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October 06, 2002

Arts in the Moonlight Re-redux


In your posting, Arts in the Moonlight redux, you ask:

I wonder how the NEA decides which artists who make little or no money at their art qualify to be called “professional artists.” Is it a matter of holding a degree of a certain sort? Of making a certain amount of money from art? If so, where is the line drawn? And why there?

According to the NEA, their information came from the monthly Current Population Survey (“CPS”) data files. This survey is a joint product of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of the Census; it is described on the CPS website, (which you can visit here):

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics...The CPS is the primary source of information on the labor force characteristics of the U.S. population…Estimates obtained from the CPS include employment, unemployment, earnings, hours of work, and other indicators. They are available by a variety of demographic characteristics including age, sex, race, marital status, and educational attainment. They are also available by occupation, industry, and class of worker.

In short, for the purposes of the CPS (and thus the NEA study), a worker is a professional artist if he says he is. It appears that the CPS offers survey respondents a very long list of occupations to select among, including the following “artistic” categories: architects, designers, musicians and composers, actors and directors, dancers, announcers, painters, sculptors, craft artists, artist printmakers, photographers, authors, college and university teachers of art/drama/music, and artists not elsewhere classified (no doubt we bloggers could squeeze into this last category.)

A “moonlighting” artist is a person who lists their “main” occupation as one of the above and also holds down a second job. This second job may or may not also be artistic although apparently the second job is more likely to be non-artistic today than in the past.

Sorry if I was unclear on this significant point.



posted by Friedrich at October 6, 2002


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