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Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Nonprofit, and Community Work

By Ann Markusen, Sam Gilmore, Amanda Johnson, Titus Levi and Andrea Martinez
Project on Regional and Industrial Economics, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, 2006, 101 pp.

Released in November 2006, this study from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, conducted within the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics, finds that many artists' work spans two or more sectors, that artists would increase such crossover if money were not an issue, and that each sector provides special artistic development opportunities. The complete study features profiles of several dozen artists, including in-depth interviews and data from a web-based survey of Los Angeles- and San Francisco Bay-Area musicians, writers, performing, and visual artists. Although artists from two of the nations' largest creative economies were researched, the authors believe the results are applicable to cities across the country.

Artists move fluidly among commercial, nonprofit, and community sectors despite formidable barriers. The artists' ability to "cross over" is a major stimulant to economic activity and the quality of life. The study reports how artists develop successful cross-sectoral careers in ways little understood by employers, funders, and policymakers.

Even though crossover is quite pervasive among artists, they generally earn more arts income for commercial work than they do for nonprofit or community work. If money were not an issue, artists would crossover even more than they currently do, according to the report. Many full-time commercial artists would work more hours in the nonprofit and community sectors while others would increase their for-profit efforts. Many more would engage in community artwork. But the barriers between sectors remain high. Employers, arts organizations, and artists themselves persist in prejudices and practices that hamper synergy.

Artists credit each sector with distinctive career growth opportunities. For-profit work raises their visibility, deepens networks and understanding of professional conventions, and generates higher financial returns. Nonprofit work helps artists explore new media and collaborate across disciplines, as well as offering greater aesthetic and emotional satisfaction. Community work ranks highest for affirming cultural identity, pursuing political and social justice goals, and enriching community life.

The study, sponsored by The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and New York-based Leveraging Investments in Creativity, addresses how employers, schools, service organizations, funders, the media, government, arts advocacy groups, and artists can encourage crossover.

The full report is available online at www.hhh.umn.edu/projects/prie/crossover.html. Hard copies are available for $10 each, which includes shipping. To order, please send a letter of request, your mailing address, and a check made out to the University of Minnesota to: Katherine Murphy, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA; tel. 612-626-1074; e-mail: k-murp@umn.edu.