Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Money Lab: The cost of being an artist

One of the things I am interested in exploring in Money Lab is what is the personal economic cost of being an artist.  In other words, I want to compare people of similar education, age and background, and see how they compare to other (non-artists) from New York City.  I am limiting the current exploration to the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx because--well, because I have some data that applies, and going further at this point seems a bit overwhelming.

This will obviously be a limited and unscientific survey (not having the skills to create a true one), but I am hoping it provokes some thought and consideration. Interestingly, Dance NYC had a somewhat corollary survey that is much more developed, specifically of dancers age 21-35.  You can find it here.

Their survey shows how New York dancers truly struggle economically.  Which of course confirms my personal bias, which is to suspect that being any sort of artist costs big wagons full of money.  That comes partly from being from a family of lawyers and comparing my income to theirs.  And Partly from seeing almost all the intelligent, accomplished, educated artists I know struggle for money.  And partly from...well, it must.  C'mon.

But how much?  Can we find a dollar amount per year?  And is that dollar amount the value of art?  I can claim, as I have, that I did not know the cost when I first decided to pursue theater.  But eventually it dawned on me.  And I made a conscious choice to continue.  So in a way I have decided to spend most on my potential income on the one thing that has meant the most to me.

Somehow, realizing that I made the decision makes me feel a bit better.   Would I make the decision again, in college, knowing what I know now?  I'm not sure.  But on the other hand, I can't image a life without theater.  So, maybe...

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