared space.
Exposure & Publicity
As part of the survey, artists were asked in what supports they would need beyond funding, and the top need identified was promotion and exposure, followed by more time and better workspaces. The artists also identified the need for marketing for professional development classes.
“Many of the people who love my work can’t pay me what I need to be paid,” wrote a respondent, “and the folks that could afford it don’t know who I am, and I don’t know how to connect with them.”
Despite 52 percent of Cincinnati residents estimated to be people of color, 88 percent of the respondents to the Cincinnati Artist Report reported as white with 7 percent as African American and 5 percent as other people of color. The report’s authors see the lack of people of color who responded to the survey not as a reflection of artists in Cincinnati, but as a reflection of the lack of diversity at most art events in Cincinnati.
“Artists of color are not attending these events and we need to work harder to include them in Cincinnati’s arts community,” the authors wrote.
The respondents identified more than 20 percent as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI).
“Peers and professors try to box your work in as always political, because they feel more comfortable debating my rights in critique than learning about my perspective as an equal and how my experiences may vary,” wrote one respondent who identified as a black queer man.
ArtWorks and Wave Pool are announcing the creation of new artist programs to address the needs identified in the Cincinnati Artist Report, also know as CAR.
This month, ArtWorks is launching Jump Start, a program that will invest in emerging local artists by bringing their ideas to life. Through this program, ArtWorks will empower artists to define a place-based or community-based public art project that helps address a social or civic challenge, with awards up to $5,000 to support the project execution.
“In light of COVID-19, ArtWorks is asking artists to think creatively about how the power of art can support connections to our neighbors and community,” said Amy Scarpello, ArtWorks director of workforce development. “We’re also encouraging artists to create budgets where they are fairly compensated. We want artists to succeed as best they can in this unstable environment, and we encourage artists to make sure they pay themselves first before putting more resources into their projects.”
ArtWorks’ Jump Start artists will be selected by a jury and will receive additional support such as promotion, access to ArtWorks Youth Apprentices, and project execution.
In addition, Wave Pool has announced the creation of Driving Lessons, a program that offers artists the opportunity to gain more knowledge and skills in budgeting, taxes, marketing, goal setting, negotiation, business management and communications. Artists applying to ArtWorks’ Jump Start program will be required to first complete Wave Pool’s Driving Lessons program.
“Our community is resilient in the face of challenges, and the arts clearly drive our identity and strength,” said Eric Avner, vice president and senior program manager of community development for the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, which is the report’s largest funder. “Supporting artists now is especially important in these uncertain days, but moreover, this is an investment in our community’s future success. I am proud that the Foundation has been part of this work, and I look forward to supporting these and other opportunities down the road for our local creative community.”
The report’s authors would like to thank Miami University’s Fall 2019 Leading Strategic Innovations in the Arts students for analyzing and grouping the report’s open-ended questions and thank the report’s designer Hannah Williams.
The inspiration for the Cincinnati Artist Report came from the Creative Minnesota project, which surveys the state’s arts sector to improve understanding of its importance to the state’s quality of life and economy.
Special thanks to the ArtWorks Youth Apprentices who worked with Lewis to lead the community engagements in 2019: Shalaisjah Cason, Darion Hassert, Hannah Jasper and Terrance Norris.
In addition to project support from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, ArtWorks wishes to thank its ongoing funders: ArtsWave, the City of Cincinnati and Ohio Arts Council.
ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization provides youth, ages 14-21 with the majority from underserved households, with competitive 21st century career readiness skills through mentorship by professional artists. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 3,600 youth and 3,200 creative professionals, and the organization has completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects that includes 190 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination.
About Wave Pool
Wave Pool is a contemporary art fulfillment center located in Camp Washington. Wave Pool is best known for initiating and supporting artist-driven creative place-making projects and exhibiting work that stretches beyond gallery walls through interactive projects that proactively help communities. Learn more at wavepoolgallery.org.
Photos by Kevin Watkins, Shots by Dubs